ISPR Presence News

Category Archives: Presence in the News

News stories explicitly or implicitly related to presence from a wide variety of sources

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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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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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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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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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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Virtual-reality tumour gives researchers a whole new way to study cancer

[This project is an example of the most positive uses of VR and presence; the story is from Alphr, where it includes other images and a 1:46 minute video. For more information follow the link at the end of the story, see coverage from the CBC (including another video) and read the press release via EurekaAlert! –Matthew]

[Image: Creating A Virtual Reality Tumour graphic. Source: University of Cambridge.]

Virtual-reality tumour gives researchers a whole new way to study cancer

VR project among first four winners of £100 million Cancer Research UK challenge

Thomas McMullan
10 Feb 2017

“I’d call a tumour an ecosystem,” says Professor Greg Hannon, of Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute. It’s a description that emphasises the fact that cancer is not a monolithic growth to be squashed, but a complex community of cell types that interact with each other in ways we don’t yet fully understand.

At Cancer Research UK’s headquarters, Hannon explains a project that wants to use virtual reality to help researchers understand how tumour cells work alongside each other – a project that has just been awarded funding of up to £20 million, as part of Cancer Research’s £100 million Grand Challenge initiative.

“What we’re trying to do is look at that ecosystem as a whole,” explains Hannon. “Not only look at the host cell types, and not only thinking about the cancer cells, but thinking about the cancer cells as an evolving community.”

Two problems facing cancer researchers are how to capture the vast amounts of information that are held by a tumour’s ecosystem, and how to make sense of it. Hannon and an intercontinental team of researchers, doctors, patients, astronomers and game developers are setting out to address both these issues.

The aim is to make a 3D model of a patient’s tumour, as a spatial, intuitive means for researchers to study a wide variety of information about the sample – both in terms of individual cells, and how they interact with neighbours and host cells. To gather the data, specialised microscopes will be built from scratch, and the team will collect genetic information for each of the millions of cells that exist within a tumour.

The idea of a virtual-reality tumour may sound like an unnecessary gimmick in the fight against cancer, but Hannon explains that new ways of thinking about how to comprehend information are needed when you’re dealing with such large sets of data.

“The amount of information we want to create is immense,” he says. “This is a level of information, given current technologies, that’s difficult for humans to understand and analyse. So we’re having to invent new ways to interact with this data. Our first pass at that is to try and take those large datasets, from a computer screen, and to present them in virtual reality.” Read more on Virtual-reality tumour gives researchers a whole new way to study cancer…

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LookVR lets users walk through and interact with data in virtual reality

[Looker’s product is a “complete data platform that offers data analytics, exploration and insights to every function of a business… The company is powering data-driven cultures at more than 800 industry-leading and innovative companies such as Sony, Amazon, The Economist, Spotify, Sears, Kohler, Etsy, Lyft, Red Bull and Kickstarter.” The blog post below from the company’s website describes the creation of the company’s new data visualization tool that utilizes virtual reality, including some of the interesting challenges and possibilities of the immersive, presence-evoking format (note particularly the discussion starting with “It’s an interesting experiment that raises a lot of questions”). The blog post includes a 4:16 minute video, and a press release (quoted above) is available via Business Wire. –Matthew]

Read more on LookVR lets users walk through and interact with data in virtual reality…

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The American Dream: A VR game where you have guns for hands

[This new VR game raises lots of interesting questions regarding interface design and homuncular flexibility, and the use of presence for social and political advocacy. The story from CNET includes a 0:51 minute video teaser, and more information is available from the Samurai Punk website. –Matthew]

The American Dream: A VR game where you have guns for hands

Imagine a 1950s world where Mr. and Mrs. Middle America are going about daily life with guns for hands. Forget gun control — this is the American Dream!

by Claire Reilly
November 5, 2016

The American Dream is built on guns.

That’s not acerbic political commentary. It’s an observation about a virtual-reality game — The American Dream — that drops you smack bang in the middle of 1950s America and gives you guns for hands.

Going to work at the bakery? Slide that dough into the oven with a gun! Time for lunch? Eat your doughnut off the barrel of a gun. Feeding baby? You guessed it, little Jimmy is packing heat.

Part Norman Rockwell nostalgia, part “Edward Scissorhands” on steroids, The American Dream is the work of Australian indie developers Samurai Punk.

After working on an early split-screen multiplayer shooter, the Samurai Punk team decided to take the first-person shooter concept to its logical conclusion and create a VR world where guns aren’t just for bad guys, they’re for everyday life.

Game designer and Samurai Punk co-founder Winston Tang said it all came down to the question, What would you do if you had only guns for hands? Read more on The American Dream: A VR game where you have guns for hands…

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Teomirn teaches you to play piano using the mixed reality of HoloLens

[The Teomirn HoloLens app looks like an impressive presence-evoking tool for learning to play piano; this story is from UploadVR, where it features two 1:00 minute videos. See also a story (and video) in Next Reality about the related Music Everywhere HoloLens project for teaching piano improvisation. –Matthew]

Read more on Teomirn teaches you to play piano using the mixed reality of HoloLens…

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POV Head Rig and OhRoma olfactory system to increase presence with VR sexual content

[The evolution of technology to increase media user’s sense of presence continues… The original version of this story from the Daily Mail includes two sidebars, more images, and a related video. The full POV Head Rig press release is available via Newswire. –Matthew]

The terrifying mannequin-head camera that could revolutionize VR porn: Device aims to create more ‘intimate emotional attachment’

  • It has stereoscopic cameras in the eyes and binaural sound microphones
  • Also has multiple cameras across its surface to achieve 4K resolution at 60fps
  • Creators say the POV Head Rig will make virtual reality porn more immersive

By Cheyenne Macdonald for
2 February 2017

Scientists predict virtual reality will soon take over the porn industry, allowing for more immersive experiences.

And, a bizarre new high-tech camera rig aims to pave the way.

The VR Bangers POV Head Rig is equipped with stereoscopic cameras in the eyes, binaural sound microphones, and multiple cameras across its surface to achieve 4K resolution – and the creators say it will make for more ‘intimate’ moments.

In order to make VR porn as immersive as it hopes to be, actors must interact with the equipment as though it were another person.

This means getting up close and personal with a camera or a microphone.

With the POV Head Rig, the team at VR Bangers suggests virtual reality porn will be able to move past these awkward limitations to create ‘extraordinary’ content.

‘The rig was built especially for adult VR scenes because we noticed that there is a much warmer and more intimate emotional attachment between the performer and the recording device if the device itself is able to be kissed, caressed, and whispered to in the same sort of ways that a real person would sense those subtle communications,’ said CTO Boris Smirnoff. Read more on POV Head Rig and OhRoma olfactory system to increase presence with VR sexual content…

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