2021 Volume 29 Pages 657-666
One of the most common cues in human relations is the reaction when someone approaches for a touch interaction. While the “before touch” distance has been investigated in daily life scenarios, it has not been studied for virtual environments. The measurements of a pre-touch distance in virtual reality can be applied to study social interactions especially for haptic interactions in virtual spaces where virtual agents interact autonomously with human participants. In the first stage of this study, we collected data to define a pre-touch distance when a virtual agent tries to touch the participant's face. On the basis of these results, we then classified participants into two groups based on preferred pre-touch distance: a “Near” group and a “Far” group. Next, we experimentally investigated the relationship between the participant's perception of an avatar's reaction to touch interaction and their preferred pre-touch distance. The results indicated that the participants felt friendliness to the agent who reacts with shorter pre-touch distance. We also found that the participant's pre-touch distance defined their preferences regarding the agent's behavior: those with a shorter pre-touch distance preferred agents with a closer interaction distance, and those with a longer pre-touch distance preferred agents with a longer interaction distance.