Computer-based tools for supporting the creation and use of interactive digital media have become one of the fastest growing industries. Efficient creation and effective use of digital contents often require collaboration among multiple designers with different expertise and at different locations, but none of existing digital media design software tools in the market is capable of supporting multi-user real-time collaboration over the Internet. The goal of our research is to investigate and develop innovative technologies and software tools for supporting Internet-based real-time collaborative creation and application of interactive digital media, to significantly increase the productivity and quality of digital media professionals.

Single-user-oriented digital media design tools have already had a well-established multi-billion dollars market, with millions users. Vast investment has been made by software vendors in researching, developing and producing existing single-user design tools, and by organizations or individual users in purchasing and learning these tools for solving real-world problems. For any collaborative digital media design tools to gain acceptance from the end-users, they must be able to preserve the conventional functionalities and interface features in existing single-user digital media design tools, while providing new advanced real-time collaboration support over the Internet. This requirement imposes a major constraint on our work: the collaborative technologies developed from this project must be integrated into existing single-user digital media design tools without making any change to the original tools.

This project builds on and extends the Transparent Adaptation (TA) technology from prior CoWord and CoPowerPoint projects ( We focus on researching advanced collaboration and graphics/images technologies for support multiple users to jointly design shared digital media over the Internet, and on converting a mainstream digital media design tool - Autodesk® Maya® - into a real-time collaborative digital media design tool, named CoMaya.

What is CoMaya?

CoMaya is a real-time collaborative 3D digital media design tool converted from single-user Maya®. With CoMaya, multiple designers can edit the same Autodesk® Maya® document at anytime (the same time or different times) over the Internet. Changes made to the document are immediately displayed for all users to see. As CoMaya retains the "look-and-feel" and functionalities of Maya®, Maya® users will be able to do real-time collaborative work in their familiar environment.

More details about CoMaya features can be found in:
- CoMaya Collaboration Features
- CoMaya Editing Features
- CoMaya in Action

Center Align

A screen shot of CoMaya. Two users are editing the same document at the same time using CoMaya with Autodesk® Maya®. (Click to enlarge)

What are the technologies behind CoMaya?

CoMaya is powered by GCE (Generic Collaboration Engine), which encapsulates a comprehensive collection of state-of-the-art collaborative technologies and can be used to support a wide range of advanced collaborative applications. The technology that glues GCE and Maya® together to make CoMaya is Transparent Adaptation (TA), which can be used to convert existing single-user applications into advanced collaboration tools without making any change to the source code of the original application.

The TA-based CoMaya architecture consists of three components:

1. Single-user Application (SA) provides conventional single-user Maya® functionalities and interface features but has no knowledge about multi-user collaboration.

2. Collaboration Adaptor (CA), which bridges the single-user application with the underlying GCE (see below). The CA component uses the SA API (Application Programming Interface) to augment the SA with collaboration capabilities without accessing the source code of the SA.

3. Generic Collaboration Engine (GCE), which provides application-independent collaboration capabilities in consistency maintenance, concurrency control, group awareness, interaction control, etc. The GCE component can be shared by a wide range of TA-based collaborative applications. The cornerstone of the GCE is Operational Transformation (OT)

More technological background about CoMaya can be found in:

1. Agustina, F. Liu, S. Xia, H.F. Shen, C. Sun: "CoMaya: Incorporating advanced collaboration capabilities into 3D digital media design tools", Proceedings of ACM 2008 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Nov 8-12, San Diego, CA, USA. CoMaya presentation ppt slides.

2. C. Sun, S. Xia, D. Sun, D. Chen, H.F. Shen, W. Cai: "Transparent adaptation of single-user applications for multi-user real-time collaboration," ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction,  Vol. 13, No.4, December 2006, pp.531-582. 

3. Autodesk Talk on "Transparent Adaptation of Single-user Applications for Multi-user Real-time Collaboration: Technologies and Applications" by Prof. Chengzheng Sun (20 Nov 2008, San Francisco, USA). 

4. Google Tech Talk on "Issues and Experiences in Designing Real-time Collaborative Editing System" by Prof. Chengzheng Sun (17 Nov 2008, Mountain View, USA).