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CrowdFunding promotion Virtual reality, Online mode!

posted Jun 1, 2015, 11:46 PM by J Shaw   [ updated Jun 1, 2015, 11:47 PM ]

Imagine being able to use a virtual reality environment over the internet to interact with other people. This project makes it work!

About this project

Introduction 

Virtual Reality (VR) has been recognized as a powerful technology in the human-machine interface field which provides realistic and believable experiences for a user in a virtual world using real-time interaction through multiple sensory channels. Recent progress of the VR technology gives the Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW) a potential and flexible tool of vividly representing data as well as users themselves in collaborative virtual environments. Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs) have been defined as computer-based, distributed virtual worlds in which people can meet, communicate and interact with others, with data, 3D objects or artifacts although they may be geometrically far from each other, speak different languages and use heterogeneous computer systems. Therefore, the power of CVEs is not just to simply put people together in a shared virtual world and to connect multiple distant VR systems simultaneously. The success of a CVE is decided by many features: representing multiple users in the virtual world so they can be aware of each other; enabling natural and intuitive interactions between the users, and between them and systems; facilitating immersion of each user; maintaining workflows despite networking problems; facilitating multi-modal and real-time communication; and other aspects. 

The ultimate goal in developing CVEs is to support a smooth collaboration between multiple users which involves considerable communication and negotiation, cooperative and collaborative activities, interaction techniques, and awareness process. The scientific community has been working in the field of CVEs for decades, but many problems in collaborative techniques for interaction and navigation still remain unsolved. Let’s consider an example of a simple collaborative scenario in figure 1. 

Figure 1, example of a collaborative scenario.Figure 1, example of a collaborative scenario.

Two users in two different systems are working together in a shared virtual environment. Their task is to co-manipulate a table in the environment. One user on the left of the figure works in a CAVETM system of four projection walls and a tracking system which gives him the possibility of walking around in the virtual world. He is wearing a pair of active shutter glasses which enables him to see the world in three dimension (3D) and so enhances his level of immersion. He is using a fly-stick to interact with the elements of the virtual world. The second user on the right of the figure is using a desktop-based system with a keyboard and a mouse. To enhance his level of immersion, a 3D display device and/or a small tracking system can be also installed. Due to the limit of his working system, he cannot move around the virtual world by physically walking as the first user does in a CAVETM system. Nevertheless, he has access to various controls using the keyboard and the mouse. 

He also has the support from physical tools such as tables, chairs, etc., so he can comfortably sit down instead of standing as the first user does. From this example, we discuss two aspects of a collaborative scenario in a virtual world that the designer of the system needs to take into account. The first aspect that is related to the virtual environment tries to answer some following questions:

  • How can each user manipulate the elements of the virtual world and how can he perceive the changes of these elements in the world?
  • How can each user perceive the presence of the other and what is he doing?
  • How can one user and the other move the table together?
  • How can the two users share their understanding and activities for a common goal and progress of the task?

The second aspect that the designer needs to study is not only about the different components of the physical world that are necessary in VR systems, but mostly about how the diversity of VR systems can affect the performance of the collaboration. In other words, the main concern in this issue is about how to clear the ‘frontier’ between the physical and virtual worlds: • How can the two users who use different interaction devices put the same effect on the virtual objects? • How can each user still perceive the physical world around him without breaking down his immersion and the feeling of presence in the virtual world? • How can the two users be aware of some technical problems such as network delays without loosing the continuity of their workflow?

Considering these two aspects into the design of a CVE, we are interested in four main factors including immersion, awareness, communication and naturalness, which takes a major part of the success of a collaborative virtual system. A high level of immersion of a VR system can improve the feeling of presence, which is one of the most important criteria when designing interaction techniques in CVEs. The high level of immersion also helps the user to feel the co-presence with others and to establish a mutual understanding with them. Besides, to facilitate a mutual understanding between collaborators, the awareness factor also takes an important role. If a VR system provides an effective awareness activity, each individual can maintain a situation knowledge of his environment and of others to form a coherent mental picture in directing further perception and anticipating future collaborative events. Another factor that the designer of a CVE needs to consider is the communication channel between collaborators. In a collaborative task, collaborators often work at distance with various system infrastructures and different levels of immersion. Due to this difference, they may have different cognitive models of the shared virtual world and have to spend more time in communication to obtain an agreement about their roles and relationships to complete the task. In addition to the verbal communication channel which is often used in CVEs, other communication channels also have to be studied regarding various spoken languages and heterogeneous system infrastructures. The communication channels to be used need to be intuitive, simple in terms of building a mutual understanding between different collaborators. The fourth factor is the naturalness of a system that has been defined as the interaction fidelity with which the actions performed for a task in a VE corresponds to the actions performed for that task in the real world. Natural interactions may offer a great performance and usability as well as a strong feel of presence for collaborators. In summary, each factor may influence differently but still correlatively the whole performance of an interaction technique in immersive collaborative virtual environments. Considering these aspects, there is always the need of improving and completing interaction techniques in CVEs.

Why do we need 10 000$?

It is mainly for the equipment required to perform the research and a bit for our team to be able to work full time on the project. We have all invested a lot of money so far, but at this point in order to finish we need some help to keep going. Thanks in advance to everyone for taking interest in our project and sharing it.