Experimenting with New Navigation Paradigms

By Nicole Yankelovich

In my work with clients, one common concern is how long it will take users to learn to use Open Wonderland. Moving the avatar around a space is typically one of the clients’ biggest concerns. To address this issue, my company, WonderBuilders, has been thinking about different mechanisms for avatar navigation. One strategy we have implemented for customer projects is an enhanced Best View feature that allows users to focus in on objects by clicking on them.

In this way, users navigate by moving only their avatar camera, and not the avatar. In some scenarios, this approach works well. There is, however, at least one serious drawback. If the avatar does not actually move and the object they are focusing in on is far away, they will not be able to hear audio in the vicinity of the object they are looking at.

To address this issue, we recently added a new capability called “Navigate To.” Now, when the user clicks on an object, their avatar will move to a location near that object that the world builder has specified.

Navigate To can be used in conjunction with Best View or on its own.

As we have added these capabilities, we also had to address the issue of which capabilities take precedence when more than one is applied to an object. For now we have hard-coded an ordering. Navigate To always comes first, followed by Best View, which is followed by Audio, and so forth. Eventually it will probably be necessary to create an interactive ordering tool so that the world builder can specify the order they desire.

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3 Responses to Experimenting with New Navigation Paradigms

  1. George Petrineanu says:

    Thank you for a very useful article and features!

    With reservation I didn’t test these features (Navigate to & Best view) I believe they are powerful features deserving the goal of “making users to learn to use Open Wonderland”.

    However I should add some comment to the assumption below
    > In my work with clients, one common concern is
    > how long it will take users to learn
    > to use Open Wonderland. Moving the avatar around
    > a space is typically one of the clients’ biggest concerns.

    As an user an potential VE builder, my concern is also how to take Open Wonderland to learn users too. Shure, I see Navigate To and Best View are important features to achieve also that. I should call that double approach as “emphatic usability”.

    > feature that allows users to focus in on objects by clicking on them

    I am a bit concerned about focus by clicking. Users are very confident with mouse but imho clicking breaks the agoing cognitve flow when the user navigate from A to C through B (wich is intended to be an intermediary ”Best view” target).
    Moreove, I would love to dinamicaly during “Navigate to” point or change targets and activate Best views even on other objects than targets.

    How do that without clicking? Well, the mouse controls which does not “break the flow” are actualy “move the pointer”, “point” (stop move the pointer) and the mouse scrolling wheel.
    However, the mouse scrolling wheel use to be allocated to “zoom”.

    How make “mouse point” to activate focus without clicking? My guess is that a new sub feature, “pointing gesture” should be a candidate. By exemple for activate/call best view: while navigating, point over the object (the object is highighted) to best view and perform two faster movements left-right.

    As for navigation target, “define new target” that could be point end draw a cross ^X. Some point and gesture over an active target could mean “cancel navigation target”.

    Just some thoughts.
    I look forward the evolution of this powerful solution.

  2. George Petrineanu says:

    Hi again,

    I could see the results of the enhanced navigation paradigm, a new function called “Navigate To”. http://www.wonderbuilders.com/portfolio/navigate-to

    That is, in my opinion too, an useful feature.

    Please let me talk a little more thougts about navigation paradigm.
    In an environment where more avatars are present the navigation of each indivtual could be more difficult since every avatar must avoid collide with objects and other avatars and in the mean while follow the wished path.
    I would rather call “avatar navigation” as “avatar walking through” to focus on the intensive priming effect where more avatars are toghether and experience the “navigation” like a “natural walking”.
    In my opinion, there are some features which could contribute. E.g.
    – “Follow me”. Same as Navigate To, though the target is a moving avatar. Appropriate for a guided group. The avatar self need to point the “Guide” (or other avatar) in order to follow it.
    – “Natural walkning”. If possible, remap the keys. “Blank” can be start and stop. Keep walking forward until stop or turn (arrows).
    – Anticollision rules. Provide safety distances between avatar an solid objects or other avatars. The minimal requirement should be that the avatar stops automaticaly if the saftety distances is achieved. These rules could be extended depending on implementation limits.

    Thank you for sustainging an intresting and powerful application, OWL!

  3. George, great ideas! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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