City dwellers who are weary of the concrete jungle often seek out a bit of nature. Whether they visit an urban park or find a small green space, residents can gain a host of benefits. Research in environmental psychology shows that natural environments can help brighten moods, reduce stress and renew focus.

But can being surrounded by trees and dense vegetation affect a vigilant visitor’s sense of safety? The answer, according to a recent study, is that it depends on whether the green space is downtown between tall buildings or in a city park setting.

NC State University experts turned to immersive virtual reality (IVR) to test perceptions of green enclosures. Researchers with the Center for Geospatial Analytics used a robot to capture 360-degree, high-resolution images of a downtown Raleigh plaza and of a city park, then manipulated the vegetation to create several different environments.

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Originally published April 12, 2018. Written by D’Lyn Ford.