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Proposal for Voice Communications in a VR Environment
The University of Southern Mississippi
 

 

 

Voice Communications in a Virtual Reality Environment

Submitted by:

Carlos Sterling – kableman26@yahoo.com - (601) 544-7184

Advisor:

Dr. Tulio Sulbaran – Tulio.Sulbaran@usm.edu - (601) 266-6419

Abstract:

Current users of Virtual Reality (VR) Environments distributed over the Internet, communicate among themselves using text-chat. Text-chat is a slow communication process, which distracts the users from their main task in the VR environment. The objective of this project is to create an interface between VR Environments and a voice server that will allow people (within VR Environments) to communicate by voice. The interface resulting from this project will allow a person using a VR Environment over the Internet to logon to a voice communications server from anywhere in the world. The users will be able to communicate without having to install new software on their computer. This communication will foster people’s abilities to share their ideas and solutions to problems in research, education, and/or professional environments anywhere in the world.

 

1- Problem Statement:

Virtual Reality Environments such as ActiveWorlds, Cybernet Worlds, and Chat in 3D Worlds allow users to communicate through text-chat [ActiveWorlds 2003, Cybernet Worlds 2003, Chat in 3D Worlds 2002]. The average person is able to type about 30 to 60 words per minute, while someone speaking can say 300 to 400 words per minute [Environmental Data Systems 1995]. Thus, it can be seen that text-chat compared to voice communication is much slower. This in turn has the potential to reduce the amount of interaction between users.

Additionally, most of the interaction between the users and VR environments are through devices (such as: mouse, keyboard, joystick, pen, etc) operated with the users hands. Therefore, text-chat diverts the user’s attention away from their main activity within the VR environment.

 

2- Project Objective:

The objective of this project is to create an interface that allows voice communication among VR users. This initiative augments the existing text-chat capabilities in VR environments by making the interaction among users more natural. The migration from text-chat to a more natural communication such as voice is a developing trend on the Internet. Jack Woodall supports this with the statement that "Sound & image are the natural means of human communication, not writing. Therefore voice should eventually replace text on the Internet" [HealthNet Medical Discussion 1999].

Additionally, the author believes that this interface will foster interaction among VR users. This will eliminate the users need to convert their thoughts into text format.

This project will allow voice communication among VR users in a user-friendly environment. The users in the VR environments will select a VR object such as a headset or a phone, which will link the user to a voice communication server. Once the user is linked to the communication server, he/she will be prompted to provide login information. This will be followed by a system verification process, which will authenticate the user’s information and will grant access to establish voice communications with other users currently interacting in the VR Environment.

 

3- Project Methodology:

The creation of an interface that allows voice communication among VR users requires the integration of different components such as: Server side hardware/software, Web Page software, communication software, and VR environment software. The guidelines for web development established by USM will not pertain to this project because the work being done does not fall under an organization or departmental information site. Furthermore, this project will be based on using Microsoft Operating Systems and applications. Future research can be geared toward testing the functionality of the Voice Weaver Software [StreamComm 2003] on other types of operating systems such as Linux.

The first stage into the creation of the interfaces will be to procure and set up the voice communication server (Hardware). This will be followed by the installation of all pertinent applications on to the server (Software). With hardware and software installed, we turn our attention to see how the voice communications server works. The Voice Weaver software program [StreamComm 2003] will allow members to access the communication server through the use of PHP, which is a scripting language that produces dynamic HTML web pages. The dynamic web page will be created using the web page software installed on the server. Once a user visits the web site, they will be asked to install a plug-in on the computer being used to access the Internet. This only takes a few seconds and then this process will not take place any more while using that particular computer. Once the plug-in is installed, a login window will open to give the user a chance to verify username and password.

Now that there is an understanding of how the voice communications server works; let us turn our attention to how the VR environments will be implemented into this project. VR environments can be created using different languages such as VRML [Virtual Reality Modeling Language 1995] and Java 3D API [Java 3D API 2003]. The VR environments can also be created with applications such as 3D Studio Viz R3 produced by Autodesk [3D Studio Viz R3 ..n.d.] And/or WorldToolKit produced by Sense8 [Sense8 2000]. The interface created as part of this project will allow voice communication among VR users of environments created with any of the previously mentioned languages/applications. This will be accomplished by providing a link that will be embedded into the VR environment to establish a connection between the user and the voice server.

 

3. a- Milestones:

The development of this project has been organized in milestones. Each milestone represents an important step toward the completion of the project. Below is a list presenting a short description and expected due date for each milestone:

Stages

Due Date

Procure Server

Friday, May 16, 2003

Setup Server (Hardware and Internet)

Friday, June 06, 2003

Install Software and Applications (VR applications, Web page design software, Communication software, PHP server software and Miscellaneous)

Friday, June 13, 2003

Establish a secure login system to connect VR environments with communication server. Test to see if voice software works

Friday, June 20, 2003

Embed links and scripts into three VR environments that will execute the login system

Friday, June 27, 2003

Customize the voice communication server software for VR environments and link the communication software with the secure login system

Monday, July 07, 2003

Test VR environment voice communications parameters such as reliability, durability, stability, etc

Friday, July 11, 2003

Publishable Paper (Conference to be defined)

Friday, July 18, 2003

Power Point presentation on Project

Wed, July 23, 2003

Revised Paper and Presentation

Friday, July 25, 2003

Final Presentation

Thursday, July 31, 2003

 

3.b- Required Resources for the Project:

In addition to the milestones, several key required resources have been identified to complete the project. Following is a list of the key required resources:

Communication Server (Such as: Pentium 4, RAM 512MB, 60 GIG Hard Drive)

Operating System (Such as: Windows XP Professional)

Communication Software (Such as: Voice Weaver software)

Web Page Software (Such as: Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dream Weaver)

Scripting Software (Such as: PHP and ASP)

Virtual Reality Plug-in (Such as: Cosmo Player or Cortona)

Supplies (Such as: Paper, Toner, etc)

 

4- Project Contribution:

The benefits of this type of project are to create a more productive working environment that is easily accessible from practically anywhere there’s a computer with an Internet connection. Each user will have voice access in a VR environment to discuss problems or solutions pertaining to their area of expertise. This will be a VR world-meeting place to gather and to communicate with more interaction than in a standard text chat environment. The solution is to find away for everyone to communicate with each other based on one software application that could be remotely accessed without having to download different voice communications software. After considerable research, Voice Weaver [StreamComm 2003] will meet the desired results intended for this project.

 

5- Summary:

In the fast pace world we live in there becomes a need to do things faster with more accuracy. Voice communications in a VR environment will enhance the online experience. I believe voice communications in a VR environment will be beneficial towards a more productive work, school, or research environment. The voice communication software will be interchangeable in any VR environment, but the main emphasis of this project is that it will not require a user to download lots of software to be able to communicate. A centrally located voice server will provide remote access and a user-friendly VR environment for people to use.

 

6- References:

Active Worlds. (April 2003). Retrieved April 2003, from Active Worlds Web site:

http://www.activeworlds.com

Chat in 3D Worlds. (2002). Retrieved May 9, 2003, from PC Pursuits Web site: http://www.pcpursuits.com/3DWorlds.htm

Cybernet Worlds 3D Chat Community. (2003). Retrieved May 9, 2003, from Cybernet Worlds Web site: http://www.cybernetworlds.com

Environmental Data Systems. (1995). Retrieved May 9, 2003, from REU Web site: http://www.reu.com/edsys/medifile2.html

HealthNet Medical Discussion. (1999). Retrieved May 12, 2003 from the HealthNet Web site: http://www.healthnet.sk/discussion/messages/122.html

Java 3D API. (April 2003). Retrieved April 13, 2003 from the Java.Sun.Com Web site: http://java.sun.com/products/java-media/3D/

Sense8. (2000). Retrieved May 9, 2003, from Sense8 Web site: http://www.sense8.com/index.html

StreamComm. (2003). Retrieved March 27, 2003 from the StreamComm Web site: http://www.voiceweaver.com/?affid=speakfreely

Web Wiz Guide, The Web Development Site. (2001-2003). Retrieved March 12, 2003 from the Web Wiz Guide Web site: http://www.webwizguide.com

W3C, Virtual Reality Modeling Language. (April 1995). Retrieved April 13, 2003 from the W3C Web site: http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/VRML/

3D Studio Viz R3. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2003 from the AutoCAD Pipex Dial Web site: http://www.autocad.dial.pipex.com/3D%20Viz%20Features.htm


       
  Last modified: July 7, 2003 12:22 PM Questions or comments?
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