Presence and experience
The growth in ‘mixed reality’ environments that need to take account of the situated and social nature of the real world spaces they are placed in, raises a number of significant challenges for our understanding of presences that go beyond the existing explorations of ‘telepresence’.
A central question is how to approach the design, construction and assessment of mixed reality environments to promote an appropriate sense of presence in relationship to the real world, the mediated mixed reality experience and other users. This perspective requires a shift of attention
- From virtual environments to mixed media environments that mesh and/or augment places and times
- From psychophysiological sensing and ‘constructive perception’ to understanding social action, interaction and meaning making
- From a focus on the individual to collectives of interacting users, both co-located and distributed
- From immaterial environments to environments with material objects/properties (that engage all our senses) and augmentations
- From mere (passive) presence to ‘place-making’ (giving things a place) and ‘expressionals’ (using things for experiencing and expressing).
We are designing and evaluating a series of presence scenarios with IPCity technologies in the different showcases, with a focus on the different presence issues that arise in contexts such as collaborative urban planning, large-scale events, story-telling, and gaming. This will allow us to create a deeper understanding of how people co-construct and experience mixed reality environments and how this can inform the design of supporting technologies.
The original contribution of IPCity to research on presence and interaction is that it studies the relationship between presence and user eperience in real settings, focusing on how users actively construct and co-construct this experience through connecting activities in the digital/virtual space with activities in the real/physical environment.
The main focus is on users’ purposeful activities in mixed reality environments – how they collaborate, dynamically enact (‘dramatic presence’), and map activities and events.
Our particular conceptual attention points are also shaped by insights from urban studies on salient features of the material environment that contribute to the experience of presence on the one hand, are resources for constructing and co-constructing this experience on the other hand:
- Spatial aspects – mixed reality technologies can be used for changing the scale of virtual objects, hence immersiveness, for making invisible objects (borders, archaeology, infrastructure) visible;
- Temporal aspects – such as for example making traces of the past visible, envisioning future development or the evolution of an event;
- Mobility – urban rhythms play a large role in experiencing a city, such as differences between day and night as well as flow and movement (of people, traffic);
- Ambience – includes all forms of sensations and imaginations about the environment surrounding the person resulting in a ‚sense of place and culture’;
- Material aspects – contribute to the engaging the capacity of objects to absorb people’s attention, thereby increasing their engagement with each other and the world and they are sources of ‘reality’ and ‘haptic directness’.
Mixed reality technologies and the focus on user activity and experience also require to extend our understanding of how these are supported by interface mechanisms. Our hypothesis is that virtual components modify the experience of the ‘here and now’ in subtle ways rather than altering it radically. Our main aim is to find out how technologies can be used to support interesting and relevant modifications of the ‘here and now’. This necessitates a redefinition of the concept of directness, immersion, and reality on the one hand. It directs attention to:
- Awareness cues – cues about social interactions, communication, and activity in a mixed reality environment;
- Content – used for building a visual scene or for story-telling can be informative, expressive, based on rules and constraints and is crucial for the experience of presence;
- Multimodality – involving all the senses through dynamic representations, the inclusion of sound, and particular representational techniques (fuzziness, abstraction).
IPCity develops an approach to investigating presence in real life settings, which combines common methods like presence questionnaires with techniques for use in the field such as: participatory workshops, ethnographic observation, interaction analysis, and usablity tests. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be integrated to account for cognitive and socio-cultural aspects in particular combining:
- Spatial and social presence questionnaires , with the emphasis on understanding aspects which relate to mixed reality and how this can be used to inform the design process;
- Interaction analysis based on video recordings and interface interaction logs;
- Mobile experiments which may use methods such as video recording, in-situ interviews, etc., in order to understand more about the experience of end users;
- Interviews examining specific areas as defined by prior findings, e.g. technical issues or to explore wider aspects of place and presence.