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4.1 The Multi-modal Communication Tools

Our subjects were physically located in different rooms, each using a Macintosh computer running both a MOO Client and a shared Whiteboard. MOOs [Curtis1993] are virtual ``environments'' on the network where multiple users can connect to a central server and interact with each other and the environment. This environment contains rooms which represent the local view of the users, and objects (including markers for the users) which can be in rooms. All objects can be given descriptions and augmented with other programs which can be invoked with an English-like syntax.

MOOs also provide two modalities of communication: say transmits a message to anyone in the same ``room'' as the performer, and page, transmits the message only to the named (or default) recipient, who does not have to be in the same room.gif The page command also produces an extra line telling the recipient where the sender was paging from, and gives automatic feedback to the sender that the recipient has received the message. Thus, although page is more robust (since it works no matter where the collaborators are), say has a lower cognitive load, and was preferred for longer exchanges.gif

The subjects are also provided with a shared whiteboard which is part of the tex2html_wrap_inline483 2.0 groupware system.gif It only supports elementary drawing: boxes (with or without embedded text), lines (with or without arrows), with different colors, and thicknesses. Users can also move, delete, resize or change the color of any objects, regardless of who created them. The whiteboard supports a common visual view -- both users can see (and thus assume the other can see) objects which persist through the experiment (until changed by one of the users).

David Traum
Thu May 23 21:12:30 MET DST 1996