ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: September 2017

Call: Games, Values and AI Workshop

Call for Papers:

Games, Values and AI
December 15, 2017
Leverhulm Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge
Cambridge, United Kingdom
https://philevents.org/event/show/36262

Submission deadline: October 31, 2017

This workshop aims to bring together researchers from different backgrounds to explore the philosophical and social issues raised by games as inspiration, model, testbed or context for Artificial Intelligence.

BACKGROUND

Artificial intelligence research has been linked with games at least since Claude Shannon proposed chess playing as an ideal problem for AI researchers to tackle. More recently, companies pursuing machine learning and AI today often use videogames as “model organisms” or “test environment”—i.e. as platforms for testing, developing and illustrating their accomplishments.

At the same time, artificial intelligence also plays an important role within the videogame industry. Videogame developers routinely create artificial agents that human players can interact with (or compete against), they implement AI technologies within games in other ways or use it in the generation of the game itself. Furthermore, the stories that are told within videogames draw on and shape narratives about the future of AI and impacts it might have on our lives.

POSSIBLE TOPICS

We welcome contributions from any field of research that illuminates the philosophical and social dimensions of AI in relation to games. Possible topics include (but are in no way limited to): Read more on Call: Games, Values and AI Workshop…

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Advrty brings native ads to VR to minimize breaks in presence

[As with other presence-evoking technologies, advertising in VR and AR can easily cause breaks in presence; this story from Venture Beat describes how one company is working to minimize the likelihood of this frustrating and counter-productive phenomenon (the CEO uses the phrase “breaking immersion”). –Matthew]

Advrty brings native ads to virtual reality

Stephanie Chan
September 21, 2017

Advrty wants to offer a new avenue of monetization for virtual reality developers, which doesn’t involve full field-of-view pop-up ads. Instead, it’s a platform aimed toward designing and incorporating nonintrusive product placement. It’s in beta.

“Initially, think billboards, posters and product placements using images or video,” said CEO and cofounder Niklas Bakos in an email. “It could be a label on a cup. To get ad relevancy, we’ve created a patent-pending context-based system that will allow for proper targeting in a case where we wouldn’t allow a billboard creative to end up on a soda can label, or an ad for the iPhone X to [show] in a game that is all about the medieval era, for example.”

And this is the most important thing, Bakos says: not breaking immersion. The Advrty platform intends to bring users to the ads instead of the other way around. Bakos says that their technology will be able to track where users are looking and what they’re interacting with. This means that it can place ads in “high-traffic” areas in the environment. Read more on Advrty brings native ads to VR to minimize breaks in presence…

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Job: HCI Researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK

HCI Researcher – Microsoft Research

Job #: 1071338
Location: United Kingdom, Cambridge
Job families: Research
Products and technologies: (not product or technology specific)
Teams: AI & Research

For more information and to apply:
https://careers.microsoft.com/jobdetails.aspx?ss&pg=0&so&rw=1&jid=321410&jlang=en&pp=ss

Are you an exceptionally talented researcher in Human-Computer Interaction who would like to see your work deployed to millions of users worldwide? If the answer is yes, then Microsoft Research in Cambridge could be the place for you. We are looking for a researcher to contribute to ambitious, multi-disciplinary projects with an emphasis on transforming the future of work, revolutionising healthcare, and empowering people with AI. Our world class research in Human-Computer Interaction and our expertise in design ensures that our systems have human values at their centre, and that the technologies we build can be successfully deployed in real world settings. Microsoft Research in Cambridge also has a wealth of experience and expertise in computer vision, machine learning, systems, and software engineering, and has a strong track record of shipping ground-breaking technologies in Microsoft products including Office, Xbox, and HoloLens.

Applicants should hold a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction, or a related Social Science field (such as Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology or Cognitive Science). The candidate should be able to:

  • Conduct research using a wide variety of quantitative methods as well as qualitative methods, including ethnographic or field research
  • Work closely with product teams to identify research topics and design studies
  • Generate insights that fuel ideation
  • Translate research findings into practical action
  • Conduct studies to help us to evaluate concepts, designs and systems
  • Work collaboratively with many different disciplines, such as machine learning, design, and engineering
  • Confidently communicate results and describe research in compelling ways

Experience in healthcare and working in clinical environments is an added, but not necessary, advantage. Read more on Job: HCI Researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK…

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Sammi, a voice assistant with a Swedish grandmother’s personality

[Adding more personality to voice assistants could increase medium-as-social-actor presence for users. This story from Digiday, which includes a 1:20 minute video, describes an interesting example created by the B-Reel agency. The experience might be optimized if users could adjust the degree, and even type, of personality expressed. –Matthew]

This agency created a voice assistant inspired by a Swedish grandmother

September 25, 2017 by Ilyse Liffreing

Google Home, Echo and other voice-activated devices have many capabilities, but one agency believes they lack something essential for the future of voice: personality.

B-Reel designed a virtual assistant that takes on the persona of a Swedish grandmother. Named Sammi, the round, yellow and blue device hangs on a wall at the agency’s Los Angeles office, ready to dole out grandmotherly advice in her robotic Swedish accent, a homage to the agency’s Swedish roots. The robot, made from IBM Watson technology and designed to look like a grandfather clock, operates differently than voice assistants on the market today, which show snippets of personality at most in the jokes they tell.

With Google Home or Alexa, one can count on them to do what they are told, as long as they hear you correctly. With Sammi, that’s not always the case.

“She definitely expresses her mood, which can change from time to time like an actual grandmother,” said Petter Westlund, chief creative officer at B-Reel and creator of Sammi. “Sometimes she’s accommodating, and other times she’s grumpy and will do what she wants.” For instance, ask her to play Kanye West, and Sammi will either do so (after you say the “magic word”), or she might play the music she likes — Swedish folk music. Or, ask her to order a burrito, and she might order a salad instead because she thinks it’s healthier. Read more on Sammi, a voice assistant with a Swedish grandmother’s personality…

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Call: ACM SIGCHI DIS 2018 – Designing Interactive Systems conference

Call for Participation

ACM SIGCHI Designing Interactive Systems conference 2018
9-13 June, 2018
School of Design, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
http://dis2018.org

First submission deadline: 8 January, 2018

DIS 2018 invites submissions that address the following questions: Are our current models of user experience adequate in addressing diversity? What kinds of methods and processes are needed for designing for diversity? How can applications and technologies be designed to address diversity and even add to it in this era of giant global corporations? What are the ethical limits designers have to face when designing for diversity? When answering these questions, DIS seeks papers that make a contribution to knowledge in a believable manner. When submitting, you must select one or two of the following subcommittees:

  • DESIGN THEORY, METHODS, AND CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES:
    Do our design methods, processes and critical perspectives support diversity? How could they be improved and what are the limits?
    Your answer to this question can focus on methods, tools, and techniques for engaging people; researching, designing, and co-designing interactive systems; participatory design, design artifacts, research through design; documenting and reflecting on design processes, etc.
  • EXPERIENCE:
    Are our current models of user experience adequate in addressing diversity – or it is better to go universal?
    Your answer to this question may focus on places, temporality, people, communities, events, phenomena, aesthetics, user experience, usability, engagement, empowerment, wellbeing, designing things that matter, diversity, participation, materiality, making, etc.
  • APPLICATION DOMAINS:
    How to design applications that take into account diversity – or should we design universal applications?
    An answer to this question may focus on health, ICT4D, children-computer interaction, sustainability, games/entertainment computing, digital arts, etc.
  • TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION:
    When designing systems, tools, and artifacts, should we design for particular situations and communities or go global?
    When answering this question, you can look at sensors and actuators, mobile devices, multi touch and touchless interaction, social media, personal, community-based, and public displays, etc.

We welcome and encourage theoretical contributions to DIS 2018. Rather than its own subcommittee, please consider submitting theory contributions to any of the above four subcommittees.

Papers and Notes accepted for presentation at DIS 2018 are published by the ACM in the ACM Digital Library and have in the past attracted high impact, visibility and citations.

THEME: DIVERSITY AND DESIGN Read more on Call: ACM SIGCHI DIS 2018 – Designing Interactive Systems conference…

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The power of presence: Stereographs as the original virtual reality

[This story from Smithsonian Magazine is an effective reminder that VR is just the latest popular attempt to use technology to create presence experiences (example quote: “The world in a stereoscope seemed transcendent, hyper-real”). I agree with the concluding suggestion that VR will eventually become just another tool and perhaps fade from use, but I’m confident we’ll continue to be driven to develop (and popularize) technologies that are increasingly effective at evoking presence. The original story contains many more images and a link to a related book. –Matthew]

[Image: This Underwood & Underwood stereograph (c. 1901) shows a woman viewing stereographs in her home. Credit: Library of Congress]

Stereographs Were the Original Virtual Reality

The shocking power of immersing oneself in another world was all the buzz once before—about 150 years ago

By Clive Thompson
Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe
October 2017

If you walked into Charles Herzog’s classroom last spring, you’d have seen a peculiarly modern sight: middle schoolers all staring into virtual-reality gear. Their bodies, officially, were at Flood Brook School in Vermont, perched atop stools and set among a set of comfy couches, whiteboards and cubbies. But mentally, they were teleporting around the world.

The kids were viewing VR footage of refugee children who’d fled war in South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine. It was called “The Displaced,” and came courtesy of a free VR app launched by the New York Times Magazine, which you view by placing a phone in a Google Cardboard viewer. As Herzog’s students craned their necks around, they saw the swampy terrain of South Sudan and the dilapidated buildings where the Ukrainian children played. (Full disclosure: I sometimes write for the New York Times Magazine too.)

Later, when they put their headsets down, the students told Herzog they were stunned by the intensity of the experience—and how much more emotionally they intuited the brutal dislocations wrought by war. They’d read about this stuff and seen videos about it. But the VR hammered it into their souls.

“It’s really deep immersion,” Herzog told me later. “They feel like they’re in whatever world they’ve been placed into.”

VR, it seems, is finally edging into the mainstream. As head-mounted devices—such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive—have dropped below $1,000 (or as low as $5 for Google Cardboard), more people than ever are peering into this new realm. Doctors use it to show the ventricles of the heart; artists create hallucinogenic visualizations; game designers build immersive shoot-’em-ups and kookily creative tools like Tilt Brush, which lets you draw virtual sculptures in the air. Documentary filmmakers are flocking to shoot VR “experiences,” using newfangled 360-degree cameras.

The high-tech age has given birth to many addictive new media, including websites, YouTube videos and endless text chat. But proponents say VR is different. By hijacking our entire field of vision, it has more persuasive power than TV, radio or any other previous medium. VR, as the filmmaker Chris Milk proclaims, is “an empathy machine.”

Why does VR get its hooks into our psyche? What’s so intense about 3-D? That’s a question people pondered back in the mid-19th century, when they peered into an exotic new tool for summoning virtual worlds: the stereoscope. Read more on The power of presence: Stereographs as the original virtual reality…

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Call: Augmented Human 2018 – “Augmented Experience”

Call for Papers

Augmented Human 2018
“Augmented Experience”
Feb 7-9 in Seoul, Korea
http://arrc.kaist.ac.kr/AH2018/

Submission Deadline: November 1st, 2017

Human-Computer Interaction Korea and Seoul National University are hosting AH 2018, the ninth Augmented Human (AH) International Conference, Feb. 7-9, 2018. AH international conferences focus on scientific endeavors towards augmenting human capabilities through technology for increased well-being and enjoyable experiences. As in previous years, the conference proceedings will be published in the ACM Digital Library as a volume in its International Conference Proceedings Series. Previous AH conferences’ information and proceedings links are archived at http://www.augmented-human.com.

The topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Augmented and Mixed Reality
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces, Muscle Interfaces, and Implanted Interfaces
  • Bionics and Biomechanics
  • Exoskeletons and Super Human Technologies
  • Interactions between Augmented Humans and Smart Cities
  • Wearable Computing and Ubiquitous Computing
  • Augmented Fashion, Art, and Tourism
  • Smart Objects, Smart Textiles an IoT Augmenting Humans
  • Augmented Sports and Serious Games, including Augmented Winter Sports
  • Assistive Augmentation, Rehabilitative Interfaces and Games
  • Alternative or Novel Feedback Modalities
  • Interfaces, Services, and Applications for Human Enhancement
  • Augmented Healthcare, Quality of Life & Well-being
  • Human Augmentation, Sensory Substitution, and Fusion
  • Holograms, HMDs and Smart Glasses
  • Hardware and Sensors for Augmented Human Technologies
  • Safety, Ethics, Trust, Privacy and Security Aspects of Augmented Humanity
  • Human-Factor Study, Field Study and User Study of Augmented Human Technologies

Read more on Call: Augmented Human 2018 – “Augmented Experience”…

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“Fall in Love VR” creates “a sense of real intimacy”

[I’m just back from the IBC2017 Conference, where I gave a talk, got a glimpse of new technologies and had a series of valuable and enjoyable conversations about presence; great thanks to long-time presence advocate and producer of the IBC technical sessions Nick Lodge (info; video).

The story below from Fast Company describes a VR project that raises a series of intriguing questions about presence without ever using the term; if only Horton and Wohl, who originated the term parasocial interaction, could see “Fall in Love VR.” The original version of the story includes a second image and a 0:29 minute video; follow the link to the project’s website for more information and a 1:21 minute video. –Matthew]

How Virtual Reality Could Help You Fall In Love

“Fall in Love VR,” for the Oculus Rift, shows how integrating natural-language processing in virtual reality can create a sense of real intimacy.

By Daniel Terdiman
September 19, 2017

In 2015, The New York Times caused quite a stir by publishing “The 36 Questions That Lead To Love,” based on work by the psychologist Arthur Aron. The main idea was that people would have to be incredibly vulnerable to ask and answer such questions—and doing so could quickly build intimacy.

“The most interesting thing from the research,” said Kevin Cornish, the director of Fall in Love VR, “is this premise that the thing that creates human bonds is not the words we say to each other, but the act of conversation.”

In Cornish’s new virtual reality project, released today for the Oculus Rift, users confront the question of whether it’s possible to experience intimacy with an avatar by sitting across from one of five photo-realistic actors and, one by one, asking many of Aron’s questions off prompt cards. Out loud.

The speaking-out-loud bit is key, as the potential love interests, looking adorable, yet vulnerable, respond only when the specific questions are asked. Ask or say anything else and they just sit there looking expectant.

That’s because Fall in Love VR, from Tool of North America, uses natural language processing –becoming among the first to utilize the technology in an interactive VR project–to make users feel like they’re truly having an intimate conversation. Cornish said he got the idea when working on a VR film with Taylor Swift. “There was one moment where [Swift] looks into the camera,” he recalls, “and it feels like she’s looking at you and talking to you. There’s a connection that you can get in VR and not any other medium.” Read more on “Fall in Love VR” creates “a sense of real intimacy”…

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ISPR Presence News returns Thursday September 21

ISPR Presence News returns Thursday September 21

ISPR Presence News is taking a short break while I participate in IBC2017 in Amsterdam. Publication will resume on Thursday September 21. In the meantime, if you’re interested in more presence-related news and fun stuff, please join our open/public/free ISPR Presence Community Facebook group.

Read more on ISPR Presence News returns Thursday September 21…

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VR web browsing needs revolution more than evolution

[This story from Digital Trends is a realistic, and in the end hopeful, look at what it’ll take to turn browsing the web into a presence-evoking experience; the original version includes a second image and two videos. –Matthew]

VR Web Browsing Needs Revolution More Than Evolution

By Jon Martindale
September 9, 2017

Virtual reality has given us new ways to play games, and has the potential to bring us closer to loved ones around the world, but it’s yet nail down how to let us browse the internet properly. We’re still far from having a VR headset replace an entire desktop work machine, or be a better conduit to online video than your smartphone.

Books and movies from the early days of computing romanced us with the possibilities. Neuromancer, Johnny Mnemonic, and many of their techy-contemporaries imagined a future where the internet was something we moved through with physical motion and gestures. While some aspects of their predictions seem silly now, an argument could be made that they’re a better interpretation of what VR web browsing could be than the rehashed 2D internet we can view in VR today.

There are many companies looking to move us towards an overhauled VR internet future, but as it stands now, the experience is barebones and far from what it needs to be. As VR web browsing becomes more comfortable, it seems more apparent than ever that we need an entirely new way of accessing information online. Read more on VR web browsing needs revolution more than evolution…

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