Graphics, Visualization, and Usability Center

Informal Group Awareness Research


In a community such as the GVU center, good lightweight awareness of the surroundings and people makes it easier to generate impromptu, short but effective, collaborations. Many applications already exist in this area. However when there are many users in the system, the visualizations typically become too crowded to convey any useful information.

We are designing an application framework to support group awareness for large number of users. At this beginning stage we are integrating some of the previous research prototypes together, and creating new, alternative visualizations of users in the work environment. In the short term, this project will help bring the physically distributed GVU center together in cyberspace. In the long run, it will provide guidelines for building large on-line communities.

Extended ``vic'' ©

``Vic'' is a very popular video conferencing application on M-Bone. We have fixed many reliability problems in the original ``vic'' program. We are extending it to use video as an informal awareness technique:

User Interface Changes

We made the information display area for each participant in the main window smaller. By doing this, the main window was able to display more video snapshots of participants. We also added a scroll bar to support the traditional scrolling navigation.

Various statistical information displays originally in the snapshot view were moved to the close-up view.

The buttons on the main window and the control menu were changed so that the extensions for supporting informal awareness could be easily accessed.

Extensions for Supporting Informal Awareness

Mechanisms to support controling the trade-off between privacy and awareness: in a media space, sometimes a user may not want other people to see her clearly. In that case she can set ``vic'' to a more privacy-preserving mode, such as the pixelated mode or the edge detecting mode. Other people might notice that there's someone in her office, but they might not be able to tell who is actually there. In an office share a/v link, the fuzzier video would probably protect the user, to some degree, when the user does something private like changing cloths to go running, but forgets to turn off the video capture :-). These filters give the user some flexibility of controling how much others would be aware of herself.

See the reference - more detail will be provided later.



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