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Author Archives: Matthew Lombard

Call: Fringe 30 at Australasian Simulation Congress (ASC 2016)

Call for Presentations

Fringe 30 at Australasian Simulation Congress (ASC 2016)
Monday 26 September – Thursday 29 September 2016
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Victoria, Australia
http://www.simulationcongress.com/

Expressions of interest due by Wednesday 20 July 2016

Simulation Australasia, the national body for those working in simulation in Australasia, will once again bring together the SimHealth and SimTecT conferences under the name of the Australasian Simulation Congress (ASC) with opportunities for a number of joint sessions of mutual interest.

In 2016, it will also incorporate the International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA).

WHAT IS FRINGE 30?

Leading for the future with creative, experimental, edgy and unusual ideas in simulation.

We don’t deny the importance of scientific measure and rigor in modelling and simulation; it’s just that sometimes you need to push the boundaries in order to meet the needs of your audience. The ASC Fringe 30 is an opportunity to share your ideas and developments to a wide audience without the usual academic constraints of presenting it in a set methods-results format.

In the Fringe 30 sessions you will hear about new and creative ideas in modelling and simulation that are ‘outside the box’ – using creative, experimental and edgy concepts to deliver simulation that meets the needs of any audience.

EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST FOR FRINGE 30

The ASC organising committee is looking for ideas in simulation delivery, technology and/or education that may not fit into the usual ‘scientific categories’ of simulation education and technologies – but have been developed to meet the needs of users and beneficiaries.

Presentations might include (but are not limited to): Read more on Call: Fringe 30 at Australasian Simulation Congress (ASC 2016)…

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The struggle to adapt storytelling for virtual reality

[For VR and the presence experiences it creates to evolve, we need to figure out how to tell compelling stories in the new medium; production designer and founder of Virtual Reality Company Robert Stromberg provides insights about where we are and where we need to go in this story from Engadget (where it includes more images). –Matthew]

The Martian VR (screenshot)

[Image: A still from “The Martian VR Experience” (Image credit: Virtual Reality Company)]

The struggle to adapt storytelling for virtual reality

“We’re ready to tell stories but how do you do that in VR?” asks Oscar-winning art director Robert Stromberg.

Mona Lalwani
June 23, 2016

Storytelling in virtual reality has yet to take shape. While the simulated world of gaming has proved the visual capabilities of the medium, few have taken a crack at the art of building a compelling narrative.

But now that the battle of the VR headsets is fully under way, a shift is evident. Content studios seem to be getting ready for the next wave of virtual reality. Over the past week alone, major VR studios have announced investments from Hollywood studios that seem indicative of the cinematic experiences to come. Within, formerly known as VRSE, has raised $12.56 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox, Felix & Paul Studios has seen $6.8 million in a round led by Comcast, and Virtual Reality Company (VRC) got $23 million from Beijing’s Hengxin Mobile Business in exchange for exclusive distribution rights in China.

There’s been a lot of hype and cash flow around VR in the past couple of years. But there’s little insight into what it takes to build a great experience outside gaming. Can filmmakers turn into VR makers? Will they infuse this immersive format with dramatic storytelling? Or will it remain a simulated world that’s best suited for interactive gaming?

The experience that came closest to immersive cinema was VRC’s The Martian VR Experience at the beginning of the year. It followed director Ridley Scott’s visual cues, but unlike other Hollywood companion pieces that came before, this one took on a life of its own. It gave VR headset wearers the ability to inhabit the film as Mark Watney (the abandoned astronaut played by Matt Damon). The isolation of being stranded and the triumph of being rescued in space made for a powerful experience.

The Martian VR epitomized the dramatic capabilities of the visual medium. Oscar-winning production designer and VRC founder Robert Stromberg infused the experience with a narrative and emotions in a way that hadn’t been successful before. His ability to build the cinematic experience stemmed from his award-winning career in Hollywood.

For well over a decade, Stromberg has been a VFX specialist who has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. His list of accolades for production design and visual effects includes five Emmys (including Star Trek: The Next Generation and Boardwalk Empire) and two Academy Awards (for James Cameron’s Avatar and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland). Last year he also won three Cannes Lions for What Lives Inside, an Intel- and Dell- sponsored series that premiered on Hulu.

In light of the new funding for VRC and the buzz around Steven Spielberg’s VR debut with the company that he backs as an adviser, I spoke with Stromberg about what it takes to build compelling narratives in an immersive format. Read more on The struggle to adapt storytelling for virtual reality…

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Call: IEEE ISMAR 2016 Workshop on Collaboration in Mixed Reality Environments (CoMiRe)

Call for Papers

IEEE ISMAR 2016 Workshop on Collaboration in Mixed Reality Environments (CoMiRe)
September 22, 2016
Merida, Mexico
https://comire16.wordpress.com

Submission deadline: July 1, 2016

As the world becomes more complex, problem solving increasingly requires teams of experts to work together at the same location or at different ones. To support this, we need collaborative tools, and a variety of teleconferencing and telepresence technologies have been developed to address this need. However, most of them involve some variation of traditional video conferencing, which has limitations, such as not being able to effectively convey spatial cues or share the user’s task space. This workshop will focus on how these limitations can be overcome by using Mixed Reality (MR) technology, leading to the development of radically new types of collaborative experiences.

TOPICS OF INTEREST

The workshop will address open research issues, including, but not limited to:

  • Case studies using MR for collaboration
  • Concepts and interaction models for MR collaboration
  • Presence, awareness, and coordination in collaborative MR systems
  • Methods for evaluating collaborative MR systems
  • Effective user interfaces for mixed groups with multiple co-located and remote collaborators
  • Robust collaborative MR user interfaces that can address connectivity problems
  • Measures of engagement, embodiment, flow & spatial awareness

Read more on Call: IEEE ISMAR 2016 Workshop on Collaboration in Mixed Reality Environments (CoMiRe)…

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VR training turns Olympic triathlon course into motor memory

[This story from Popular Science describes another way presence is being used to prepare athletes for competition, in this case for the triathlon at the Rio 2016 Olympics. –Matthew]

Olympic cyclist with VR

[Image: Gwen Jorgesen, World Triathlon Series Champion. Original Photo by Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images, Illustration by Graham Murdoch]

Virtual Reality Training Turns Olympic Triathlon Course Into Motor Memory

It helps to know the road before you go

By Will Cockrell
Posted June 21, 2016

Gwen Jorgensen’s secret training tool isn’t her $10,000 road bike—it’s her mind. As in when she kicks back and closes her eyes. “I use mental visualization to prepare for races,” says Jorgensen, who at 30 is a two-time world-champion triathlete. The trend in visualization training has taken hold in the top ranks of elite athletes. So Jorgensen spent this summer concentrating, via virtual reality, on the rutty streets of Rio’s Copacabana neighborhood. “Rio is a very tough bike course,” she says. “There are big hills, and there’s a technical descent that will be a major factor.”

Jorgensen’s sport is among the most grueling on the planet, covering swimming (.93 miles), running (6.2 miles), and cycling (24.9 miles). To perfect her form, her trainers brought in virtual-reality pioneer Joe Chen. He is a former product lead at Oculus, and now at Vrse.works, the production house that makes VR movies and VR content for big media companies. Chen flew to Brazil and attached a bunch of GoPros to the hood of a car, matching it to the eye height of a cyclist. “Then we just drove the course,” capturing it in 360 degrees, he says. He then converted the entire thing to an MPEG viewable on a Samsung Gear VR headset. Jorgensen now uses it to follow the entire bike route, or to play short clips of isolated sections that she can study in detail. In other words, Rio came to her. Read more on VR training turns Olympic triathlon course into motor memory…

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Call: IVA Workshop: Graphical and Robotic Embodied Agents for Therapeutic Systems (GREATS16)

Call for Papers

Workshop: Graphical and Robotic Embodied Agents for Therapeutic Systems – GREATS16
Workshop at IVA 2016, 20th September 2016, Institute for Creative Technologies, USC, Los Angeles
http://iva2016.ict.usc.edu

Submission deadline: 7th July 2016

OVERVIEW

Social robots and intelligent graphical agents have both been applied to a growing number of health applications. While looking at health applications in general, this workshop seeks to focus on those aimed at diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions, i.e therapeutic applications, and training for doctors in these fields. Topics include the application of specific psychotherapies, work on treating disorders such as autism or ADHD, and support for people with depression, dementia and other long-term conditions.

This workshop will consider both the range of applications, and specific issues and questions arising from them, for example:

  • What features and processes make a therapeutic application successful?
  • What specific issues relate to diagnosis, and what to treatment?
  • Can embodied agents help with doctor training in these fields?
  • How do we measure success?
  • How do we deal with the ethical issues in this domain? Should we be doing this at all?
  • Does embodiment and/or its specific form (robotic, graphical, features) impact success?
  • How do we assess the state of the human participant?
  • Do specific input modalities or multiple modalities help?
  • Definitions of human-ness and AI artefacts
  • What are the issues of privacy and security and how to we deal with them?
  • Can therapeutic agents deal with long-term interaction? How?
  • Can therapeutic agents help to empower their clients?

Read more on Call: IVA Workshop: Graphical and Robotic Embodied Agents for Therapeutic Systems (GREATS16)…

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Experiencing Earth from space: Group to recreate the Overview Effect with VR

[Could a mediated experience of our planet from space provide the same neurological and psychological effects as ‘being there’? This story from Wired suggests an interesting series of studies about presence, perception and human nature. For more on the Overview Effect, see the Overview Institute’s website. –Matthew]

Earth from space

[Image: Getty Images]

So You Think You Love Earth? Wait Until You See It in VR

Sarah Scoles
06.21.16

In an ideal future, trips beyond the atmosphere are easy(ish) and cheap(ish). Humans will regularly slip the surly bonds of Earth, rocket up to inflatable space hotels, and stare out at space, up at the Moon, and down at Earth.

And that view—of planet Earth set in a vast, merciless void—will change humanity’s view of itself. If humans can see themselves not as beings with day jobs on an Earth full of national borders, but as comrades together alone in space, they will clean up their act and think bigger-picture and longer-term. Or at least that’s the hope of the Overview Institute, an organization that wants to both understand that existential shift—called the overview effect—and make it happen for more people. The hope: That the overview effect will change the world.

This may sound like a nutty idea. But astronaut after astronaut has spoken about how going to space did have that psychological impact, first chronicled in author Frank White’s book, The Overview Effect. And even for those left on Earth, seeing the iconic Earthrise image—a shot of our planet viewed from Apollo 8’s orbit around the Moon—changed things. Many credit that image with starting the environmental movement, because Earth looked so fragile and blue and in need of care and protection.

The Overview Institute wants people to get that feeling again. Its co-founder David Beaver has described plans to scan the brains of space tourists, to try to map what happens when they emotionally encounter Earth-as-orb. And then they’ll try to replicate the neuro-experience with virtual reality. Read more on Experiencing Earth from space: Group to recreate the Overview Effect with VR…

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Call: Experimental AI in Games Workshop (EXAG 2016) at AIIDE 2016

CALL FOR PAPERS

The 3rd Experimental AI in Games Workshop
October 8-9, 2016
Located at AIIDE 2016 in San Francisco, California
http://www.exag.org

DEADLINES

Paper Submission deadline: EXTENDED TO JULY 8!
Acceptance notification: July 20
Camera-ready deadline: July 29
Demos and Tutorials Submission Deadline: September 1
Demos and Tutorials Notification: September 14
EXAG 2016: October 8-9

ABOUT THE WORKSHOP

The Experimental AI in Games (EXAG) workshop aims to foster experimentation at the interface of AI (broadly construed) and all aspects of games and game development. EXAG solicits submissions in three tracks:

  • Papers arguing for new roles of AI in games and game development or presenting prototypes of experimental applications of AI in games and game creation
  • Tutorials – short talks that introduce new ideas, teach people to use new tools or libraries, or describe useful resources
  • Demonstrations of innovative tools, games, art or other creations in and around experimental AI and games

We have much more planned for EXAG besides talks, including our traditional games night, a show and tell demo session, a revamped game jam, and possibly some special game events!

EXAG will be held on October 8-9, 2016 and be co-located with the Artificial Intelligence in Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE) 2016 conference located in San Francisco, CA, USA.

To support experimentation, EXAG will include a number of socializing, demonstration, and (optional) coding/hackathon events. DAGGER is an evening event where local game developers and AIIDE attendees meet up to play and share their games and demos with each other, eat some food, and get to know each other. EXAG is running a demonstration track alongside its main track for games or tools which may be of interest to EXAG attendees. Demonstration submissions will be considered for inclusion in both DAGGER and the main event itself, schedule permitting. If you are submitting a paper to the main track which includes or refers to a game or tool that you wish to demonstrate, you should still submit a separate demonstration abstract of roughly 500 words, at least 1 image of the system, and a link to the game/system.

WORKSHOP TOPICS

EXAG 3 will touch on a variety of experimental topics. Workshop topics include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Full or prototype games demonstrating novel or experimental applications of AI
  • Procedural content generation in game development or as a game mechanic
  • New applications of AI to game design problems or game mechanics
  • Automated game generation
  • Computational Creativity in Games
  • Formal and computational models of game design and aesthetics
  • AI-powered tools for expert and novice game design
  • New approaches to traditional game AI problems, e.g. agents, planning, narrative
  • Fringes and beyond – showing us new ideas in and around gaming that might influence or improve our research
  • Oops! Research (games, experiments, theories) that didn’t quite work and an explanation about the failure and lessons learned

We welcome submissions that push our understanding how AI can be applied to or influence game design. The above topics are suggestive only! Read more on Call: Experimental AI in Games Workshop (EXAG 2016) at AIIDE 2016…

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Man seeking robot: One inventor’s quest to cure loneliness

[The creator of the robot Pepper (which some of us encountered during our ISPR-ICA conference trip in a Softbank store in Kyoto) is working on a new robot designed specifically to combat human loneliness; the story is from CNET, where it includes more images. A related story from The Wall Street Journal, “Too Cute for Their Own Good, Robots Get Self-Defense Instincts,” considers ways designers have to consider how people respond to robots in different contexts. –Matthew]

Girl hugs Pepper

[Image: Kaname Hayashi has observed that people tend to respond to Pepper by showing the robot physical affection. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images]

Man seeking robot: One inventor’s quest to cure loneliness

The creator of Japan’s most popular and personable robot, Pepper, is working on a new version that will cheer us up and disarm us with mega cuteness.

by Katie Collins
June 17, 2016

Kaname Hayashi has found a new obsession.

Hayashi is the “father of Pepper,” the charming humanoid robot from Japanese carrier SoftBank Mobile and French company Aldebaran Robotics. Pepper, with its circular doe eyes and welcoming smile, is billed as a robot that can read your emotions. It’s available for sale and has even enrolled in school.

Like any proud parent whose kids leave home, Hayashi had a void to fill. He’s doing that by creating a robot that could serve as a true companion.

“We all feel lonely,” Hayashi said. “We lie if we say we don’t.”

Hayashi’s ambitions for artificial intelligence and social robotics comes as tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft pour resources into building out their own AI. While Amazon Echo and Google Home can answer history questions or order you pizza, the notion of a companion robot pushes the boundaries of AI by not just figuring out who we are emotionally, but by simulating near-human levels of empathy and compassion. Pepper is just the first iteration.

And Pepper is not a breed of his own. Other bots like social robot Jibo, Asus’ smart companion Zenbo and Paro the seal are all designed to offer companionship to varying degrees. The big question usually asked of these products is whether they will move beyond what a smartphone is capable of and truly be able to perceive and respond to human emotions. Reaction to the results of current efforts has been mixed, but with AI evolving there’s good reason to be optimistic. Read more on Man seeking robot: One inventor’s quest to cure loneliness…

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Call: ICAT-EGVE 2016 – International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence and Eurographics Symposium on VEs

Call for Papers/Poster/Demos

ICAT-EGVE 2016
26th International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence
21st Eurographics Symposium on Virtual Environments

Sept 30, 2016: Paper submission deadline
Oct 12, 2016: Poster Submission Deadline
Oct 19, 2016: Demo Submission Deadline

http://icat-egve-2016.org/

ICAT-EGVE 2016 is the merger of the 26th International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence (ICAT 2016) and the 21st Eurographics Symposium on Virtual Environments (EGVE 2016). ICAT-EGVE 2016 will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, from December 7th to 9th 2016.

We are fortunate to have been able to secure an exceptional venue for this event: the conference will be held at the Clinton Presidential Library.

This international event will be a unique opportunity for researchers, developers, and users to share their experience and knowledge of virtual reality, as well as augmented reality, mixed reality and 3D user interfaces. And, of course, it is a good time to renew old friendships, make new ones, and experience all that Little Rock has to offer.

ICAT-EGVE 2016 seeks original, high-quality research papers in all areas of virtual reality, as well as augmented reality, mixed reality and 3D user interfaces. Research papers should describe results that contribute to advancements in the following areas:

  • 3D interaction for VR/AR
  • VR/AR systems and toolkits
  • Immersive projection technologies and other advanced display technologies
  • Presence, cognition, and embodiment in VR/AR/MR
  • Haptics, audio, and other non-visual modalities
  • User studies and evaluation
  • Multi-user and distributed VR, tele-immersion and tele-presence
  • Serious games and edutainment using VR/AR/MR
  • Novel devices (both input and output) for VR, AR, MR, and haptics
  • Applications of VR/AR/MR

Papers in other related areas are welcome, too, of course. Read more on Call: ICAT-EGVE 2016 – International Conference on Artificial Reality and Telexistence and Eurographics Symposium on VEs…

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VR and presence: Our story so far

[We’re back after a two-week break. Profound thanks to everyone who made the ISPR conference event “The Power of Presence: Using Telepresence Theory, Research and Applications to Enhance Mediated Communication Experiences in the 21st Century” in Kyoto, Japan a great success; information about how to access the official proceedings will appear here soon, as will information about our next conference event.

For now, this story from Rolling Stone is a nice summary of ‘the story so far,’ including references to presence experiences in VR, that technology’s rocky history and its promise in several application areas, and a striking comment at the end from the creator of the Oculus Rift about the relative merits of living in reality and virtual reality. The original story includes a 1:13 minute video and more images. –Matthew]

Palmer Luckey

Will Virtual Reality Change Your Life?

How a teenager created Oculus Rift in his parents’ SoCal garage, sold it for $2 billion and may have launched a digital revolution

By David Kushner
May 23, 2016

For decades, virtual reality has failed to deliver on its great promise. But on March 28th, Oculus Rift, a breakthrough VR system, debuted – finally heralding the arrival of a technology seemingly pulled from a sci-fi future. On a recent spring morning, in a soundproof studio on the Menlo Park, California, campus of Facebook – just days before the $600 Rift’s release – I’m testing out the Oculus headset in a mountain-climbing simulation created by Crytek, a team of artists and coders that has spent the past year meticulously scanning and re-creating vistas from the Alps to Halong Bay, Vietnam. The experience, which teleports me to a jagged cliff in a virtual world spanning 50 square miles, is so realistic that I can barely look down – when I do, my knees buckle and my palms sweat. Finally, my brain has to interrupt: Dude, you’re not really here.

In the past, heavy headsets, chunky graphics and sluggish latency have hindered the suspension of disbelief in virtual reality. But now, in Oculus’ dozens of “experiences,” as the company dubs them, you can live out your guitar-god dreams in Rock Band VR, float weightless in deep outer space in Adrift or hack through Tron-like computer nodes in Darknet. In each of these, you’re not just playing, you’re transported.

Palmer Luckey, the Rift’s 23-year-old visionary creator in flip-flops, is giving me an exclusive glimpse into the VR future at Facebook, which bought his startup in 2014 for $2 billion, landing Luckey on Forbes‘ list of America’s richest entrepreneurs under 40. For Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Luckey and his crew are bringing the ultimate sci-fi fantasy to life. “Oculus’ mission,” Zuckerberg stated shortly after the purchase, “is to enable you to experience the impossible.” Read more on VR and presence: Our story so far…

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