Article,

Not Alone Here?! Scalability and User Experience of Embodied Ambient Crowds in Distributed Social Virtual Reality

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IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG), 25 (5): 2134-2144 (May 2019)
DOI: 10.1109/TVCG.2019.2899250

Abstract

This article investigates performance and user experience in Social Virtual Reality (SVR) targeting distributed, embodied, and immersive, face-to-face encounters. We demonstrate the close relationship between scalability, reproduction accuracy, and the resulting performance characteristics, as well as the impact of these characteristics on users co-located with larger groups of embodied virtual others. System scalability provides a variable number of co-located avatars and AI-controlled agents with a variety of different appearances, including realistic-looking virtual humans generated from photogrammetry scans. The article reports on how to meet the requirements of embodied SVR with today\u0027s technical off-the-shelf solutions and what to expect regarding features, performance, and potential limitations. Special care has been taken to achieve low latencies and sufficient frame rates necessary for reliable communication of embodied social signals. We propose a hybrid evaluation approach which coherently relates results from technical benchmarks to subjective ratings and which confirms required performance characteristics for the target scenario of larger distributed groups. A user-study reveals positive effects of an increasing number of co-located social companions on the quality of experience of virtual worlds, i.e., on presence, possibility of interaction, and co-presence. It also shows that variety in avatar/agent appearance might increase eeriness but might also stimulate an increased interest of participants about the environment.

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