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July 11, 2007

Placeholder: Voiceholders and Voicemarks


Brenda Laurel writes: "[...] Rachel has described our interest in how people leave marks on places. We wanted to give people the ability to "mark" the virtual environments, and we arrived at voice as a convenient modality for doing so. Voice offered several advantages over writing or drawing. Through prosody, voice permits greater expressiveness and personalization than writing; it is also more immediate. Most people are less self-conscious about speaking than about drawing. While drawing would require that we build special virtual drawing tools, capturing voice was relatively easy to implement.

Where and how could voices be stored and re-played? We designed the Voiceholders as virtual record/playback devices. A Voiceholder would capture and store an utterance, called a Voicemark. A "full" Voiceholder (that is, one containing a Voicemark) would play its contents when touched. In order to encourage people to play with relationships among Voicemarks and between Voicemarks and landscape features, we made the Voiceholders moveable, exempt from gravity, and able to be placed anywhere one could reach. Voiceholders could be moved by grabbing them (closing the grippees while the points of light were "inside" the rock), dragging them to the desired location (they would stick to your hand), and releasing the grip.

We wanted people to think of the Voiceholders more as tools or agents than as devices; machines (including tape recorders) were inconsistent with the fantasy context. We designed them as rocks with faces, using the facial expressions to indicate the state of the Voiceholder. This was as close as we came to an iconic or symbolic interface element..."

Image: When a voiceholder was empty, its eyes and mouth were closed and it was dark. When a person touched an empty voiceholder, its eyes would open and it would light up from the inside (rather like a jack-o'-lantern) and a voice (emanating from the voiceholder) would say "I'm listening." If a person spoke when a voiceholder was in that state, their speech would be recorded. When the voiceholder became "full" (i.e., ran out of space in the sound file it was creating) the inner light flickered and then went out (rather like a guttering candle), the yes would close and the mouth would open to indicate that it was ready to speak. If a person touched a voiceholder in this state, it would open its eyes, light up and play back its contents, then it would "go to sleep" again.

From Placeholder: Landscape and Narrative In Virtual Environments :: ACM Computer Graphics Quarterly Volume 28 Number 2 May 1994 :: Brenda Laurel, Rachel Strickland, Rob Tow, Interval Research Corp :: Copyright © 1994 by the ACM. Videos available here.

Posted by jo at July 11, 2007 07:34 PM