Interaction of distant and local users in a collaborative virtual environment
Virtual Reality enables a new form of collaboration. It allows users to work together in the same virtual room regardless of their actual physical location. However, it is unclear which effect the physical location of the user has on task performance, the feeling of presence or immersion. We compared the collaboration of two users in the same local room and in remote rooms on the basis of a knowledge-transfer task. An instructor indicated different virtual objects using three different pointing gestures and a trainee selected the highlighted object. The results of a 28 participant user study show that the performance of the gestures in the local and remote setup is equal, according to NASA-TLX, rankings and time. Users feel equally co-present and tend to prefer the remote collaboration. The data presented in this paper shows that VR collaboration in a virtual room is independent from the physical location of the participants. This allows the development of VR applications without special consideration of the user's location. VR systems can use the advantages of a remote collaboration, like faster reaction times, no travel expenses and no user collision, or of local collaboration, e.g. direct contact between users.