ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: February 2017

Job: Research Associate position in Multisensory Interaction and Education at Bristol University

Research Associate/Senior Research Associate position in Multisensory Interaction and Education at Bristol University

Applications are invited for a three-year Research Associate/Senior Research Associate position in the Bristol Interaction Group (BIG Lab) within the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bristol.

The role is part of the EPSRC project “Crossmodal Interactive Tools for Inclusive Learning“, which aims at investigating novel multisensory learning and teaching technologies that supports inclusive interaction between visually-impaired and sighted children in mainstream schools.

We are using an iterative user-centred approach combining participatory design activities with empirical research into multimodal and crossmodal interaction to find out how different senses can be effectively integrated with visual capabilities to support group work. We are engaged with local schools to design and research multisensory tools for teaching and learning purposes, focusing on accommodating curriculum requirements and social processes surrounding collaborative learning.

We are looking for a candidate with solid skills in software and hardware development, expertise in HCI, and an interest in multisensory interaction and accessibility. They will work with partner schools to conduct research that ranges from accessible participatory design to software and hardware development, and experimental user studies and evaluation. There will be freedom and flexibility in shaping the research project within its broader objectives. Read more on Job: Research Associate position in Multisensory Interaction and Education at Bristol University…

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Virtual reality weather add-ons let you feel the sun and wind

[Here’s a short story about a new effort to add senses to presence experiences; it’s from New Scientist, where it includes a 0:41 second video; another video (“[CHI 2017] Ambiotherm: Enhancing Presence in VR by Simulating Real-World Environmental Conditions”) is available on YouTube. –Matthew]

Virtual reality weather add-ons let you feel the sun and wind

13 February 2017
By Timothy Revell

Virtual reality devices can already fool your eyes and ears. Soon your other senses will be fooled too, with the creation of a device that can bring the weather in your virtual world to life.

Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore is working towards the ultimate VR experience. Last year, his team showed how electrodes can be used to add sweet tastes into virtual reality. His new accessory, called Ambiotherm, adds atmosphere into the mix as well.

Ambiotherm has two components that combine with a normal VR headset. The first is a wind module that contains two fans that clip on to the bottom of a headset.

“This means that we can simulate the wind blowing in your face, for example, as you ski down a mountain,” says Ranasinghe.

The second is a temperature module that attaches to the back of the neck. “So when walking through a virtual desert, we can simulate the harsh sun beating down on you,” he says. Read more on Virtual reality weather add-ons let you feel the sun and wind…

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Call: 17th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA 2017)

Call for Papers

17th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA 2017)
August 27-30
Stockholm, Sweden


Paper, Poster and Demo Submissions:

Submissions Deadline: 14 April 2017
Author Notification: 5 June 2017
Camera Ready Version: 10 July 2017


IVAs are interactive digital characters that exhibit human-like qualities and can communicate with humans and each other using natural human modalities like facial expressions, speech and gesture. They are capable of real-time perception, cognition, emotion and action that allow them to participate in dynamic social environments.

The International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA) is an interdisciplinary annual conference and the main leading scientific forum for presenting research on modeling, developing and evaluating intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) with a focus on communicative abilities and social behavior.


IVA 2017’s special topic is ‘Situated Intelligent Agents’, that is, agents that have awareness of and/or make use of their environment (physical or virtual). The theme will address the synergies between agents with different embodiments, from embodied virtual characters to social robots. Advances in both domains require the development of computational capabilities that allow robots and virtual characters to engage in those direct, unstructured and dynamically evolving social interactions that characterise humans.

We will particularly welcome contributions that address the cross-fertilization of state-of-the-art insights and methods from the domains of embodied virtual characters, computer games, social robotics, and social sciences in order to support the development of skills necessary to enable the vision of designing better machines capable of achieving better action, better awareness and better interaction to engage in intuitive, lifelike, sustained encounters with individuals and groups.


Bilge Mutlu, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA

GENERAL TOPICS OF INTEREST Read more on Call: 17th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA 2017)…

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IMAX opens first VR Experience Center to ‘jump start’ consumer VR

[IMAX has begun to implement its plans to speed the mainstreaming of VR; the two articles below detail the company’s plans and report on the new IMAX VR Experience Center in Los Angeles. –Matthew]

[From the Los Angeles Times]

[Image: A guest plays a virtual reality game based on Lionsgate’s “John Wick” at the Imax VR Experience Centre in Los Angeles (Imax Corp.)]

Virtual reality industry ‘in need of a jump-start,’ Imax CEO says at new VR center

Ryan Faughnder
February 15, 2017

Richard Gelfond, chief executive of big-screen company Imax Corp., unveiled his new virtual reality center Tuesday with a bullish plan to turn the nascent VR industry into a mainstream art form just like movies and video games.

It won’t be easy. The VR business, Gelfond said, remains stuck in its early stages for now and badly needs a “jump-start.”

Though Hollywood and Silicon Valley have been touting virtual reality as the next big thing for several years, there are huge hurdles to its adoption in the entertainment industry. A major one is that the headsets and computing equipment the games require can cost thousands of dollars. Another problem: There aren’t enough compelling games to make VR worth the price.

“Whether it’s the lack of content or consumer access to headsets, the industry has been in a holding pattern, slow to go mainstream,” Gelfond told reporters at Imax’s VR Experience Centre in Los Angeles. “It’s a complex ecosystem that’s in need of a jump-start, and we’re here to start to provide the spark.”

Gelfond and Imax are hoping to help fix those problems by making big bets on VR. The company plans to open six pilot centers this year, including the Los Angeles location, which opened to the public last month. Read more on IMAX opens first VR Experience Center to ‘jump start’ consumer VR…

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Call: Robot Appearance and Behavior Design Online Survey

Call For Participants – Robot Appearance and Behavior Design Online Survey

In the future, service robots will become more and more common in our daily lives and will interact directly with humans. They must create a comfortable experience for their users and gain their acceptance. To this end, we are studying the design of robot appearance and behavior. In this survey, we invite you to watch short video clips of robots and answer some questions.

Read more on Call: Robot Appearance and Behavior Design Online Survey…

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Telepresence robots for chronically ill school children: Benefits and barriers

[The use of telepresence robots in businesses may have the potential to affect more people, but nobody is likely to benefit from their use more than the group discussed in this story from The Conversation (where it includes another image and a 9:35 minute video). The last two sections are particularly interesting and important – we need to help change the policies and perceptions that prevent school districts from more widely adapting telepresence robots, and as scholars provide objective evaluations of their impacts. –Matthew]

[Image: Too sick to attend school in person, but perfectly able to participate with a robot’s help. AP Photo/David Duprey]

How robots could help chronically ill kids attend school

February 15, 2017
Veronica Newhart, Ph.D. Candidate in Education, University of California, Irvine
Mark Warschauer, Professor of Education and Informatics, University of California, Irvine

Over the past century, American schools have integrated an ever-more-diverse group of students. Racial integration is most prominent, but it’s not just Native Americans, blacks and Latinos who have been brought into public education. Schools today serve children with conditions on the autism spectrum, Down syndrome and many other medical issues. But there is one group of children who still cannot attend school: those with serious chronic illnesses.

These homebound students, who may have cancer, heart disease, immune system disorders or other illnesses, appear to be the last excluded population in the U.S. education system. Until recently, there has not been a way to include them in school without great risk to their health. Technology has given us a new, powerful option to finally include these students – the telepresence robot.

Telepresence robots allow their users to see, hear, move around and interact in real time with people in faraway places. They offer a way to finally include chronically ill children in traditional school learning environments. The homebound child operates the robot from home, setting a rolling camera-speaker-screen in motion to engage in small group discussions, travel from classroom to classroom, join friends at recess or lunch break and even attend after-school and extracurricular activities, such as choir or Boy Scouts.

Our initial research shows that the robots help students overcome isolation and are accepted by most classmates. And crucially, they help students keep up with their peers in schoolwork. One teacher in our study said the robot helps a remote student academically because “he needs to know his fractions [for] when he comes back to school.” Read more on Telepresence robots for chronically ill school children: Benefits and barriers…

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Call: 3rd International Workshop on Virtual Social Interaction (VSI 2017)

Call for Submissions and Participation:

3rd Int. Workshop on Virtual Social Interaction (VSI 2017)
Date: July 6-7, 2017, CITEC, University of Bielefeld, Germany

Submission deadline: April 20, 2017

Social interaction is at the core of being human, but the scientific study of social interaction is challenging. We have only a limited understanding of the behavioral patterns and the brain and cognitive mechanisms which allow interactions. New technologies like Virtual Reality, motion tracking, virtual humans and 3D avatars, can help us probe and measure human social behaviour without sacrificing the validity of the interaction. The data we gain allows us to develop and test new theories and models of the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying human sociality.

This interdisciplinary workshop will highlight new methods and new theories in the domain of social interaction, with a focus on the potential of VR and AI technology, and work towards a scientific understanding of how people interact. It aims to bring together researchers from Psychology, Cognitive Science, Computer Science (VR, AI, HCI), Neuroscience, clinical fields and other related areas. It is the third after two successful preceding events held at UCL (London, 2014) and at the University of Salford (Manchester, 2016).

The workshop program will feature invited keynotes by outstanding researchers, as well as presentations of submitted and refereed research work by the participants. It is in particular meant to provide an opportunity to discuss exciting current and ongoing work.

Confirmed keynotes:

  • Gerard Pons-Moll (MPI Intelligent Systems): Real virtual humans
  • Andreas Mühlberger (U. Regensburg): VR in clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
  • Catherine Pelachaud (CNRS, UPMC Paris): Socio-emotional conversational agents
  • Jari Hietanen (U. Tampere): Cognitive and neural mechanisms of social information processing

Read more on Call: 3rd International Workshop on Virtual Social Interaction (VSI 2017)…

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How to get married in virtual reality

[As this story from Ozy notes, weddings in virtual reality aren’t new but they’re getting easier and more affordable; for more information, including a 0:51 minute video of Martin and Elisa using their robot avatars and exploring wedding settings in VR, see coverage in Wales Online. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: Wales Online]

How to Get Married In Virtual Reality

By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
February 14, 2017

Martin Shervington and his fiancée, Elisa Evans, are one of those couples that make you want to gag. The kind that finish each other’s sentences, that secrete adorable when they hold hands, that decide between a beachside or a cliff-top setting for their gorgeous wedding in May. And as Shervington and Evans recite their perfect marriage vows, whether by a pebbled shore or atop a grassy bluff, their pink and blue avatars probably will gaze lovingly at each other with oversized robot eyes. Bow chicka wow wow.

You’ve likely heard of skydiving weddings, underwater weddings and themed weddings, but here’s one ceremony that’s completely out of this realm — virtual-reality weddings. Picture something out of Star Trek: holodecks in place of altars and clunky Oculus Rift headsets instead of dainty veils. That’s the context for Shervington and Evans’ unorthodox plans to tie the knot on a virtual-reality social network called AltspaceVR. And while other couples have been hitched with the help of futuristic technology — live streams and postscript 360-degree films that allow friends and family to attend remotely — Shervington and Evans plan to join a tiny but growing group of duos who are choosing to utter “I do” in sci-fi-like virtual-reality venues. “It will change people’s view of what’s possible,” says Shervington, as he snuggles next to his future wife in wintry Cardiff, Wales. He’s winnowed down the guest list to 150 attendees in the virtual-reality venue and 30 people in the real world who will don headsets with him and his wife-to-be.

It may not be long before Vegas starts offering all-inclusive virtual-reality elopement packages in the Amazon rainforest or atop the Swiss Alps. Much better than those dodgy chapels with gaudy Han and Leia costumes. The awesome power of virtual reality is poised to shake up the intimate spaces of dating, romance and sex, says Julie Spira, a cyber-dating expert in Los Angeles. According to “The Future of Dating,” a 2015 report from eHarmony and the Imperial College Business School in London, dating via “full-sensory” virtual reality is expected to become the norm by as early as 2040. With digital simulations that incorporate all five human senses, the dating pool will become global. Already, people have “wed” in online communities like Second Life and even “married” a video game character. But virtual reality, Spira says, “is the next outpost for the industry.” Read more on How to get married in virtual reality…

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Call: No Way Out: Theatre as a Mediatised Practice (TaPRA Interim Event)

Call for Papers / Presentations

No Way Out: Theatre as a Mediatised Practice
TaPRA Performance & New Technologies Working Group Interim Event
20th April, Birkbeck College, University of London
21st April, London South Bank University (LSBU)

Call deadline: 24 February


Prof. Matthew Causey (Trinity College) (20th April @ Birkbeck College) & Prof. Andy Lavender (Surrey) (21st April @ LSBU)


Launch of Intermediality and Spectatorship in the Theatre Work of Robert Lepage: The Solo Shows (Aristita I. Albacan, 2016). Wine reception and conversation with Professor Christopher Balme (Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich) (21st April, LSBU)

Mediatisation – the increasingly pervasive influence of new media technologies in the form of social institutions and ideological apparatuses on society, culture and consciousness since the late twentieth century – has radically shaped our everyday lives and relationships. Mediatisation as a social and cognitive phenomenon has changed the way theatre and performance are produced, shaped, performed and perceived. This shift has led to a state where there is nothing left outside of mediatisation. Hence, we argue, all contemporary theatre and performance today is mediatised.

The mediatised theatre and performance of the 21st century propose a practice, and offer ground for the development of a scholarship, in which ontological boundaries between media and performance, live and mediatised, analogue and digital, are no longer useful or even possible to consider. Mediatisation lies within the aesthetic and political [un]consciousness of the works, whichever form or manifestation those choose to take. It is, directly or implicitly, embedded within their architectures, dynamics, and processes; we might even argue that, in some ways, mediatisation is the works.

This two-day event seeks to investigate the processes and practices of mediatised theatre and performance in the 21st century with a particular interest in such questions as: How does the mediatised theatre and performance of the 21st century engage with digital culture and labour as, partly, products of capitalist ideology and economy? Is there potential for resistance (in the wider understanding of the term) within theatre as a mediatised practice? Or, to use Stiegler’s analogy, can theatre and performance approach the digital as a pharmakon in order to engender social ‘remedy’, opening up critical spaces for resistance and dissensus in contemporary neoliberal culture?

We invite submissions for research papers and presentations that explore theatre/performance as a mediatised practice. Submission can respond -but are not limited to – to the following areas of investigation:

  • Aesthetics and politics of mediatisation in contemporary performance
  • Forms and practices of resistance in contemporary performance
  • Postdigital performance
  • Alternative modes of writing for mediatised theatre
  • Text and immateriality in mediatised theatre and performance
  • Emerging critical mediaturgies
  • New methodological approaches, and practice-as-research methodologies
  • Mediatised performance as a response to ‘postpolitical’ times
  • Spectatorship and structures of power in mediatised performance
  • Digital (cheap) labour and performance
  • Embodiment and materiality in mediatised performance

Submissions can include papers, practice-as-research presentations and/or demonstrations, sharing of work in progress, provocations and other scholarly interventions. Read more on Call: No Way Out: Theatre as a Mediatised Practice (TaPRA Interim Event)…

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Telepresence projects at Simon Fraser University include adding ‘touch’ to long-distance relationships

[This story from Simon Fraser University News highlights several interesting telepresence projects; the original story includes a 1:23 minute video. –Matthew]

[Image: SIAT graduate student Azadeh Foirghani demonstrates the Flex N Feel glove. Credit: Simon Fraser University via]

SFU technology puts ‘touch’ into long-distance relationships

February 10, 2017
By Marianne Meadahl

Long-distance couples can share a walk, watch movies together, and even give each other a massage, using new technologies being developed in Carman Neustaedter’s Simon Fraser University lab.

It’s all about feeling connected, says Neustaedter, an associate professor in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT). Student researchers in his Surrey campus-based Connections Lab are working on myriad solutions.

Among them, researchers have designed a pair of interconnected gloves called Flex-N-Feel. When fingers ‘flex’ in one glove, the actions are transmitted to a remote partner wearing the other. The glove’s tactile sensors allow the wearer to ‘feel’ the movements. Read more on Telepresence projects at Simon Fraser University include adding ‘touch’ to long-distance relationships…

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