Gestures vs. Emojis: Comparing Non-Verbal Reaction Visualizations for Immersive Collaboration

Collaborative virtual environments afford new capabilities in telepresence applications, allowing participants to co-inhabit an environment to interact while being embodied via avatars. However, shared content within these environments often takes away the attention of collaborators from observing the non-verbal cues conveyed by their peers, resulting in less effective communication. Exaggerated gestures, abstract visuals, as well as a combination of the two, have the potential to improve the effectiveness of communication within these environments in comparison to familiar, natural non-verbal visualizations. We designed and conducted a user study where we evaluated the impact of these different non-verbal visualizations on users’ identification time, understanding, and perception. We found that exaggerated gestures generally perform better than non-exaggerated gestures, abstract visuals are an effective means to convey intentional reactions, and the combination of gestures with abstract visuals provides some benefits compared to their standalone counterparts.

View of the question reaction performed by the female avatar across separate visualization conditions used in the experiment. A: Natural-Question visual reaction. B: Exaggerated-Question visual reaction. C: Emoji-Question visual reaction.
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