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Meeting Rooms in VE

Meeting Rooms in VE

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Published by John Smith

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Published by: John Smith on Jan 13, 2012
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Information Spaces — BuildingMeeting Rooms in VirtualEnvironments
 
Abstract
Virtual worlds are typically designed to recreate thefamiliar physical world, both in the design of the spacesand the ways that people interact within them. In thispaper we describe an alternate approach that uses thecomputational capabilities unique to the virtual world toaugment social interaction and personal experience.We propose a specific design for supporting mediumsized group meetings using avatar’s positions in thespace to represent their feelings about the discussionand discuss our preliminary testing results.
Keywords
Collaborative virtual environments, meeting tools,computer supported cooperative work, Second Life.
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.3 [Information Interfaces and Presentation]: Groupand Organization Interfaces --- Computer-supportedcooperative work
Introduction
The promise of virtual environments for fostering socialinteraction has been focused predominantly onquestions of embodiment, graphics, and underlying
Copyright is held by the author/owner(s).
CHI 2008
, April 5 – April 10, 2008, Florence, ItalyACM 978-1-60558-012-8/08/04.
Drew Harry
MIT Media Lab20 Ames StreetCambridge, MA 02139 USAdharry@media.mit.edu
Judith Donath
MIT Media Lab20 Ames StreetCambridge, MA 02139 USA judith@media.mit.edu
CHI 2008 Proceedings · Student Research CompetitionApril 5-10, 2008 · Florence, Italy
3741
 
 
technology. In this paper, we shift our attention to thekinds of spaces we're building in virtual environments.By focusing specifically how virtual spaces can be muchmore than renderings of physical architecture, we cancreate spaces with a new sort of informationarchitecture. By working with these native properties of virtual space, we can create interactive socialexperiences that go well beyond
being there
.[1]Our approach focuses on using the programmaticflexibility of virtual space to create environments unlikethose seen in existing virtual world platforms. Much of the art in designing a space is in understanding howthe characteristics of the space influence theinhabitants’ attention, mood and sense of intimacy. Inthe physical world, this is done by changing featuressuch as lighting or the number and arrangement of seats in a room. The virtual world potentially offers avast range of such socially significant functions. Wecan, for example, embed functionality in the spaceitself that provides a sense of history throughvisualization, controls how people's avatars arerendered, changes how far away chat messages can beheard, modifies how avatars move through the space,or makes avatars anonymous. By combining thesedifferent techniques, we can craft virtual environmentsthat afford social interactions quite different than thosethat we're used to in face to face situations.This approach is in stark contrast to most moderncommercial virtual environments such as Second Life,Habbo Hotel, World of Warcraft, or Club Penguin. Inthese worlds, all spaces are functionally equivalent.Although spaces are rendered differently (oftenexplicitly referencing familiar physical metaphors), theybehave in the same ways. Basic movement, chat, andother social functions operate in the same wayanywhere in the world.[2, 3]In this paper, we focus specifically on the design of information based spaces that support meetings amonggroups of 10-20 people. We describe the details of onespecific meeting space that uses avatars’ positions inthe space to represent their feelings about thediscussion.We have implemented these designs using Second Life.Second Life provides most of the features we need tobuild effective experiments in this design space.Perhaps most importantly, the Second Life client runson all major operating systems with no specialhardware requirements. This has helped create a largeexisting user base that makes broad testing anddeployment very accessible relative to other platforms..
Related Work
Although we are not building our own virtual worldplatform in this work, the tools we use owe a clear debtto the early screen-based environments likeMASSIVE[4] and DIVE[5]. In particular, the work byMASSIVE’s authors on spatial models is particularlyrelevant to our work.[6]Much of the inspiration for our design approach camefrom the Chat Circles series of pieces[7]. These simplevirtual environment designs suggested ways to usespace and history aggregation to support socializationin a variety of different ways.[8]Our augmentation of a meeting space withvisualizations of the meeting’s conversational content isinspired by the Visiphone[9], Conversation Clock[10],
CHI 2008 Proceedings · Student Research CompetitionApril 5-10, 2008 · Florence, Italy
3742
 
 
and Second Messenger[11] projects. While thoseprojects focused primarily on the audio content of themeeting, we have developed a variety of techniquesbased more on the spatial aspects of meeting in avirtual environment. Kellogg’s work on socialproxies[12] is very much in the same vein, without thephysical space component. These approaches all differfrom ours in that the visualization is purely arepresentation of actions in another domain, not aspace in which people can directly control theirmovements.There are also a number of fascinating projects goingon in Second Life exploring these issues. In particular,the Studio Wikitecture[13] and ResponsiveArchitecture[14] projects are relevant to this work.
Design
In meetings with more than a few people, it can bechallenging to understand other people’s feelings aboutan issue, reach concensus, and influence others. Evenlogistical tasks like staying on an agenda anddistributing tasks appropriately can be difficult. Ourdesign addresses these collaboration challenges bycreating a meeting space focused on non-verbalsignalling using avatar positions.Our space is divided into four major zones. The mainarea is like a traditional sports field with end zoneslabeled “agree” and “disagree”. It provides a space forpeople to position their avatars on a continuum to showtheir attitudes about the issue under discussion. Thefluid self-arrangement of people within this space basedon their opinions provides a literal basis for seeingwhere someone is coming from and the status of thegroup’s attempt to reach consensus. Of course, noteveryone always wants to reveal their opinion aboutthe issue at hand. Surrounding the mainagree/disagree field is an area for people to stand whowant to participate in the discussion without puttingtheir avatar on the continuum. Still further from thefield is an observation area for people who want to bepresent, but not participating. Finally, there is aplatform for the moderator with controls to manageproperties about the space itself. This layout is shownin Figure 1. Although the examples in this paper are allbased around the Agree/Disagree continuum, ourdesign supports other options as well including a moreprocess oriented Keep Talking/Move On field. Thisspatial approach is a powerful organizational metaphorbecause it both relies on our knowledge of themeanings of position relative to other people in physicalspaces[15] and the metaphors inherent to interactionsin a spatial environment.[16]The virtual-ness of the space allows us also to include aset of social utilities to support the continuouspresentation of the contributions and shiftingviewpoints of each participant. For this application, thecore functional elements of the space are visualizationsthat portray the movement and conversation history.
Position History 
When an avatar pauses for a while, a transparentcolumn slowly rises out of the ground. When the avatarmoves, the column slowly shrinks and eventuallydisappears. In this way, an avatar’s presence leaves atemporary mark on the space, providing a morenuanced view of the meaning of their location.Someone who has been standing on the agree side of the field for the entire discussion is quite different from
Figure 2 - A dwell indicator,growing slowly beneath astationary avatar.Figure 1 - A top down view of themeeting space layout.
CHI 2008 Proceedings · Student Research CompetitionApril 5-10, 2008 · Florence, Italy
3743

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