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Hydra - A Multi-Party Desktop Video-Conferencing System

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Published on Mar 23, 2010

Hydra is a desktop video-conferencing system that employs what could be called "video surrogates" in order to provide the same kind of spatial cues that are found in face-to-face conversation. Each of the remote people occupies a specific location on one's desk, and the placement on the desk is maintains an "around the same table" spatial geometry as all people were in the same room. By integrating each person into a single physically and distinct unit, the camera is not a camera, but a surrogate eye. The speaker is not a speaker, but a surrogate mouth, The microphone is not a microphone is not a microphone but asurrogate ear, and the ear, mouth and eye are all attached to the body, which is where the monitor is. This arrangement supports gaze awareness, turn taking, eye contact and parallel conversations (due to the discrete audio channels and the "cocktail party effect"). Furthermore, none of the remote people's image appears on the computer screen - leaving it free for shared work. In this manner, a strong sense of telepresence is provided.

This work was done in 1991-92 jointly by Abi Sellen and William (Bill) Buxton of the Ontario Telepresence Project at the University of Toronto, and by John Arnott and his team at the Arnott Design Group of Toronto.

Ref: Sellen, A., Buxton, W. & Arnott, J. (1992).Using spatial cues to improve videoconferencing. Proceedings of CHI '92, 651-652.

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