Hypertextualized Virtual Environments: Dual-Mode User Interface Design
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This thesis develops a novel strategy for accessing Hypertextualized Virtual Environments (HiVEs), integrated information spaces where symbolic (hypertext) and visual (3D graphics) data are simultaneously available and linked (e.g., 3D content on the Web). The work focuses on user interface design. It begins with the introduction of hypertext and the Web as well as 3D computer graphics and virtual environments; we present arguments for combining these mediums and outline our research and design approach to this topic. As a prerequisite to the effective user interface design is an understanding of the users and their tasks, we then focus on an understanding of the fundamental tasks users may engage in while exploring Web-based 3D virtual environments. We introduce a "taskonomy of 3D Web use", a simple taxonomy we use later to identify the tasks that the user interface for HiVEs must support. We then introduce a Dual-Mode user interface, an interface that has two modes between which a user can switch anytime: the driven by simple hypertext-based interactions hypertext "don't-make-me-think" mode, where a 3D scene is embedded in hypertext and the more immersive 3D "take-me-to-the-Wonderland" mode, which immerses the hypertextual annotations into the 3D scene; we also describe the interface's support for hypermedia and virtual environment tasks described in our taskonomy. Furthermore, we describe Copernicus, a wiki-type authoring environment allowing the rapid development of HiVEs, a testbed allowing for the experimentation and for the assessment of both hypertext and 3D modes of the Dual-Mode user interface. Our Dual-Mode user interface, implemented in Copernicus, was evaluated iteratively using several methods for usability studies. The evaluations illustrated that people like to use Copernicus and appreciate the interactive possibilities offered by its user interface. The results from the competitive user study suggest users performed better with the Dual-Mode user interface over alternatives.