Project: Rich User Embodiment in Groupware

Embodiments are virtual personifications of the user in real-time distributed groupware. Many embodiments in groupware are simple abstract 2D representations such as avatars and telepointers. Although current user embodiment techniques can reveal information related to position and orientation, they show far less than what is available in a face-to-face situation, and as a result, collaboration can become more difficult. The problem addressed in this research is that it is difficult for groupware users to identify and distinguish other participants from their embodiments. The solution that I propose is to provide more information about groupware users by enriching their embodiment through encoding state and context variables as visual augmentations on the embodiment. Providing information about characteristics such as skill, expertise, and experience can be valuable for collaboration; increasing the information in visual embodiments will make it easier and more natural for collaborators to identify and differentiate others, coordinate activity, simplify communication, and find collaborators.

The current focus of this project is using parametric texture synthesis to encode information about embodiments. Textures may provide a more natural and intuitive way to present information to the user by taking advantage of real world mappings. Abstract mappings can be used that must be learned by the user but since texture can be perceived simply as background decoration, users can learn texture mappings only as needed providing a gentle learning curve. Information they do not need can be treated simply as aesthetic decoration and may be less distracting than other visual augmentations such as icons, text, or bars.

Shape grammars and L-systems can be used to automatically generate the shape of the ship and provide an additional method for conveying user information. Rules can be chosen to reflect attributes of the player and in the example of the ships given above the length and curvature of the wings could be maneuverability, the size of the engines for speed, or the roughness of the outline for age.

Contact Shane Dielschneider if you would like more information on this project.


Shane Dielschneider
University of Saskatchewan
Tad Stach
Queen's University
Carl Gutwin
University of Saskatchewan


Improving Recognition and Characterization in Groupware with Rich Embodiments
Stach, T., Gutwin, C., Pinelle, D., Irani, P. (2007), Proceedings of the 2007 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2007), 11-20. CHI 2007 Honorable Mention Award.