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Chapter 1

Introduction to the Project

This study into the uses of video conferencing on the Apple Macintosh took place between June 1994 and January 1995 at the University of Derby and involved members of the Design Research Centre in the School of Art and Design at Derby, the University's Research Office and the Computer Services department. The goal of the study was to build an understanding of how video conferencing can be used to support day-to-day working activities particularly in a University context.

During the lifetime of the project a number of activities took place. Firstly, we constructed a video conferencing network at the University of Derby using Macintosh multimedia computers and a software package called CUSeeMe. Secondly, we conducted a survey of a group of video conferencing users with the aim of discovering how video conferencing systems such as CUSeeMe are currently being used. Thirdly, we ran a series of 'artificial' (in the laboratory) video conferencing sessions in which users were asked to use our video conferencing network to work on a number of pre-defined tasks. Next, we allowed a group of office workers to use our video conferencing network to support their work activities for a period of approximately. And finally, we analysed the performance of the CUSeeMe package whilst varying a number of its functional parameters in order to ascertain it's most efficient operating conditions. Each of these activities is fully reported in this document.

In our conclusion we discuss the lessons learnt from what we feel was an interesting and successful project. Additionally, following the official end of the project we have run a number of further activities using our CUSeeMe video conferencing network. The most elaborate of these being a long-term project which linked art students in Derby with counterparts in Holland via CUSeeMe and real-time 'chat' sessions. As is also discussed in the conclusion, it is this type of collaborative activity which appears to be particularly well suited to video conferencing even at fairly low frame rates. Finally, we introduce our future plans for video conferencing at Derby - including a 'public access' video channel for arts-related activities.

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