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Mixed reality architecture

Schnädelbach, H.; (2007) Mixed reality architecture. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis develops and investigates Mixed Reality Architectures (MRA), dynamic shared architectural topologies, which span physical and virtual spaces. A theoretical framework is developed to describe the field of possible architectures. As the result of a first pilot study, this is then extended with the concept of the Mixed Reality Architectural Cell (MRACell). MRACells consist of one physical and one virtual space, linked by a two-way video and audio connection. The video of a real physical space is rendered on an MRACell, which can move within the virtual environment. A projector and screen in the real space renders an image of the virtual environment from the point of view of that MRACell. Inhabitants can move their MRACell in relation to all others within the shared virtual environment, allowing ad hoc as well as planned remote social interaction. In this sense MRACells can be described as novel architectural interfaces extending real physical space, via a shared virtual environment to link to other real spaces. An in-depth study lasting one year and involving six office-based MRACells, used video recordings, the analysis of event logs, diaries and an interview survey. This produced a series of ethnographic vignettes describing social interaction within MRA in detail. The study found that the MRA was effective at supporting remote social interaction between users. Usage patterns appeared to be motivated by awareness and communication or conversely privacy requirements. This usage maintained and strengthened social ties. Social interaction was both visible to others and part of the everyday activities at the respective office spaces. It resulted from the virtual adjacencies introduced by MRA that allowed the ‘spatial’ integration of remote locations. However, the virtual spatial framework making this possible, introduced new topological limitations on the number of concurrent connections that were available. Overall, it was found that the dynamic architectural topology directly affected social interaction, while social interaction itself re-shaped the topology. These findings are of direct relevance to current developments, which aim to use communications media to overcome the spatial dispersion of work groups in modern organizations. Finally, the differences in use that were observed between groups of inhabitants suggest that spatial cognition in Mixed Reality is affected both by the interface technology and by the social practices surrounding it. In response, it is suggested that in order to investigate the new generation of mixed physical and virtual technologies, cognitive science should take into account their affordances as ‘virtual extensions’ to both our bodies and to our environment.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Mixed reality architecture
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Graduate Studies

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