PHIL: What's outside VR?
Fri, 29 Jul 94 14:57:34 +0200

The extension of the World Wide Web (WWW) to virtual reality opens new
dimensions of information processing. Connecting local VR spaces creates a
worldwide cyberspace.

But, what happens if a user leaves the defined cyberspace, e.g. walking through
a door without destination? So, what's outside virtual reality? Or even more
precisely: What's outside an information unit of the World Wide Web?

The answer is simple: It's the World Wide Web!

WWW consists of distributed information connected through hyperlinks, thus
building an information graph. For simplifying navigation within the graph and
avoiding the 'lost in hyperspace'-problem the user should be offered a large
number of navigation tools.

Below there is a (incomplete) list of common navigation technics:
- map (global/local)
- hyperlink
- keyword search
- topic search
- history list
- customized view of information
- expert aid
- guided tour
- grouping information

Current browsers just offer some of these tools. Normally they have a
two-dimensional representation (e.g. Graphical Navigation System, developed at
the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics). But the extension of WWW to
virtual reality requires at least a three-dimensional view of the information
graph, so that transition from information to navigation tool (and reverse) is
smooth. So the information is placed in a 3D information landscape, where the
user can walk beside the information.

The advantage of a 3D information landscape is that it can easily be combined
with CSCW in that every user is represented visually in the landscape. So
he/she can see other users walking around, contact them and so on. Furthermore
there may be working areas and conference rooms.

For realizing this vision it's necessary to define the demands on such a
landscape and to find an appropriate metaphor for its visual representation.


Dirk Schalle

Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics
Wilhelminenstr. 7
D-64283 Darmstadt (Germany)