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Advantages and disadvantages of a 3D virtual environment for supporting informal communication in distributed workgroups compared with a Text-chat and a Chat/Cam system

: Buss, R.; Muhlbach, L.; Runde, D.

Bullinger, H.-J.; Ziegler, J.:
Human-Computer Interaction. Proceedings of HCI International '99. Vol.1: Ergonomics and user interfaces
Mahwah/NJ.: Erlbaum, 1999 (Human Factors and Ergonomics)
ISBN: 0-8058-3391-9
International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI International) <8, 1999, München>
Conference Paper
Fraunhofer HHI ()
human factors; internet; teleconferencing; teleworking; virtual reality; 3d virtual environment; informal communication; distributed workgroups; text-chat; chat/cam; tele-cooperation; internet relay chat system; virtual office

As in face-to-face situations informal communication is very important at telework and tele-cooperation if team workers are forced to co-operate very closely. We examined three systems in terms of their usefulness for informal communication of distributed work groups within the framework of an exploratory human factors study: a simple text-based Internet Relay Chat (IRC) system; a Chat/Cam system, i.e. an IRC system combined with a Web page showing still pictures of the work group members taken by cameras at their working places: a virtual environment system, which provides a virtual office environment in which the work group members are represented by avatars. The systems were tested by a project group in its every day work for about two weeks each. The data were collected by means of log files of system use, protocol sheets, questionnaires, and group discussions. The results obtained are presented and discussed.