Multimedia

The term media refers to the storage, transmission, interchange, presentation,
representation and perception of different information types (data types) such
as text, graphics, voice, audio and video. The term multimedia is used to denote
the property of handling a variety of representation media in an integrated
manner. The phrase 'representation media' is used because it is believed the
most fundamental aspect of multimedia systems is the support for different
representation types. It is necessary for a multimedia system to support a
variety of representation media types. It is also important that the various
sources of media types are integrated into a single system framework. Multimedia
is more than multiple media. Multimedia adds interactivity to the combination of
text, graphics, images, audio and video. Creating your own media is more
interactive than is using existing content, and collaborating with others in the
creation of media is still more interactive. Multimedia systems use a number of
different media to communicate supplementary, additional or redundant
information. Often this may take the form of using multiple sensory channels,
but it may also take the form of different types of visual input - textual,
graphical, iconic, animation and video. Multimedia - the combination of text,
animated graphics, video, and sound--presents information in a way that is more
interesting and easier to grasp than text alone. It has been used for education
at all levels, job training, and games and by the entertainment industry. It is
becoming more readily available as the price of personal computers and their
accessories declines. Multimedia as a human-computer interface was made possible
some half-dozen years ago by the rise of affordable digital technology.

Previously, multimedia effects were produced by computer-controlled analogue
devices, like videocassette recorders, projectors, and tape recorders. Digital
technology's exponential decline in price and increase in capacity has enabled
it to overtake analogue technology. The Internet is the breeding ground for
multimedia ideas and the delivery vehicle of multimedia objects to a huge
audience. While we have treated various output media in isolation, it is clear
that interesting issues emerge as they are combined in what is termed
multimedia. In this sense, any computer application that employs a video disk,
images from a CD-ROM, uses high quality sound, or uses high quality video images
on screen may be termed a multimedia application. Such interfaces are often
aesthetically appealing and, where high capacity storage devices such as CD-ROM
are used, can provide effective interactions for the user by acting as very
large databases or storehouses of information with dense but easy-to-use
cross-referencing and indexing. Multimedia is all things to all people. The name
can convey a highly specific meaning or less then nothing, depending on your
audience. In fact, multimedia is a singular mix of disparate technologies with
overlapping application in pursuit of a market and an identity. We can describe
it as the seamless integration of data, text, images and sound within a single
digital information environment. Multimedia finds its worth in the field of
presenting information in a manner that is intuitive and more natural then
traditional means. A multimedia user interface must provide a wide variety of
easily understood and usable media control tools. In addition, information views
need to be integrated with structural views, since the viewing of information
will often alternate moving through the structure by one means or another.

Interactive Multimedia (IMM) is about empowering the user to explore new realms
by a variety of pathways. It is an umbrella term for a range of videodisc,
compact disc and computer-based systems that allow the creation, integration and
manipulation of text, graphics, still and moving video images and sound. The
computer elements of an IMM system have the capacity to: Store, manipulate
and present a range of information forms Allow various forms of
computer-based information to be accessed in linear and non-linear ways.

Provide graphics overlay and print out screen material. Enable learners to
work independently. Provide feedback to the learner Interactive multimedia
provides a powerful means of enhancing learning and information provision. There
are however some cautions which need to be heeded if the full potential of IMM
is to be realised. These can be seen listed below: Lack of world standards

Technical problems Platforms Building successful teams Developmental
costs Interactivity means that the user receives appropriate and expected
feedback in response to actions taken. It is a two-way human-machine
communication involving an end-user and a computer-based instructional system.

Users actively direct the flow and direction of the instructional or information
programmes which, in turn, exchange information with the viewers, processing
their inputs in order to generate the appropriate response within the context of
the programme. The basic elements of human interface design are now well
established. The user, not the computer should initiate all actions. The user
accesses and manipulates the various elements of the product by clicking on
buttons, icons or metaphors with a mouse or other pointing device. Interface
design should be consistent where appropriate and differentiated where needed so
the user can rely on recognition rather than recall. The user should always be
given immediate auditory or visual feedback. User activities should be broken
into small steps where tasks are complex. The interface design should be
aesthetically pleasing, appropriate to the content and suited to the learner's
culture and prior knowledge. For designers of multimedia the main design issues
are how to integrate the media and which media to use for presenting different
kinds of information. The development of metaphorical interfaces, direct
manipulation, graphical user interfaces (GUI's) and recent advances in the field
of virtual reality allow users to control the system by manipulating objects
such as icons, windows, menus and scroll bars. In well designed Interfaces,
these objects are so selected and represented that users can intuitively deduce
their meaning and their function in the system from prior 'everyday knowledge'
and experience. Hypertext is a system for presenting active text. The key
feature from the learner's point of view is that the text has many nodes and
links, which allow them to determine their own routes through the material.

Hypertext has many applications, including use as a presentation medium for
information management and browsing, providing access to information that the
public needs (such as tourism information) and for various activities.

Hypermedia combines aspects of hypertext and a variety of multimedia used in
some combination. The branching structure of  hypertext is used with multimedia
in order to produce a system in which learners can determine their own paths
through the medium. Hypertext is the process of linking concepts within text
documents through the use of 'hotwords'. A hotword is an active word within a
document that the user can click on to navigate to another part of the project
or to initiate some form of interaction. However navigation by hypertext can be
confusing, it can be easy for a user to become 'lost in hyperspace'. After a few
clicks users can be so far from the original topic that they become hopelessly
confused. Nearly all multimedia applications include text in some form. Text and
the written language remain the most common way of communicating information in
our society. The computer brings extra power to text, not only by allowing you
to manipulate its size and shape but also making it an interactive medium. The
ability to show moving images using digital video can greatly enhance IMM
projects. Just as video has a role in multimedia, sound also plays an important
part in a project. A few carefully placed sounds can greatly enhance a project,
but a continuous monologue can be highly distracting. With the text-to-speech
technology, the computer interprets text and converts it into phonetic sounds in
much the same way as a human would. Thus, the computer can read back any text
within any program with reasonable fidelity. This feature is very useful within
an IMM program because large amounts of text can be converted to audio without
large sound files. A particular use of this technology is to offer an
alternative for vision-impaired people. There are however, some disadvantages to
computer generated speech. The speech can sound robotic compared to human speech
and it lacks the variable information that can make human speakers appealing.

Unlike print or graphics, animation is a dynamic medium. We get a sense of
relative timing, position, direction and speed of action. We need no captions
because the message is conveyed by the motion and the scene. Simply put,
animation is the process of creating, usually graphically a series of frames and
then having them display rapidly to get a sense of movement. Video provides
high-speed information transfer and shows temporal relationships. Video is
produced by successive capture and storage of images as they change with time.

Two types of speech are available for use by multimedia developers: digitised
and synthesised. Digitised speech provides high quality natural speech while
synthesised speech may not sound as natural as human speech. Even with improved
techniques for generating speech, it is not incorporated into multimedia
programs as often as it could be. This may be due to a lack of understanding of
how high quality speech is produced. Multimedia interface designers have
typically used a navigation/map metaphor, a menu/hierarchy metaphor or a journal
(sequence) metaphor. An example of the first strategy is the Virtual Museum,
produced by Apple Computer. Here the user accesses the multimedia information by
navigating through the virtual museum, moving from room to room by selecting
directions of movement. Examples of the second strategy include on-line
encyclopaedias and electronic books where a table of contents is used to
organise the material. It is helpful to view multimedia applications as a
convergence of today's content and titles, such as movies and books of today's
computer application programs, such as word processors and of today's network
services. As an example a multimedia book should have the following features.

Besides text, the book has other media that the author created, including not
only text, graphics and images but also audio and video to make the book's
content clearer or more enjoyable. Programs should be built-in to help a user
navigate through the author's media. Multimedia's driving technologies, mainly
digital electronics and fiberoptic communications are making more and more
functions sufficiently economical for consumers to use. Example applications
include: Desktop Video Conferences with collaboration Multimedia

Store-and-Forward mail Consumer Edutainment, Infotainmnet, Sociotainment Digital

Libraries Video on demand Hybrid Applications IMM has many applications in
libraries. IMM can bring knowledge in its entire media formats into condensed,
accessible forms capable of being used for reference and educational
applications. On the whole, within the library sector IMM is currently regarded
with some ambivalence. Many library professionals look upon it as an interesting
technology, but one that will require significant investment and change if its
potential is to be fully realised. Possible barriers to the effective adoption
of IMM by librarians may be cited as financial constraints and a lack of
requisite resources resulting in a lack of opportunity to become familiar with
the new and emergent systems; ingrained traditional resistance to change; a
degree of uncertainty regarding the appropriateness of the technology to various
applications; an inability to grasp the significance of IMM and a lack of
experience, knowledge and skills in regard to IMM among library professionals.

Example applications include the Book House - a library system using hypertext
techniques to help users find books without the limitations of traditional
information retrieval. The user interface of the Book House is based on a
building like a real library with the user being able to enter rooms filled with
children's books, adult books etc. The system supports four basic search
strategies, using icons and pictures to enable location of the books or topic
sought. Voice response and voice recognition technologies could be used in a
library situation, this could mean that merely speaking a unique book identifier
or name could trigger the system into automatically filling in the remainder of
the bibliographic or personal details relating to that item or person.

Increasingly, multimedia systems will be developed with the aim of allowing
non-textual information to be used directly, in a demonstrational manner. Even
when text is present other media provide different additional information. Also,
when dealing with multimedia, users are naturally disposed to interact in ways
other than those developed for text. A first step to giving the user the
impression that he/she is dealing directly with non-textual material allows
database search on the basis of identifying images that best suit the user's
purposes. An initial query that turns up a large number of images can be refined
by allowing the user to point a few images out of the set that contain items of
interest. The system can then use the text descriptions attached to the chosen
images to form a new query and offer a further set of possibly more relevant
images. My conclusion is that design could benefit tremendously from open and
collaborative multimedia research - not from relatively closed multimedia
packages.