Thomas Lopez, Rozenn Bouville, Emilie Loup-escande, Florian Nouviale, Valerie Gouranton, Bruno Arnaldi
The exchange of avatars, i.e. the actual fact of changing once avatar with another one, is a promising trend in multi-actor virtual environments. It provides new opportunities for users, such as controlling a different avatar for a specific action, retrieving knowledge belonging to a particular avatar, solving conflicts and deadlocks situations or even helping another user. Virtual Environments for Training are especially affected by this trend as a specific role derived from a scenario is usually assigned to a unique avatar. Despite the increasing use of avatar exchange, users' perception and understanding of this mechanism have not been studied. In this paper, we propose two complementary user-centered evaluations that aim at comparing several representations for the exchange of avatars; these are termed exchange metaphors. Our first experiment focuses on the perception of an exchange by a user who is not involved in the exchange, and the second experiment analyzes the perception of an exchange triggered by the user. Results show that the use of visual feedback globally aids better understanding of the exchange mechanism in both cases. Our first experiment suggests, however, that visual feedback is less efficient than a simple popup notification in terms of task duration. In addition, the second experiment shows that much simpler metaphors with no visual effect are generally preferred because of their efficiency.