Grounding in Multi-modal Task-Oriented Collaboration

3 Experimental setting

The subjects are engaged in a collaborative diagnosis task: they have to solve a murder mystery together. They are located in different rooms and communicate through networked computers, using two pieces of software, a MOO system and a Whiteboard.

[1] MOOs [Curtis93] are virtual "environments" on the network where people can meet and communicate. Technically speaking, a MOO is a network-accessible, multi-user, programmable, interactive system. When a user connects to a MOO he connects as a character with the help of a specialized telnet-based client program.The client's primary task is to send and receive I/O between the server and the user. The MOO server exists on one machine on the network, while the client is typically run by the users on their own machines. Having connected to a character, participants then give on-line commands that are parsed and interpreted by the MOO server as appropriate. Such commands may cause changes in the "virtual reality", such as the location of the user. In the MOO architecture, everything is represented by objects. Each person, each room, each thing is considered as an object that can be looked at, examined and manipulated. The MOO keeps a database of objects in memory and this means that once created objects are still available in future sessions. A MOO world can be extended both by "building" and by programming. "Building" means creation and customization of new objects starting with some prototypical object. The internal object-oriented programming language is quite powerful and has been used to create a large set of objects for professional and academic use.
[2] TecfaMOO has been used in our research team for various purposes including distance collaboration and learning. It is accessible via telnet or a MOO client at: (port 7777). An information page is at

Grounding in Multi-modal Task-Oriented Collaboration - 3 SEP 1996
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