The IWF (Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing) research activities within the blue-c-II project were focused on the design of a collaboration platform - a modular environment for remote collaboration. The aim of the collaboration platform was to design hardware modules with functionality that better supports distributed people in their collaborative work. Particularly, we wanted to improve the participants sensation of talking and working together with others during video and data conferences.
A specific functionality which we wanted to enable for video conferencing is the capability called gaze awareness: The ability to monitor the direction of a partners gaze and thus his or her focus of attention. Gaze awareness plays an important role if video conferencing is combined with data conferencing, in which the participants are not only talking to each other, but also use an interactive vertical workspace, e.g. for sketching during the discussion.
To enable gaze awareness, a video conferencing systems camera and display must be optically aligned. However, todays video conferencing systems with cameras placed on the side of the display or atop of the screen have a parallax, which does not allow gaze awareness. We therefore designed and implemented a device called HoloPort. The setup provides gaze awareness capability to a user standing close to a projection screen which displays a remote partner. Optical alignment is done by placing the camera behind a holographic rear-projection screen, and quasi-synchroneous (time-multiplexed) or synchroneous image acquisition through and image projection onto that screen.
Another interesting functionality for combined video and data conferencing would be to overlay a live video from the remote participant atop shared content. By using large interactive electronic whiteboards connected over a network, this functionality could strongly improve collaborative work over distance. Within the blue-c-II project, we proved technical feasibility of such a video overlay functionality. It is planned to design and implement a device prototype in the frame of a follow-up project.
|Group Video Conferencing using HoloPort
||HoloPort Principle Sketch
||Collaborative Video and Data Conferencing using HoloPort|