Cross Cultural Digital Environments

Key Members

Hideyuki Nakanishi (Kyoto Univ.), Masayuki Okamoto (Kyoto Univ.), Katherine Isbister (NTT)

Project Objective

Global computer network enables us to overcome geographical limitations to communicate. We can meet people who have different cultural backgrounds in digital environments. In this project, we aim to construct a digital environment that can mediate cross-cultural differences. To do this, built-in cultural knowledge is necessary. The human interface is also important to help users with cultural knowledge. We develop a digital environment that has new features in these two points, and conduct cross-cultural experiments on a international dedicated line. This project forms a part of the joint research of Kyoto University, Stanford University and NTT Communication Science Laboratories.

Current Status

This project consists of two subgroups below.
1.
Helper Character for a Virtual Meeting-Place

We will develop a embodied character that acts in a three-dimensional meetings space. It is difficult to begin talking if users have different cultural backgrounds. The helper character provides them some common topics to encourage them to begin small talk. We collected topics from Japanese and US undergraduate students. We categorized these topics to make conversation data of the character. Figure 4 shows a three-dimensional meeting space where the character is asking a user. This system runs on a personal computer.
 
 

  
Figure4: Helper Character
 
2.
Networked Topic-Sharing Mirror

When people of different countries collaborate, it is important to know each other to do the remote collaboration smoothly. The system overlays video images of two separated groups on a large screen, and shows personal information, such as name, cultural information (e.g. nationality, language), and information about the collaboration (e.g. period, skill) in both languages. The user can change a displayed information by touching the menu on the screen.

Future Direction

We conducted social psychological experiment to test the effectiveness of the helper character in May, 1999 with using the GEMnet's international dedicated line between Japan and US. This experiment couldn't be done without the help of Professor Clifford Nass, Eva Jemitter and many research assistants in Stanford Univeristy. And also we had an experiment to use Networked Topic-Sharing Mirror, to see how this system contributes to cross-cultural communication, and the differences of usages in different cultures. Stanford Japan Center cooperated on this experiment.  
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