Eye Contact in Leisure Video Conferencing
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The concept of presence refers to the sensation of being in a physically distinct location. Presence with respect to video conferencing refers to feeling as if together with the remote user rather than being conscious of the actual separation by distance. Eye contact plays an essential role in communication as it conveys additional nonverbal messages of the conversation. In video mediated distance communication eye contact is prevented due to the offset of the camera position to the user’s gaze. In defiance of the imposed restriction, enabling eye contact in video mediated communication was the approach taken to improve presence in video conferencing. A particular focus was placed on private rather than professional video conferencing. The proposed solutions include a software based solution founded upon image processing techniques and a hardware based solution founded upon teleprompter technology. Two experiments were conducted to test the performance of the systems. The first experiment was designed to measure the sense of presence within each solution, comparing them to the conventional situation where the camera is placed on top of the screen without correcting gaze. Evaluation of the results of the first experiment demonstrated that the solutions generated a significantly greater perception of eye contact than the conventional setup. The perceived eye contact was rated as an improvement by the majority of the participants. However we could not verify that enabling eye contact improves the sense of presence with respect to the conventional situation. This will require further experimental research. The second experiment was designed to measure the difference in sense of presence between the solutions. Evaluation of the results established the conclusion that the hardware solution induced a greater sense of presence than the software solution. Albeit both systems would profit from adjustments and improvements, both acquired positive feedback and showed great potential.