Natural object focussed collaboration in distributed virtual environments

In an increasingly global economy there is rising pressure to expand collaboration from co-located to geographically distributed groups. Currently natural human interaction is not well supported between people collaborating across a distance. This negatively impacts on the feeling and performance of collaboration. Cooperative working could be better supported by richer mediums with more natural interfaces that allow people to interact with shared objects and each other as if they were co-located. For example, intention and opinion must be communicated, while synchronously manipulating shared artefacts. Transferring the straightforwardness of such collaboration onto distributed teams is challenging. Various forms of teleconferencing systems attempt to offer such support, yet they have difficulties with sharing objects and the direct social response this involves when participants interact with those objects. This work demonstrates that a collaborative virtual environment (CVE) can assist such cooperation and that immersive displays are of greater help compared with the traditional desktop interfaces to bring us closer to replicating a face-to-face interaction. The effectiveness of application of this technology depends on a complex set of factors that determine the efficiency of collaboration. This work examines these factors and their interrelationships within the framework of a taxonomy focussed on supporting closely-coupled collaboration using immersive CVEs.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Presence and Social Human Communication
  • Chapter 3: Supporting Remote Collaboration while keeping workflow
  • Chapter 4: Evolution of a benchmark application - The Virtual Gazebo Prototype
  • Chapter 5: Testing the benchmark in immersive and desktop displays
  • Chapter 6: Testing the benchmark with two immersive displays
  • Chapter 7: Evaluating display properties
  • Chapter 8: Factors influencing distributed collaboration in immersive CVEs
  • Chapter 9: Conclusion and Future Research
  • References

- Chapter 1 provides a quick overview of the research discussed in this thesis and presents a framework of structure for the discussion.
- Chapter 2 introduces the notion of presence and social human communication and their relevance on closely-coupled collaboration. These chapters are later used as background information for discussion and evaluation.
- Chapter 3 evaluates various technologies for remote collaboration and explains why immersive displays are of greater help than traditional desktop interfaces or other tele-working technologies to bring us closer to replicating distributed face-to-face interaction.
- Chapter 4 explains the choice of CVE and demonstrates the evolution of the benchmark application (The Virtual Gazebo). Successes and failures of this benchmark are discussed and evaluated.
- Chapter 5 discusses the first user evaluation of the benchmark application during a CAVE-Desktop-Desktop trial and the first-hypothesis that immersive CAVE-like displays are suited for closely-coupled collaboration.
- Chapter 6 looks into the evaluation of a CAVE-CAVE trial and testing of the second-hypothesis that performance increase and easier human interaction can be achieved with purely immersive interaction.
- Chapter 7 investigates how various factors influence interaction by focussing on a single user trial on three different displays (desktop, workbench, CAVE). A modified version of the benchmark application is used and various display properties determine effectiveness of collaboration (third hypothesis) are discussed. Furthermore, a related study comparing CAVE-HMD is discussed.
- Chapter 8 is summarising the various influencing factors within a framework that determines the usefulness of distributed human interaction using immersive CVEs.
- Chapter 9 concludes this work and illustrates the possibilities for future work.

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