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Controlling an Avatar's Pointing Gestures in Desktop Collaborative Virtual Environments

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Association for Computing Machinery


Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs) allow people to interact with each other in virtual worlds through computer-generated avatars. Avatars are much less expressive than real bodies, and one main limitation is their lack of support for non-verbal communication such as pointing gestures. Part of the problem is that these gestures must be created through an input device, but the user is already busy controlling the avatar's location, rotation, and view direction. Pointing gestures are only useful for collaborative communication if they can be controlled simultaneously with all other avatar actions. To determine whether there are input configurations that make pointing gestures feasible, we carried out a study that compared five different widely-available input devices in three non-verbal communication tasks. We found that users were able to successfully incorporate pointing gestures into tasks that already involved moving, turning, and looking, but that there were significant and substantial differences between devices. Two configurations performed best: a mode-switched version of standard mouse-and-keyboard control, and a direct-pointing scheme using a Wii remote. There were also minor effects of gender and video-game experience. Our study suggests that users will be able to successfully create free pointing gestures in CVEs, greatly improving the communicative richness of these environments.


Wong, Nelson; Gutwin, Carl (2012): Controlling an Avatar's Pointing Gestures in Desktop Collaborative Virtual Environments. Proceedings of the 2012 ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work. DOI: 10.1145/2389176.2389180. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 21–30. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA