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Fitness-for-purpose of videotelephony in face-to-face situations


Main Objective

The primary aim is to examine the configuration requirements for consistent and accurate communication through videotelephony in comparison with standards of real-world face-to-face communication; i.e., identifying the veracity of videotelephony and its "Fitness-for-Purpose". To key objectives are to:

-define objective face-to-face videotelephony criteria and measurement tools for Advanced Communication Service tasks

-conduct experiments to determine the veracity of different videotelephony configurations on the basis of face-to-face psychological criteria

-create recommendations and benchmark tests for determining "Fitness-for-Purpose" to enable reliable procedures for rapid and flexible videotelephony service introduction.

Technical Approach

Achieving veracity of videotelephony involves two related elements:

1.identifying the communication goals for which videotelephony is the appropriate alternative to real-world human communication; and 2.identifying the correct technical and psychological characteristics for achieving these communications goals.
The overall approach of the project is to define the human communication goals that are key contenders for the successful application of videotelephony and to identify the appropriate technical and psychological characteristics for testing in experiments. Appropriate application contexts around human communication goals will then be developed, using these evaluation methods in a series of pilots.

The project focuses on empirical contributions for the derivation of the science base but incorporates relevant theory where appropriate (e.g. human information processing, human perception, human language understanding, social interaction and communication). Empirical approaches include social-science methods of experimentation, attitude assessment and performance testing. It also includes the capture of 'craft' knowledge which exists in related application areas (e.g., instruction, counselling, medical interviewing), technology domains (e.g., television, film, multimedia, publishing) and skill areas (e.g., drama, sound, training).

Systematic comparative studies of videotelephony configurations will examine technical and psychological characteristics of broadband communication. These studies will be conducted in rich-context laboratory trials that simulate an appropriate advanced service(s). Potential technical configurations include network characteristics, equipment characteristics, and image, sound and environment characteristics. Potential psychological characteristics include psychological distance between interlocutors, gaze behaviour, use of communication back-channels, success of interlocutor communication intent, time and process of interaction and mental effort required. Candidate services/applications include health care, education and expert case conferencing with simultaneous translation.

The experiments involve measuring real-time interaction and the development of objective psychological measures, which are appropriate in terms of: achieving experimental rigour, whilst having real-world applicability; requiring minimisation of length/frequency of data collection; and having feasible data collection procedures (equipment requirements, level of user intrusion, etc.). Evaluation tools must be developed specifically for the project. These are likely to include observation schedules and questionnaires. The data collection procedures will also be assessed for their potential value outside the laboratory in field trials with very large user populations.

Summary of Trial

The project will conduct controlled experiments rather than trials. The scope of these has already been described (see in particular the Technical Approach).
Expected Achievements

-Conclusions and recommendations for candidate videotelephone technologies to promote effective use of video communication in ways that meet human expectations.

-Experimental results on videotelephony Fitness-for-Purpose in the form of guidelines for manufacturers, suppliers, service providers and users.

Expected Impact

Technology and service providers will have access to scientifically derived data on the Fitness-for-Purpose of videotelephony on which to base their business decisions on network, equipment and service development and provision.

Main contributions to the programme objectives:
Main deliverables
Fitness-for-Purpose Guidelines for the selection and design of fac-to-face video-telephony services.
Contribution to the programme
Good practices for the design of broadband communication services.
Key Issues

Videotelephony research and development has to date been driven by more qualitative and subjective assessment of utility and performance. This reflects the leading-edge nature of the development with the principal concerns being technical and service delivery viability. Whilst evaluations have been performed and documented, the extent to which they can be generalised is limited by their particular service objectives. It has generally been impractical and inappropriate to perform controlled and quantitative experiments in an applications-oriented initiative. The few experimental studies performed have focused on special communication needs (e.g. hearing impairment) and therefore very targeted behaviours and/or have restricted validity due to artificial designs removed from the real world.

Although many studies have been made of individual video-coding systems in the laboratory and occasionally in use in the field, their use in demanding real-life situations hase not been tested nor quantified in terms of Fitness-for-Purpose. Nor have side-by-side comparisons been made of the appropriateness of systems with different technical characteristics. There is a need for systematic studies which use appropriate psychological criteria for comparing current and emerging technologies (e.g. M-JPEG, MPEG2, H.320 & H.323 coding protocols). Purchasers, implementors, suppliers and manufacturers of videotelephony technology and services need to be able to make rational decisions regarding the technical options available and how these meet, or do not meet, user requirements. The required quality of videotelephone technology (and hence level of veracity with real world face-to-face communication) will differ depending on the complexity and subtlety of particular social interaction and communication acts (e.g. whether the intention is to convince, to coerce, to influence, to understand, to interpret, etc.). Interest groups thus need comparative information which can enable them to decide on appropriate technologies for different uses.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


47A,fore Street
IP13 9DD Framlingham
United Kingdom

Participants (5)

Acadia University
European Convergence (Managed Services) Ltd (ECMS)
United Kingdom
Northwold Systems & Services Ltd (NSSL)
United Kingdom
Nottingham University
United Kingdom
Telenor R&D