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WP4-3 Graphical User Interface Configuration (GUI)

Page history last edited by klaus 10 years, 6 months ago




This document is licensed under a "Creative Commons Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Austria" Licence (“Creative Commons Namensnennung-Keine kommerzielle Nutzung-Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen 3.0 Österreich”). Further details see: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/at/


Author: Klaus Hammermüller, talkademy.org



This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


Second Life is a registered trademark of LindenLab Corp., San Francisco other mentioned trademarks are respected properties of their owners.





The objective of the graphical user interface configuration (GUI) is to improve the accessability and usability of the 3D environment to allow people with limited ICT skills and ICT equipment to participate. A special focus is to support the initial learning events. The name GUI configuration has been used to show that no specified software will be developed but existing components will be configured to improve the user experience in respect to specific learning scenarios.




The special focus of this deliverable, different to other deliverables in this work-package, is to serve IT system integrators who would have to set up the infrastructure. Thus the intended audience of this deliverables are IT system integrators with focus on real time streaming media.




Even though 3D environments have existed since the 1990s, they still require some software installation and technical skill which are not available for the majority of today's potential users. Even if it is, in many organisations installing and supporting additional software causes cost which may be prohibitive. Looking at the available 3D browsers one can easily see that they provide too much features, are hardly usable in respect of educational contexts and are implemented in ways that make it difficult for people who want to check the 3D environment out.


With this deliverable we want to provide an alternative access to a 3D environment which overcomes this obstacles for initial users. Power users may still require the full software pack, but those having their first learning experience may be sufficiently served with a reduced functionality and specialized learning scenarios. To overcome the technical hurdles of software installation, network security and application support, we decided to focus on a solution based on streaming media.


This way a simple browser plugin, already available on most of today's internet connected computers, is a sufficient requirement to allow initial users to participate. Thus accessibility improves significantly and as we are in control of the scenario design we also can improve the usability significantly. The expected result is that more potential users of an 3D environment are becoming real users.


The general motivation has already been given in the document “AVALON-WP4-2-overview”, chapter “Motivation”. This deliverable is more specifically focussing on certain aspects of system integration which are utilizing streaming media and are custom-made for the AVALON project. They can be operated independently of the other infrastructure and thus constitute a faclitative component.




The methodology used in this deliverable is based on the “Rational Unified Process” and the IBM Global Service Method. Similar methodologies but different names are used by different software engineering vendors, with similar results. As the “Rational Unified Process” is widely used in the academic and commercial software engineering domain, we will use the relevant naming and structuring without an additional reference.


Architectural Decisions


See document “AVALON-WP4-1-overview”, chapter “Architectural Desicions”.


Initially we thought we would find a "one fits all" configuration to support people with low ICT skills and limited ICT equipment. However during the initial tests we figured out, that there is not one configuration but depending on the usage scenario there are different configurations. Consequently not one but several different demonstrators had to be built and tested resulting in additional testing efforts. The findings are documented as "best practices".



Deliverable Overview


This is the translation of the deliverable-description as provided in the AVALON proposal (included on the first page of this document) and the reference to the place where one can find the related component.






Graphical User Interface Configuration handbook, Demonstrator documentation


printable version: download pdf



physical computer, available at talkademy.org, see reports below


Web site integration

see screenshots



WP4-3-1 Graphical User Interface Configuration


This deliverable consists of three parts:

  • The documentation of the GUI configuration, see “AVALON-WP4-GUI_configuration”, consisting of:

    • The configuration documentation itself

    • A specific scenario used to deliver a good learning experience

    • Test results for performance tuning

    • The demonstrator, an installed prototype on a computer, available at talkademy.org

    • The web site integration as a plugin


Design Constraints


The design constraints are:


  • the user should not need to install any software;

  • the user can access the simplified user interface opening a website in a browser;

  • the user will be able to participate actively in the 3D environment, including voice and being represented by an avatar;

  • we want the user to be able to participate if he is able to use a mobile phone (or Skype) and a web browser.


There are similar potential implementations available. We decided to use streaming media, as this is the most widely used approach. This decision posts additional constraints:

  • the educator has to handle cameras;

  • thus only settings in the 3D settings suitable for the use of predefined cameras positions can be implemented at reasonable cost.


To address these constraints a special quiz-show-like learning scenario has been defined in the AVALON WP3 and has been implemented as part of this deliverable.


Learning Scenario


The learning scenario being utilized by the demonstrator in this deliverable, has been defined in the AVALON subcontract Nr. 6 by Barbara Kocher, Austria, in association to the AVALON WP2.


The documentation can be found in “AVALON-WP4-GUI_configuration” chapter “learning scenario”.




The success of the approach (and similar approaches) relies on connectivity performance. At least full 3G mobile (UMTS) bandwidth is required, as all images have to be broadcast.


There is a trade of between resolution and performance, as well as between audio and video quality and voice lag. For more details consult the test result section of “AVALON-WP4-GUI_configuration”.



Conclusion and Further Work




There is not one optimal GUI configuration but the GUI configuration needs to be adjusted to the organizational setting of the learning event, the specific learning aim and the skills of the participants.

Unfortunately we did not find one technical set of components abe to be configured adaptively to these constraints:

  • Screen-sharing applications like Skype (new version Dec. 2009), Windwows Screenshare are limited to 1 on 1 organizational settings;
  • Terminal services like VNC or Windows terminal server usually do not share the sound capabilities thus are limited to learning scenarios not required to use voice and verbal expression;
  • Video based solutions are limited in the movement controls of the avatar thus the power of social interaction is restricted to careful designed learning scenarios, as we implemented with the demonstrator.


Anyhow, we found out not only how to bring a 3D environment into a website (as a plugin), but also to mobile devices, like the iPhone - which exceeded our expectations and opens up a new horizon in action learning scenarios:





The benefits from the approach taken simplified video based GUI configuration are


  • We can successfully include people like employed or unemployed business people as well as senior people with:

    • limited computer skills

    • limited hardware equipment

    • limited time for new experiences

    • limited privileges to change system configurations

  • We can provide people sceptical of innovative technologies with a positive first impression;

  • We can reach a larger number of participants more easily.





  • The single biggest issue in respect of connectivity performance is the voice quality and transmission lag. Even if we have provided a working GUI configuration, we can not guarantee, that audio quality will be satisfactory. This is, because nobody can guarantee the quality of service on today's internet. Streaming media, as we use it without a buffer is much more sensitive to unstable quality of service than the VoIP protocol used by the full client. Anyhow, we can present a solution which is working and is successfully addressing the defined design constraints.


Conclusion on pilot experiences with the GUI configuration


Based on the results of the action learning test running with the improved GUI configuration we can state that our hypothesis is right: a simplified learning experience improves the acceptance of the 3D environment.


However there is still not the "one fits all" configuration addressing the constraints for different educational setups. In the AVALON project we achieved improvements by reducing the ability of the participants to navigate the virtual world, thus reducing the complexity and skills required to master the environment. By this reduction we allowed people with lower ICT skills or limited ICT equipment to participate. However, this requires to tailor the GUI configuration to the specific learning scenario. Thus a more general "one fits all" configuration is still an unresolved issue.


In the AVALON project we used the special GUI configurations to include people during the first learning events, raising their desire to participate and motivate them to invest into their ICT skills. The configuration was also successfully used to let people participate during the SLanguages conference without directly entering the virtual world.

Comments (1)

Gary Motteram said

at 4:05 pm on Nov 19, 2010

This and all sub pages have now been read through and comments added.

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