GROUP SKETCH: A MULTI-USER SKETCHPAD FOR GEOGRAPHICALLY-DISTRIBUTED SMALL GROUPS
Recent research observations of small group meetings have identified factors critical to the design of computer tools supporting real time collaborative design. In particular, group activity revolves as much around the design process--sketching, annotating, listing ideas, and gesturing around a communal work surface--as it does around the resulting drawing artifact. A workstation-based tool called GroupSketch has been developed that allows a small geographically-distributed group to list, draw, and gesture simultaneously in a communal work surface, supporting interactions similar to those occurring in the face-to-face process. GroupSketch facilitates collaboration by: a) allowing gestural expression through large unique cursors visible on all displays; b) minimizing overhead encountered in storing information; c) conveying the process of expressing ideas by transmitting small granular changes of user activity with minimum time delay; d) intermixing gestural, textual, and graphical expression modelessly; and e) providing simultaneous access to a common view of the work surface area. Observations drawn from actual design sessions indicate that people use GroupSketch in much the same way they use face to face communal sketchpads.