Abstract

We describe a musical cyberworld, Folkways in Wonderland, in which avatarrepresented users can find and listen to selections from the Smithsonian Folkways world music collection. When audition is disturbed by cacophony of nearby tracks or avatar conversations, one’s soundscape can be refined since the system supports narrowcasting, a technique which allows information streams to be filtered. Our system supports two different kinds of sound sources: musical selections and avatar conversation (voice-chat). Narrowcasting for music enables aesthetic focus; narrowcasting for talk enables cognitive focus. The former is required for dense presentation of musical sound, the latter for virtual worlds in which many avatars are expected to be able to interact. An active listener can fork self-identified avatars using a novel multipresence technique, locating representatives at locations of interest, each clone capturing respective soundscapes, controlled using narrowcasting functions {self, non-self} × {select (solo), mute, deafen, attend}. Likewise one can participate in a conference and at the same time join a global tour of music. Our music browser is architected to use MX: IEEE 1599, a comprehensive, multilayered, music description standard. Using our cyberworld as a virtual laboratory, we evaluated the effectiveness of narrowcasting when auditioning music and conferencing. Experimental results suggest that narrowcasting and multipresence techniques are useful for collaborative music exploration and improve user experience. We also got positive feedback from the participants regarding narrowcasting representations, variously based on colors, symbols, and icons.

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