Spontaneous Interaction in Virtual Multimedia Space: EuroPARC's RAVE System


Increasingly, multinational corporations sponsor projects in which the participants must work closely together, even though they live in different countries and in different time zones. Many technologies, including phones, faxes and electronic mail, may make it possible to attempt such collaborations. But they are difficult. Why? People who work in the same place have many chances for informal communication. They can often resolve problems based on chance encounters, rather than waiting until the problem reaches a crisis. People who work together may share various interests and develop a sense of community. When people are separated geographically, most of the informal knowledge about each other disappears and communication becomes much more formal. We are interested in designing tools to support people who work together on design problems, even though the people are distributed geographically. We have chosen to explore the notion of a media space, in which participants have video cameras and monitors in their offices and can choose a variety of ways of viewing or being viewed by others in the organization. Unlike most uses of networked video, such as video conferencing and video phones, which support focused collaboration, the RAVE media space can also support casual interactions and chance encounters. People can glance informally at each other or set up long-term connections between offices. They can maintain a shared awareness of the others in the building or use a system called Portholes to keep in touch with people in a lab on another continent. Other tools support focused collaboration, such a shared drawing. The goals are to provide a sense of shared community among the members of the lab and to enable them to shift smoothly from peripheral awareness of each other to focused collaboration and back again. Imagina '92 INTRODUCTION Successful working groups within a single location rely on a variety of forms of communication, ranging from unplanned, spontaneous interactions to planned, formal meetings. People who work together in the same building may run into each other in the hallway and learn something new or find out about something going on in the organization. Even with formal meetings, much of the useful work is done informally, at the breaks or after the meeting. People in groups located far apart have a more limited range of communication options. One of the goals of the media space research at EuroPARC is to learn about how people at the same site work collaboratively and provide similar kinds of access to people who work together, but at a distance. The RAVE project (Ravenscroft Audio Video Environment) is designed to support a range of activities from focused collaboration on shared design problems to helping people maintain a peripheral awareness of each other. the goals include reducing the cost of quick communications, supporting spontaneous, unplanned interactions, permitting long-term sharing of virtual office space and supporting tutoring and distributed expertise. RAVE consists of a computer-controlled network of audiovideo equipment in which each office contains a video monitor, camera, and microphone, all positioned by the user and completely under the users' control. The setup is similar to other "media spaces' being explored elsewhere (e.g. Stults, 1986, Root, 1988, Buxton and Moran, 1990, Mantei et al., 1991, Fish et al., 1991). What makes the EuroPARC media space unique? The ubiquity of the video network: Every member of the laboratory, including researchers and administrative staff, participates in the media space. It is not simply used by the subgroup of researchers who are working on the project. Privacy issues: We have explored ways of providing participants in the media space with privacy while taking advantage of the benefits of the media space's ability to provide unobtrusive awareness. Privacy issues are multi-

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@inproceedings{Mackay1992SpontaneousII, title={Spontaneous Interaction in Virtual Multimedia Space: EuroPARC's RAVE System}, author={Wendy E. Mackay}, year={1992} }