This work reports how text size and other rendering conditions affect reading speeds in a virtual reality environment and a scientific data analysis application. Displaying text legibly yet space-efficiently is a challenging problem in immersive displays. Effective text displays that enable users to read at their maximum speed must consider the variety of virtual reality (VR) display hardware and possible visual exploration tasks. We investigate how text size and display parameters affect reading speed and legibility in three state-of-the-art VR displays: two head-mounted displays and one CAVE. In our perception experiments, we establish limits where reading speed declines as the text size approaches the so-called critical print sizes (CPS) of individual displays, which can inform the design of uniform reading experiences across different VR systems. We observe an inverse correlation between display resolution and CPS. Yet, even in high-fidelity VR systems, the measured CPS was larger than in comparable physical text displays, highlighting the value of increased VR display resolutions in certain visualization scenarios. Our findings indicate that CPS can be an effective metric for evaluating VR display usability.
Additionally, we evaluate the effects of text panel placement, orientation, and occlusion-reducing rendering methods on reading speeds in generic volumetric particle visualizations. Our study provides insights into the trade-off between text representation and legibility in cluttered immersive environments with specific suggestions for visualization designers and highlight areas for further research.