Overall Objectives
Scientific Foundations
Application Domains
New Results
Contracts and Grants with Industry
Other Grants and Activities
Inria / Raweb 2003
Project: ALCOVE

Project : alcove

Section: Application Domains

Collaborative work on virtual objects


Traditionally, virtual environments are used in teaching domains, to simulate physical phenomena or to represent objects taken from the natural environment, notably in such domains as medicine, nuclear industry (EDF), transport industry (SNCF, military or civil aviation). Their goal is to reproduce the environment and the objects as they are in reality, by integrating the natural properties of the objects, physical behaviors and environmental constraints. Our proposal is appreciably different. Indeed, we have choosen to consider co-operative activities of small groups of actors around virtual 2D or 3D objects. Our goal is to provide them with a virtual environment which uses classical computers and peripherics, and which could be considered as an extension of their current working environment in the broad sense. Our proposal is built around a virtual representation which immerses the user in a known environment (a meeting room), without beeing a copy of the reality. By minimizing navigation and manipulation gestures, it enables several actors, geographically distants to each other, to focus on the realization of a common technical task. Some abstractions of visual representations and interactions are implemented to help the users to understand and apprehend concepts, the 2D/3D objects beeing rather a support to the co-operation activities.

Sofware Framework for Collaborative Virtual Environments

After some preliminary studies, we have defined a set of software components needed to construct a generic framework dedicated to Collaborative Virtual Environments. Those components are divided into 3 levels :

Conceptual Assembly/Disassembly

A vast majority of the activities around manufacturated objects does not just need simple manipulation mecanisms (rotations or translations of one object, or of parts of it), but rather more complex actions like assembly, disassembly or adaptation of objects. User's interactions are then to be constrained according to the connection between objects.

Some Computer Assisted Design modelisation systems include the possibiltiy to define geometrical or mechanical constraints between points, edges or planes of the objects. Those constraints are pre-defined during the construction of the models. However, for interactive applications, assembly operations have to be freely performed by the user. Constraints are then to be dynamically created. One solution is to use a simulation engine which can compute on-the-fly the mechanical interactions between parts of objects, using collision detection and taking into account mechanical properties such as sliding.

We are studying an alternative, with a concept of abstract assembly, where 'contact zones' are defined on objects. Those 'contact zones' act as magnets, easing user's actions. Such a concept can be used within applications where the conceptual part of the activities is more important than the manipulation of the object by it-self. Our collaborative platform is dedicated to such activities. This work is implemented by Alexandre Lambin, expert ingenior under contract since September 2003.