An Innovative Way for Accessing, Disseminating, and Sharing Information
Tereza G. Kirner
Graduate Program in Computer Science, Methodist University of Piracicaba, Brazil -
Andréa T. Matos
Faculdade Cenecista de Brasília,Ceilândia, DF, Brazil
Plácida L. Costa
Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho, Marília, SP, Brazil
Keywords: Digital libraries, Virtual reality.
Abstract. This paper focuses on Virtual Reality (VR) as a very powerful technology that can be applied to the
libraries, aiming at contributing to the activities of accessing, disseminating, and sharing information. The
paper presents the VR concept and describes some libraries in virtual reality under utilization in different
countries. In the final considerations, it is pointed out the use of virtual reality to develop libraries as
collaborative virtual environments.
By searching through the Internet, we have found a
great amount of electronic and digital libraries;
however, we identified that a very reduced number
of these libraries available on the web are based on
virtual reality technology. Furthermore, it was
observed that the libraries based on information
technology count with very few interesting visual
characteristics, in terms of human-computer
interfaces and pedagogical appeals for educational
research. The existing characteristics are usually
limited to hypertext and image resources, many
times with an overload of multimedia presentations
that make the navigation through the application
slow. In addition, most of the libraries do not
provide an adequate interactivity level that the
virtual reality technology can offer to the fulfillment
of typical user needs.
The existing libraries available in the web could
be improved in several aspects, by the introduction
of virtual reality, as well as the three-dimensional,
walkthrough environment of a library in virtual
reality could motivate the user to the investigation
and search for information. Virtual Reality (VR)
technology can make possible the simulation of the
real world (or part of it) and the user should be able
to, through interactive activities, perform
experiments, manipulate, observe and draw
conclusions from their own simulation. Therefore,
some activities that would be almost impossible to
be accomplished daily, could be developed through
a library supported by VR.
The objective of this article consists of the
presentation of virtual reality as a very useful
resource to be applied to the libraries available in the
web, aiming at contributing to the tasks of accessing,
disseminating, and sharing information.
First, the article gives an overview of the VR in
terms of three essential characteristics, that is,
immersion, interaction, and involvement. After that,
it presents some libraries in virtual reality under
utilization in different countries. Finally, the article
gives the final considerations, pointing out the use of
virtual reality technology to develop libraries as
collaborative virtual environments.
G. Kirner T., T. Matos A. and L. Costa P. (2006).
LIBRARY IN VIRTUAL REALITY - An Innovative Way for Accessing, Disseminating, and Sharing Information.
In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - HCI, pages 127-130
DOI: 10.5220/0002440801270130
The history of libraries shows that they have always
depended on technology. Since the manuscripts for
the use of printed texts, up to the information access
through databases, the use of the CD-ROM, and the
appearance of the digital library, in the end of the
1990’s, and furthermore, to the incorporation of
telecommunication networks, the technology was
always present in libraries (Cunha, 2000).
Nowadays, according to Cunha (2000), we are
approaching a new stage of evolution toward the
Libraries in Virtual Reality (LVR), which can be
considered as part of the libraries of the future.
Virtual Reality has been applied to a wide
number of knowledge areas, as an innovative way to
effectively interact with real environments. It entails
the use of advanced technologies, including
computers and several non conventional peripherals,
to produce a simulated (i.e., virtual) environment
that users perceive as comparable to real world
objects and events. With the aid of specially
designed devices and sensors, users interact with
displayed images, moving and manipulating virtual
objects, and performing other actions in a way that
generates a feeling of actual presence in the
simulated environment. The unique features and
flexibility of VR give an extraordinary potential for
use in work-related applications. It permits users to
experience and interact with a life-like model or
environment, in safety and at convenient times,
while providing a degree of control over the
simulation that is usually not possible in the real-life
situation. The work-related applications that appear
to be most promising are those that employ virtual
reality for visualization and representation, distance
communication and education, hands-on training,
and orientation and navigation.
According to Kirner (2000) and Vince (2004),
VR allows a strong communication between users
and the computer application, concerning the aspects
of immersion, interaction, and involvement. Those
aspects can be described as following.
(a) Immersion. It is associated to the feeling of
the user to be “inside” of the virtual environment
and “deeply engaged in a virtual world as if it were
the real one” (Vince, 2004). In this context, we can
characterize the immersive and the non immersive
virtual environments. In immersive environments,
the images are shown to the user in such a way that
makes the user to believe that he/she is submerged in
this environment. This is achieved by means of
visual, 3-D modeling, sound and activation of
human senses, combined or provided by specific VR
devices (such as head-mounted displays, trackers,
glasses, etc.) and projection rooms or CAVES. In the
other hand, non immersive environments are
characterized by the use of computer monitors,
keyboard, and mouse. The degree of realism of the
scenes and the quality of information available to the
human senses is essential for the accomplishment of
interaction, in VR applications. It is directly related
to the quality of sound, image, perfection of the
objects, and response-time provided by the computer
system (Vince, 2004).
(b) Interaction. It refers to the capacity of the
computational system to detect the user's inputs, and
instantly modify the virtual world and the actions
over this world. Kirner (2001) describes the term
interaction, affirming that "[...] the interaction
process in a virtual environment, immersive or not,
is considered nowadays to be a continuous system
where each action from the user should be answered
with an action from the virtual environment system”.
The interaction modes involve the identification of
gestures, three-dimensional interfaces and multiple
users' participation. Virtual reality joined to the
distributed collaborative visualization can improve
significantly the interaction conditions among users,
accelerating the adjustment and selection of
visualizations and allowing the user's immersion in
the considered environment.
(c) Involvement. It is related to the degree of the
users' motivation to take part of certain activities.
The involvement can be passive, such as to read a
book and watch television, or active, such as to
participate in a game together with other partners.
VR is potentially useful for implementing these two
types of involvement, besides to allow a more
intuitive interaction (Vince, 2004). We can say that
the virtual reality environment needs to captivate the
user's attention in the development of a task, holding
his/her interest. Virtual reality is characterized by
the illusion of participation in a synthetic
environment allowing different types of data
analysis represented in the environment, allowing
the user to manipulate and analyze his/her own
object under study or somebody else’s, through the
collaborative participation in these environment. The
use of collaborative environments in virtual reality
systems will be included in the next section,
focusing on library environments supported by
virtual reality.
Some experiences are already indicating the
approximation of the libraries to virtual reality.
Among those available at the Internet, we choose
five representative LVR - the Médiathèque De
L´Ircam – France (2001), the VILMA Library -
Spain (Martin, 2000; Munhoz, 2000), the ULBRA
Library – Brazil (Azevedo, 2001), the Digital
Library of Theses and Dissertations - United States
(Neves, 2000; Phanauriou, 2000), and the ARLib –
Austria (ARLib, 2003 Umlauf, 2002), presented as
(a) The Médiathèque De L´Ircam. This library
applies the non immersive VR technology so that the
user can take a virtual tour in the library
(b) The VILMA Library. This “Virtual Library
with Multi-layer Architecture” is a digital library
focused on computing documents. These documents
are collected from the Internet through several
mobile agents, and once on the library environment,
they are classified and catalogued using information
retrieval techniques. After their inclusion into the
library, these documents are available for access in
several ways, such as: documents browsing, catalog
browsing, and customizing of the views to the user.
(c) The ULBRA Library. This is a prototype of
graphical consultation to an existing library, using
virtual reality. In this way, the users can access the
virtual world representing the library, walk through
its corridors and consult its works (book and
documents in general) in a virtual environment. This
virtual library allows, for instance, the user to
visualize the cover and browse through the initial
pages of a book. The shelves are identified by
subjects, as it occurs in conventional libraries.
When a book is selected, its 3-D representation
opens up, so that the user can have access to its
(d) The CAVE-ETD Library. This is an
immersive environment that was developed to
provide access to the Electronic Thesis and
Dissertation (ETD) Library, which includes the full
content of the MS and PhD thesis collection from
colleges of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute at the
University of Virginia. The users wear special
glasses to visualize and explore the library. Besides,
the interactions of the user with the virtual library
are performed with the wand, a 3-D pointing device,
which makes possible the free navigation around the
different rooms and the browsing of the collection.
(e) The ARLib Library. ARLib Library is an
immersive environment, representing the Institute
for Computer Graphics Library at the Technical
University of Vienna, which was developed using
Augmented Reality (AR) technology. AR can be
considered a special type of virtual reality, that
makes possible the user to see the actual world
around him and, in addition, to see some computer-
generated markers or inscriptions included in the
actual world. These markers or inscriptions enable
the link to a search engine and a database containing
all the information related to the object under
consideration. The ARLib application aims to aid
the user in typical tasks that are done in a library,
such as searching for a book and returning a book.
To search for a book, the user utilizes the book
search engine to find the publication he intends to
find on the shelves. This is performed by entering
one or more search criteria using the text input
widgets and then selecting an item of the resulting
set. The publications can be accessed through their
title, author, keywords, year, etc. User input in
general is performed by means of a wrist-worn
augmented tracked touch-pad. To return a book, the
ARLib attempts to detect markers that are attached
to books. If a marked book is spotted, all available
information about the publication is presented on the
wrist panel, and the book’s designated position on
the shelf is highlighted to aid the user in returning
the book to its correct position.
Figure 1 shows a user in the ARLib.
Figure 1: Using the ARLib (ARLib, 2001).
LIBRARY IN VIRTUAL REALITY - An Innovative Way for Accessing, Disseminating, and Sharing Information
For the development of those library environments
in VR, there are several computing resources that are
already used nowadays by the Computer Science
professionals. First of all, it is necessary to plan,
implement, maintain and evaluate the developed
software according to criteria elaborated by the area
of software engineering (Kirner, 2000). Besides, the
resource of collaborative environment that the VR
technology can enable is related to the concepts and
applications of the areas of distributed systems and
database. Those two areas, although they are not
focused by our present work, are necessary for the
creation of a CVE (Collaborative Virtual
The development of VR applications, such as the
LVR, requires the use of modeling software tools
and languages, which can be freeware, such as
VRML, or commercialized, like 3D Studio, Poser,
and World-UP, among others. There is a vast
amount of software for modeling of scenarios and
objects, with characteristics referring to the
treatment of actions, animations, effects, simulation
and manipulation of objects. For the development of
a LVR, it is necessary to use the appropriate
programming language, as, for instance, JAVA,
which can be useful in the creation of structures that
implement the interface between the VRML and the
resources of the environment, as chat, or even in the
development of those resources.
Besides using the VR technology, there are other
aspects of great importance that characterize a LVR,
as, for instance, the user's interactivity with the
environment and with the users amongst themselves
through the communication nets. In order to assure
such interaction, it is important to exist the
possibility of collaboration, since a collaborative
environment can be a fundamental piece of a LVR.
We believe that libraries based on the use of
technology have specific functions for certain
groups of users. As well as a virtual library has a
non physical structure, a LVR should provide a
virtual space for the exchange and spread of
information. The VR technology possesses many
possibilities for the creation of a virtual
environment, which can work as a point of virtual
meeting for the exchange of information. While in
the virtual libraries a space does not exist, in the
LVR the space is represented by the virtual world,
and the participants should be present in a
collaborative environment, where they can be
represented by avatars. The exchange of information
depends on the virtual presence of the users of
information inside of the environment, since the
exchanges are activated by their participation and
interaction. In the virtual libraries there is no specific
place for the collaboration in real-time among their
users, while in a LVR the space is appropriate and
necessary for the participants to interact amongst
themselves and with the objects of the scenery,
simulations, and other contents that a LVR can
contain (Matos, 2003).
Therefore, we can conclude that such library type
goes beyond employing the virtual reality
technology. The resources offered by this
technology can be explored integrally, because it
allows the immersion, enabling more specific studies
on new ways for assessing, disseminating, and
sharing information.
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