Virtual prints: Augmenting virtual environments with interactive personal marks
International Journal of Human-Computer Studies
This paper introduces the concept of Virtual Prints (ViPs) as an intuitive metaphor for supporting interaction and navigation, as well as a number of additional tasks in virtual environments (VEs). Three types of ViPs are described: Virtual Footprints, which are used for tracking user navigation (position, orientation and movement), Virtual Handprints, which are used for tracing user interaction with the VE, and Virtual Markers, which are 'special' marks (usually coupled with information) that
... an be created upon user request. In a VE, the ViPs concept is instantiated and supported through a software mechanism (the ViPs mechanism) that allows users to create, manage and interact with their personal ViPs, as well as other users' ViPs. The paper presents the background and related work upon which the suggested concept builds, as well as the distinctive properties that differentiate ViPs from other related efforts. An account of how users can interact with ViPs is provided and related issues and challenges are discussed along with techniques and methods for addressing them. The paper also describes the process followed towards defining and experimenting with the concept of ViPs by means of iterative design and evaluation of an interactive prototype. This process involved exploratory studies, as well as several inspections and formal tests with both experts and potential end-users, in order to assess the usefulness of the concept and identify possible shortcomings, and also to evaluate and improve the usability of the proposed designs and software prototypes. In general, the findings of the studies reinforce the initial hypothesis that ViPs are an intuitive and powerful concept, and show that the related software is easy to learn and use. Overall, the results of the studies support strong evidence that an appropriately designed and implemented, fully functional ViPs mechanism can significantly increase the usability of VEs. r 1 Virtual Handprints were originally named Virtual Fingerprints, but our studies revealed that the concept of Handprints is far better both in terms of usability and intuitiveness (e.g. fingerprints are too small to be noticed and to interact with). 2 Virtual Markers were originally termed Virtual Fossils, but they were renamed as a result of user testing.