Common approaches to HCI (Human Computer Interaction) largely consist of stressing the points in which computers exceed human performance. They are based on the assumption that the users working with such a system will have to adapt themselves to their working environment and not vice versa. These approaches do not take sufficiently into account that computers may be very efficient at fast searching and ordering large amounts of data, while humans are much more adept at visually arranging and manipulating data, as well as recognizing relations between different sets of data (meta-data).
Human thinking and knowledge work is heavily dependent on sensing the outside world. One important part of this perception-oriented sensing is the human visual system. It is well-known that our visual knowledge disclosure that is, our ability to think, abstract, remember, and understand visually and our skills to visually organize are extremely powerful. The overall vision of @VISOR is to realize an individually customizable virtual world which inspires the user’s thinking, enables the economical usage of his perceptual power, and adheres to a multiplicity of personal details with respect to his thought process and knowledge work.
The logical conclusion is that by creating a framework that emphasizes the strengths of both humans and machines in an immersive virtual environment, @VISOR can achieve great improvements in the effectiveness of knowledge workers and analysts. The @VISOR project strives to realize this vision by designing methods to present and visualize data in a way that integrates the user into his artificial surroundings seamlessly and gives him/her the opportunity to interact with it in a natural way. In this connection, a holistic context and content-sensitive approach for information retrieval, visualization, and navigation in manipulative virtual environments is introduced. @VISOR addresses this promising and comprehensive vision of efficient man-machine interaction in future manipulative virtual environments by the term “immersion”: a frictionless sequence of operations and a smooth operational flow, integrated with multi-sensory interaction possibilities, which allows an integral interaction of human work activities and machine support. When implemented to perfection, this approach enables a powerful immersion experience: the user has the illusion that he is actually situated in the artificial surroundings, the barrier between human activities and their technical reflection vanishes, and the communication with the artificial environment is seamless and homogeneous. As a result, not only are visually driven thinking, understanding, and organizing promoted, but the identification and recognition of new relations and knowledge is facilitated.
As a matter of course, the study of non-specific, general, real-world information spaces is far too complex to be the aim of @VISOR. Therefore @VISOR will dedicate its studies on virtual environments to personal (virtual) information spaces which are, to a high degree, based on documents i.e., the personal document-based information spaces. In this specific context the above considerations and questions will be concretized and focused.