Social Presence

Are there specific attributes in an environment that make you feel more present? Not necessarily that enable you to navigate the environment better or communicate with another person better, but something more subtle than these?

That is what Microsoft Research wanted to find out. Thanks to MIT Technology Review for a good summary.

Nothing beats talking to another person face-to-face, but a group of researchers are considering whether a life-size projection of a person who appears to be sitting across from you in an actual chair might be a close second.othing beats talking to another person face-to-face, but a group of researchers are considering whether a life-size projection of a person who appears to be sitting across from you in an actual chair might be a close second.

My Take

Here is the case that they studied. Imagine you are having a one-to-one conversation with someone who is in another room. We could use an audio channel (telephone). We could use a webcam enhanced channel (video Skype). We could use full video (teleconferencing systems). Soon, we can be using full virtual reality.

But before full VR, what about augmented reality? Back to the original question, what attributes need to be recreated to make you feel like you are in the same room as the other person? Which attributes make the social interaction feel more natural? This is the essence of the Microsoft Research project.

Is a 2D projection onto a wall enough? What about a 3D projection of a person sitting on a chair that is physically in your room (this is my favorite from the study.)?

We know that audio and visual distortion can degrade the quality of the transmission so that the words are less well understood. But what about the social aspect of the interaction? Can you interact with the other person as fluidly with augmented reality as you can with full VR? Better than with plain video?

Your Turn

You can read the MIT Tech Review summary or wait for the full research paper to come out in the Proceedings of this year’s upcoming CSCW conference. Then let us know. What do your instincts tell you?

Image Credit: sndrv

2 thoughts on “Social Presence”

  1. Augmented Reality, vs Virtual Reality, there manifests a sting within the truth of personal contribution in this matter, the likelihood of proper interpretation is lost in the body language. There is also considerable loss in personal interpretation with no tactile response. Lots to said about the personal handshake and responsive hug. R.S.

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