Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Tabletop interfaces for remote collaboration

Philip Tuddenham

December 2008, 243 pages

This technical report is based on a dissertation submitted June 2008 by the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the University of Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College.

DOI: 10.48456/tr-734


Effective support for synchronous remote collaboration has long proved a desirable yet elusive goal for computer technology. Although video views showing the remote participants have recently improved, technologies providing a shared visual workspace of the task still lack support for the visual cues and work practices of co-located collaboration.

Researchers have recently demonstrated shared workspaces for remote collaboration using large horizontal interactive surfaces. These remote tabletop interfaces may afford the beneficial work practices associated with co-located collaboration around tables. However, there has been little investigation of remote tabletop interfaces beyond limited demonstrations. There is currently little theoretical basis for their design, and little empirical characterisation of their support for collaboration. The construction of remote tabletop applications also presents considerable technical challenges.

This dissertation addresses each of these areas. Firstly, a theory of workspace awareness is applied to consider the design of remote tabletop interfaces and the work practices that they may afford.

Secondly, two technical barriers to the rapid exploration of useful remote tabletop applications are identified: the low resolution of conventional tabletop displays; and the lack of support for existing user interface components. Techniques from multi-projector display walls are applied to address these problems. The resulting method is evaluated empirically and used to create a number of novel tabletop interfaces.

Thirdly, an empirical investigation compares remote and co-located tabletop interfaces. The findings show how the design of remote tabletop interfaces leads to collaborators having a high level of awareness of each other’s actions in the workspace. This enables smooth transitions between individual and group work, together with anticipation and assistance, similar to co-located tabletop collaboration. However, remote tabletop collaborators use different coordination mechanisms from co-located collaborators. The results have implications for the design and future study of these interfaces.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Tuddenham, Philip},
  title = 	 {{Tabletop interfaces for remote collaboration}},
  year = 	 2008,
  month = 	 dec,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-734},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-734}