Section: Scientific Foundations
Keywords : cooperative virtual environments.
New forms of Collaborative Virtual Environments
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 chosen 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 input devices, and which could be considered as an extension of their current working environment in the broad sense.
At first, we focus on user's activity centered environments. This implies that the CVE should be built around the activity, bringing to the user all the facilities she needs to organize her environment, simply manipulate objects without unneeded interactions, achieve her task as quickly as possible. This notion is in opposite to any other multi-users 3D virtual environments that we are aware of, those propositions being world-centered, trying to mimic the real world by placing a user 'inside' a common shared world without any possibility to adapt it to her personal needs or work's habits. The OpenMASK framework from SIAMES is in this category. We are now shifting our researches to group's activity centered environments, to enable group-to-group collaborations. Two situations are studied : co-localization, where all members of a group are situated in front of a common interaction device, and open collaborative spaces (or war-rooms ), where the members of a group can use several distinct interaction devices inside a room.
Our second focus is on software architecture. We aim at studying and providing an innovative software framework (from network communication channels, to 3D components), enabling to easily create complex collaborative applications, through the definition of dynamically adaptable interaction components. There are some researches on this topic in the Human-Computer Interface scientific community (in the In Situ project, for example), however they focus on 2D windowing interfaces, and the current findings are not easily transposable to 3D interfaces.
Our activity is at the intersection between the HCI community and the Web3D community.