Features of Collaboration in the VirCA Immersive 3D Environment
Authors: Balázs Péter Hámornik a, Máté Köles a, Anita Komlódi b Károly Hercegfi a, Lajos Izsóa
Abstract: Real time, synchronous collaborative work mostly happens in real world situations. There are applications that allow computer-mediated synchronous collaboration, but they are far from the experience of a real life meeting. The Virtual Collaboration Arena allows multiple people to work in real time in a virtual space collaboratively. Relatively little is known about how collaboration in virtual reality compares to physically co-located activities. In order to investigate these differences and to reveal any usability issues the system has, we studied 20 pairs of participants working together on a simple cooperative task that required planning. One of the participants was in an immersive 3D cave and the other participant carried out the task from a desktop computer. They communicated over an audio channel in addition to seeing each other as avatars in the space. The cooperative communication was recorded and the conversation was transcribed. The transcripts were coded into three categories of communicative acts: 1) utterance related to coordination; 2) utterances related to information sharing for the task; and 3) usability-related communication. The sessions were divided into three stages of the task and the ratio of the three types of communicative acts were compared across the three stages. According to the Cochran’s tests there were significant differences between the temporal sections of the task for coordination (Q(2)=72,13; p < 0.001), information sharing for the task (Q(2)=77,06; p < 0.001), and usability (Q(2)=15,14; p < 0.001). Coordination utterances were frequent in the beginning and the ending sections of the collaboration. Information sharing utterances appeared in a higher ratio in the middle section. Thus, in the beginning and at the end of the sessions our participants were focused on explicitly coordinating their tasks (“What shall we do?” and “What has been done?”), while in the middle of the session they were focused on sharing the content for the schedule accompanied by less explicit coordination.The amount of usability-related comments goes down after the first section. The decrease of usability-related interactions along the progression of time is showing a possible learning effect or the effect of practice that grows through the task. The pattern of variation in communicative actions along the three phases of task completion indicates that the virtual 3D environment is usable; the participants are able to learn to use it. These findings show that this 3D virtual environment can appropriately enable collaborative information interpretation and sharing activities.
Keywords: Collaboration, Virtual Reality, Immersion, Usability, Information Sharing, Coordination
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