Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Linking Audio and Visual Information While Navigating in a Virtual Reality Kiosk Display

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Linking Audio and Visual Information While Navigating in a Virtual Reality Kiosk Display

Article excerpt

3D interactive virtual reality museum exhibits should be easy to use, entertaining, and informative. If the interface is intuitive, it will allow the user more time to learn the educational content of the exhibit. This research deals with interface issues concerning activating audio descriptions of images in such exhibits while the user is navigating. Five methods for activating audio descriptions were implemented and evaluated to find the most effective. These range roughly on a passive-active continuum. With the more passive methods, an audio explanation was triggered by simple proximity to an image of interest. The more active methods involved users orienting themselves and pressing a button to start the audio. In the most elaborate method, once the visitor had pressed a trigger button, the system initiated a "tractor-beam" that animated the viewpoint to a location in front of, and facing, the image of interest before starting the audio. The results of this research suggest that the more active methods were both preferred and more effective in getting visitors to face objects of interest while audio played. The tractor-beam method was best overall and implemented in a museum exhibit.


Modern computer technology has made possible 3D interactive public kiosks that provide the user with a multi-media rich environment that may include text, graphics, images, sound-clips, video, and animations. Often these environments allow the user to interactively select content and navigate through the 3D space to retrieve information, however, the navigation task may distract the user from this information. Ideally, the user should enjoy the benefits of these kiosks without sacrificing the ability to acquire the information they contain. Developing these types of interactive environments is a complex task due to the specific requirements of kiosks. They should be exceptionally easy to use, as they must be proficiently operated within a few minutes; they should be self-explanatory, as there are no human helpers to interact with; and they should engage users with interesting content, so their experience will be a memorable one.

This article is concerned with the particular problems associated with 3D interactive public kiosks; in particular, effectively linking visual 3D images with recorded spoken descriptions while navigating. Multimedia, cognitive, and learning theories suggest that the cognitive load placed on users by aspects of the kiosk, those not needed for learning the educational content, should be minimized (Schaller & Allison-Bunnell, 2003; Travis, Watson, & Atyeo, 1994). This requires finding an appropriate method for activating audio descriptions that is simple to learn and use.

This research also had a practical goal. By obtaining a contract from the New Hampshire Seacoast Science Center, it was possible to design and build the interface for a 3D kiosk; with the intent to inform the public about aspects of the marine environment. The Seacoast Science Center preferred it to be a stereoscopic computer display with a fly-through interface, and wanted the main content to consist of video and still images distributed through the 3D environment. The challenge was to develop a technique enabling users to, on their own, make audio-visual connections easily, quickly, and naturally, without hindering their ability to navigate around the virtual environment.


There are many areas of prior research relevant to issues dealing with 3D virtual kiosks. Some of these include cognitive theories of how people learn, and theories that have been developed to account for why multimedia presentations can be more effective. In addition, there are studies of how to control the user's attention; studies relating to the best way of connecting images with audio while navigating; and studies of whether active learning environments are better than passive learning environments. …

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