Controlling the STAGE: A High-Level Control System for Virtual Audiences In Virtual Reality

Y. Glémarec, J. Lugrin, A. Bosser, C. Buche, and M. Latoschik. Frontiers in Virtual Reality – Virtual Reality and Human Behaviour (2022)


This article presents a novel method for controlling a virtual audience system (VAS) in Virtual Reality (VR) application, called STAGE, which has been originally designed for supervised public speaking training in university seminars dedicated to the preparation and delivery of scientific talks. We are interested in creating pedagogical narratives: narratives encompass affective phenomena and rather than organizing events changing the course of a training scenario, pedagogical plans using our system focus on organizing the affects it arouses for the trainees. Efficiently controlling a virtual audience towards a specific training objective while evaluating the speaker's performance presents a challenge for a seminar instructor: the high level of cognitive and physical demands required to be able to control the virtual audience, whilst evaluating speaker's performance, adjusting and allowing it to quickly react to the user’s behaviors and interactions. It is indeed a critical limitation of a number of existing systems that they rely on a Wizard of Oz approach, where the tutor drives the audience in reaction to the user’s performance. We address this problem by integrating with a VAS a high-level control component for tutors, which allows using predefined audience behavior rules, defining custom ones, as well as intervening during run-time for finer control of the unfolding of the pedagogical plan. At its core, this component offers a tool to program, select, modify and monitor interactive training narratives using a high-level representation. The STAGE offers the following features: i) a high-level API to program pedagogical narratives focusing on a specific public speaking situation and training objectives, ii) an interactive visualization interface iii) computation and visualization of user metrics, iv) a semi-autonomous virtual audience composed of virtual spectators with automatic reactions to the speaker and surrounding spectators while following the pedagogical plan V) and the possibility for the instructor to embody a virtual spectator to ask questions or guide the speaker from within the Virtual Environment. We present here the design, implementation of the tutoring system and its integration in STAGE, and discuss its reception by end-users.

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