VTF Tool from pgc


While it is true that no special software is required to do VTF, on the other hand we at the Performing Graphics Company have found considerable advantage in using an application designed from the ground up to support VTF activity.

We call our application "VTF Tool." The unique feature of VTF Tool is that it was designed first and foremost to be a text-graphic performance instrument. That is, a visual instrument to be used in creating text graphics live as a performance. Generating meeting maps in real time is one type of such performance.

VTF Tool has these key features:

Agile: Visual Telefacilitation can not even take place unless the instrument is extremely agile. And like a musical instrument, it must be a joy to use, always enticing the performer operator to display the group's ideas. The goal is that concepts and text graphics pour forth together as if the instrument were greased      during a performance the instrument itself should actually disappear from the user's sensorium leaving her with the experience of getting her hands directly on the telegroup's ideas themselves. Because agility is so important, an agility measure has been defined called "text graphic manipulations per second," and VTF Tool displays instant and continual readout of this measure via a tg mips meter (think speedometer).

Text-Graphic: Graphics are often necessary to represent a group's ideas, so any instrument for VTF must be able to mix text and graphics together fluently. Furthermore, it has proven very useful to make no basic distinction between text and graphics      such distinctions are made, but they are secondary and shallow, not primary and deep. So we refer to the raw visual stuff being manipulated by the performer with the tool as simply "text graphics". Besides being computationally prudent (see next point), deferring the distinction between text and graphics has given VTF Tool substantial agility increases.

Computational: An instrument for Visual Telefacilitation must also possess processing power, and so VTF Tool can compute with the text graphics that the human creates on the fly. Processing power means that during the performance the human has the freedom to write&draw whatever she wants, leaving it up to the system to interpret the text graphics, in real time or after the fact, for a variety of purposes. Spatial parsing by a visual agent to assist brainstorming is one example; support for a variety of visual languages (including those which represent programs) is another. In these and similar cases the instrument's processing power compliments its manipulative agility, both by letting the user "do something" with the text graphics after they are created, and by giving depth to the display by allowing access to other text graphic images through links, evaluation of visual objects, etc. More details on text graphic computation can be found in [Lakin80] and [Lakin87].

Multiple formats: VTF Tool can write meeting maps in a variety of formats including html, PostScript, and ASCII.

Multiple hosts: VTF Tool can write meeting maps over the Internet to remote hosts, allowing a meeting map to be anywhere on the Web.

Further details about VTF Tool are inappropriate in this paper for several reasons:

1. The paper's intent is to describe the basic concepts and framework of VTF, within which VTF Tool is just one possible piece of software.

2. What the world needs is many more applications for doing VTF, so further details are avoided because we want others to build their own tool unencumbered by our prejudices and the mistakes we have made. We like to compare VTF with sports car racing. The more competition the better! We want to get people excited about this new form of "motor sport" (or "media sport" in this case)      show them what it is and why it's fun, and then define it for them in terms of a general conceptual framework, but still leave them complete freedom to design their own racing vehicle in their own way.

3. Finally, more details about any tool are inappropriate because the topic here is VTF, and in VTF the tool should be invisible!

Imagine that a tour group is on a bus that has an automatic transmission instead of a manual one. Big difference for the driver but invisible to the group. All they care about is that they end up at their destination. Likewise VTF applications should be invisible      all the group cares about is that their teleconference runs smoothly and reaches its goal in the most effective way.

© 1997, 1999 PGC