Research Issues

Presence and Semantics

In addition to the appearance and ease-of-use of the presence management tools, the actual meaning of a person’s presence status is a topic of great interest. As part of our ongoing knowledge modelling work within the UK EPSRC-funded Advanced Knowledge Technologies project, we are beginning to develop richer presence representations that reflect user's work intentions. For the specific sub-project known as CoAKTinG: Collaborative Advanced Knowledge Technolgies in the Grid, we intend to augment the prototype BuddySpace with semantic visual filters that customise the display of presence information to yield participants of interest at the right moment (e.g. those working on work-package X, or interested in ontology Y). The difference from earlier work, such as the dynamic sliders of Shneiderman, or even the powerful group filtering of IM products such as Odigo, is that the users will be asked to subscribe to a community of discourse, which includes an underlying ontology of areas of communal research interest and concepts such as project timescales and work plans, thereby enabling a degree of intelligent match-making even when users do not choose identical keywords (as is now required in the IM world). Key research questions in this realm are as follows:

  • Automatic filtering
    How much in the way of automatic roster construction and group visualisation can be provided 'hands-free', i.e. without significant end-user investment?

  • Semantics of match-making
    What do we need to store about the research interests of colleagues in order to indicate their simultaneous presence?

  • Presence semantics and dynamics
    Indicators such as 'online', 'away', 'busy' and 'offline' are proving to be much less useful than more advanced status indicators such 'now working on work-package X', and we need to develop a richer presence vocabulary to reflect this. What should this vocabulary look like?

Presence in Massively Multiplayer Games

The aim of this aspect of our work is to focus on the notion of presence of other players in massively multiplayer games and investigate the potential of a game based purely on presence information. We are particularly interested in the issues that arise when designing a game for a multi-user experience. In particular we note that a very large number of participants can sometimes be disadvantageous for the game experience and complicate the design process. In most games we notice a limit either in the number of people that can take part, or in the number of people that can interact synchronously or see each other during game play.

For example, in massively multiplayer games like Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call the player's view is limited by an artificial horizon in the radar visualization: this conveniently narrows the immediate scope of events requiring urgent attention, but restricts the 'total immersion' effect that might otherwise be possible to achieve. This work attempts to explore the idea of a game where the very presence of a large number of people could not only be advantageous for the game itself, but actually form the fundamental premise of its play. The work is in an early state, and an indication of its progress is described in Yanna Vogiazou's Directory of Work on Massively MultiPlayer Presence which drawing on links from the worlds of games, mobiles, instant messaging, and telepresence.