Synchronous At-A-Distance TV and VR


Often, the focus of shared experiences is on those that occur in the same place/space, at the same time (collocated). However, this work examined synchronous at-a-distance media consumption, meaning users being anywhere from in different rooms, to different continents, from two perspectives: how it can be
facilitated using existing consumer displays (through TVs combined with smartphones), and imminently
available consumer displays (through VR HMDs combined with RGBD sensing).

In a TOCHI journal paper published on this project, we discuss results from an initial evaluation of a synchronous shared at-a-distance smart TV system, CastAway. Through week-long in-home deployments with five couples, we gain formative insights into the adoption and usage of at-a-distance media consumption and how couples communicated during said consumption.

We then examined how the imminent availability and potential adoption of consumer VR HMDs could affect preferences toward how synchronous at-a-distance media consumption is conducted, in a laboratory study of 12 pairs, by enhancing media immersion and supporting embodied telepresence for communication.

Combined, these studies begin to explore a design space regarding the varying ways in which at-a-distance media consumption can be supported and experienced (through music, TV content, augmenting existing TV content for immersion, and immersive VR content), what factors might influence usage and adoption and the implications for supporting communication and telepresence during media consumption.


  • McGill, M., Williamson, J. and Brewster, S.: Examining The Role Of Smart TVs And VR HMDs In Synchronous At-A-Distance Media Consumption. In ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, ACM, 2016.  Link.