- J. D. Mulder and R. van Liere, editors: Virtual Environments 2000
Virtual Environments (VEs) create a space where human behavior intersects with computation. That space is now everywhere. Word processing creates a virtual environment, using a calculator creates a virtual environment, and multi-player Quake is played within a virtual environment. But the hard edges of VEs populate the research world of academia and industry, and that research is diverse and difficult. Some of this diversity and difficulty is represented in Virtual Environments 2000, the proceedings of the sixth Eurographics Workshop on Virtual Environments, held in Amsterdam in June 2000. To organize this diverse research, the editors of Virtual Environments 2000 have presented the 20 papers from the conference in six sections: Tracking, Interaction, Evaluation, Distributed Environments, Algorithms, VEs in Industrial Design, and Case Studies. A number of issues arise from the conference that may be of interest to the readers of Computer Music Journal: the focus of this review will be on papers illustrating these issues rather than every paper within the proceedings.
The Trackings section presents three papers describing algorithms for use in Augmented Reality Environments. In augmented reality, the virtual is overlaid on the real, so that the user's feeling of immersion in the augmented environment is dependent upon the quality of the registration of the virtual object onto the appropriate location in the real world. The three papers in this section deal with methods for improving the tracking of both real and virtual objects so that they may coincide appropriately in the shared space of augmented reality.
The first paper in the Interaction section describes Marigold, a visual programming tool set for the rapid prototyping of interactions within virtual environments. While not being familiar with the tool set myself, the approach of the authors, James S. Willans and Michael D. Harrison, is to be commended as it abstracts away from implementation and moves toward facilitating interaction design as the primary goal of the virtual environment designer. A Marigold Web site is available for further information (www.users.cs.york.ac.uk/~jwillans/marigold/).
The second Interaction paper describes a method for visually simulating the effects of gravity and mass upon the objects a person can manipulate within a virtual world. The third paper, by Sabine Volbracht and Getta Domik, provides a model of navigation within Virtual Reality (VR) environments. The authors tested their model by observing children and adults navigate through both real and virtual cityscapes. Although only the pilot stage was complete at the time of publication, the authors' work represents a positive trend toward the proper evaluation of technologies as artifacts for human use rather than as technological achievements. Throughout these proceedings, it is those papers that adopt a human-centered view of technology that will probably be of most interest to readers of this journal. [End Page 89]
A human-centered viewpoint informs the Evaluation section of the proceedings. This section begins with a paper which looks at the measurement of presence and immersion within virtual environments, but is unfortunately hampered by the small sample size (n = 20) of the study. The second paper is concerned with improving manual task performance in virtual spaces. The author, John Waterworth (www.informatik.umu.se/~jwworth/) finds a relation between a subjective sense of fatigue and sensorimotor cue conflicts. Essentially, his study points toward a need to synchronize proprioceptive and visual information when the user is expected to perform a visually guided manual task. This is an important issue for those designing interactive virtual instruments or collaborative spaces where there is a desire for natural actions to have a determined outcome and where those actions contain within them a memory of "real world" outcomes that can be compared to and are in conflict with their virtual counterparts. The third paper addresses the role of collaboration on the...