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This article describes work being undertaken by the multi-partner European Union-funded project Coven (Collaborative Virtual Environments). Coven is developing collaborative virtual environment (CVE) systems and technologies to support a group of travel rehearsal applications. One of the project's major themes is the evaluation of CVE applications through extensive network trials, usability evaluations, and in-depth case-controlled experiments. This article concentrates on an experimental study where groups of three strangers meet in a CVE to carry out a simple collaborative task. The experiment was designed to investigate issues about group behavior such as the relationship between emergent leadership and computational resources, presence of being in a place, and the co-presence-the sense of togetherness-amongst the participants. This experiment and others undertaken by the project highlight a number of issues involving participant representation, interaction style, and system implementation that need to be addressed in future CVE development.
Virtual reality, collaborative virtual environments, user evaluation, small group behavior, presence

J. Tromp, M. Slater, A. Bullock, E. Frécon, A. Steed and A. Sadagic, "Small Group Behavior Experiments in the Coven Project," in IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol. 18, no. , pp. 53-63, 1998.
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