Abstract

In recent years there has been an introduction of sophisticated new video conferencing technologies (e.g. HP Halo, Cisco Telepresence) that have led to enhancements in the collaborative user experience over traditional video conferencing technologies. Traditional video conferencing set-ups often distort the shared spatial properties of action and communication due to screen and camera orientation disparities and other asymmetries. These distortions affect access to the common resources used to mutually organize action and communication. By contrast new systems, such as Halo, are physically configured to reduce these asymmetries and orientation disparities, thereby minimizing these spatial distortions. By creating appropriate shared spatial geometries, the distributed spaces become “blended” where the spatial geometries of the local space continue coherently across the distributed boundary into the remote site providing the illusion of a single unified space. Drawing on theories of embodied action and workplace design we discuss the importance of this geometric “blending” of space for distributed collaboration and how this is achieved in systems such as Halo. We then extend these arguments to explore the concept of Blended Interaction Spaces – blended spaces in which interactive groupware is incorporated in ways spatially consistent with the physical geometries of the video mediated setup. We illustrate this discussion through a system called BISi that introduces interactive horizontal and vertical multipoint surfaces into a blended video mediated collaboration space. In presenting this system, we highlight some of the particular challenges of creating these systems arising from the spatial consequences of different interaction mechanisms (e.g. direct touch or remote control) and how they affect movement and spatial configuration of people in these spaces.