ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: May 2015

Call: Designing Digital Creative Commons for the Performing Arts (British HCI 2015 workshop)

Designing Digital Creative Commons for the Performing Arts
14th July 2015, Lincoln, UK
The workshop will run as part of the British HCI 2015 conference held 15-17th July 2015 at Lincoln, UK.

This workshop aims to bring together HCI designers, creative technologists, Performing Arts practitioners and theorists to discuss issues and opportunities in designing digital tools for communication, artistic collaboration, sharing and co-creation between artists, and between artists and actively involved creative audiences.

There are numerous existing online platforms that provide immediate and easy access to a vast range of tools for creative collaboration, yet their majority create and maintain networks within a ‘noisy’ social media environment, are based on a centralised model of collaboration, and are built on corporate infrastructures with well-known issues of control, identity, and surveillance.

Focusing on the Performing Arts, this workshop will take a bottom-up approach on how to design online collaborative tools without the noise of social media, drawing on peer-to-peer decentralised practices, infrastructures for building communities of interest outside the imperatives of corporate control, developing new kinds of narratives and synergies that add depth to artistic practice, blurring the distinction between artist and audience, and contributing to a true sharing economy.

In brief, the workshop’s goals are: Read more on Call: Designing Digital Creative Commons for the Performing Arts (British HCI 2015 workshop)…

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Amnesty International uses ‘Virtual reality Aleppo’ in street fundraising campaign

[One of many ways presence experiences can be used to bring about positive change; this is a press release from Amnesty International UK. In coverage from May 21 in Civil Society News a spokesman says “we’ve had a really good response” and that “we are hoping to use them [VR headsets] in other campaigns as well if we have the right material.” –Matthew]

Allepo Syria bomb aftermath

[Image: Last month local activists recorded at least 85 barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo city, killing at least 110 civilians © Amnesty International (Khalil Hajjar)]

‘Virtual reality Aleppo’ street fundraising campaign launched

08 May 2015

‘This is a first for street fundraising … it’s shocking and it’s meant to be’ – Reuben Steains

Barrel bombs killed more than 3,000 civilians in the Aleppo region alone last year

Amnesty International has launched a new “virtual reality Aleppo” street fundraising campaign which transports people from the streets of Britain to the devastated streets of war-torn Aleppo in Syria.

Amnesty street fundraisers with virtual reality viewers showing apocalyptic scenes of destruction in barrel-bombed districts of Aleppo will be on the streets of London, Manchester and Leeds from the week of 11 May.

Members of the public will be given the opportunity to view the specially-created 360-degree images through virtual reality headsets offering a powerful immersive experience. The images, created by Syrian human rights activists working closely with Amnesty, show the districts of al-Sha’ar and Al Fardos in Aleppo after barrel bombs struck the areas last month. Read more on Amnesty International uses ‘Virtual reality Aleppo’ in street fundraising campaign…

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Call: EUCOG2015 – Annual Meeting of the European Society of Cognitive Systems

Call for Papers

Annual Meeting of the European Society of Cognitive Systems
25-26 September 2015
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Deadline for submission of abstracts: July 1st, 2015

Jordi Vallverdú & Vincent C. Müller


“Cognitive systems” is to be broadly understood as an interlinked research of natural and artificial cognitive systems. We welcome participants from all disciplines that are relevant for fundamental issues of present and future robotics and AI, especially cognitive science, computer science, neuroscience and philosophy. We are especially interested in bioinspired techniques, models and methods.

  • AI and cognitive science
  • autonomous vehicles
  • cognitive systems in industry
  • communication (verbal and non-verbal)
  • dynamical systems
  • embedded, situated, distributed cognition
  • embodiment, enaction, morphology
  • social impact of AI and robotics
  • goals, emotions, values, free will
  • grounded cognition
  • hybrid systems, cyborgs
  • interactive systems
  • learning, evolution
  • neuroscience and cognitive systems
  • multi-agent systems
  • perception, sensing
  • performance and intelligence testing
  • real-world systems
  • robotics
  • robustness and adaptability

Read more on Call: EUCOG2015 – Annual Meeting of the European Society of Cognitive Systems…

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Oculus hack transfers your facial expressions onto your avatar

[This should enhance social presence in interesting ways; the story is from MIT’s Technology Review and includes the 0:56 minute video mentioned. –Matthew]

User and avatar facial expressions with Oculus Rift

[Image: The software combines data from sensors tracking the upper and lower parts of the face and matches the result onto a 3-D model of a face.]

Oculus Rift Hack Transfers Your Facial Expressions onto Your Avatar

Facebook teams with researchers to transfer your smiles and frowns into virtual reality.

By Tom Simonite on May 20, 2015

Virtual reality is set to get a vital dash of social reality.

Researchers at the University of Southern California and Facebook’s Oculus division have demonstrated a way to track the facial expressions of someone wearing a virtual-reality headset and transfer them to a virtual character. That could make for much more rewarding socializing, work, or play in virtual worlds, because the expression of a virtual body double or otherworldly avatar could perfectly mimic that of a person’s real face. Read more on Oculus hack transfers your facial expressions onto your avatar…

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Call: New Friends 2015 – 1st International Conference on Social Robots in Therapy and Education

Call for contributions

New Friends 2015
The 1st international conference on social robots in therapy and education
22-23 October 2015 – Almere, The Netherlands

The application of social robots in therapy and education is an emerging field as these ‘new friends’ become more sophisticated, available and affordable. In recent years there has been an enormous increase of projects in which they are used successfully for groups with special needs, like people with dementia, hospitalized children and children with autism. This increases the demand for expertise from a wide range of disciplines, like psychology, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, AI, robotics and education to meet the technical opportunities with the development of therapeutic and educational practice.

To make this happen, the international and multidisciplinary conference New Friends 2015 brings together researchers, professionals, students from different disciplines of health, social welfare and education and developers in the fields of AI social robotics, ICT and business.

The event features keynotes, oral and poster presentations, product and business demonstrations, competitions and practice oriented workshops, covering:

  • practitioners’ perspective of end users’ needs,
  • good examples of trials, practice and intervention guidelines, interdisciplinary collaboration,
  • technical innovations in robotics,
  • related therapeutic or educational developments,
  • theoretical studies and empirical research, including related HRI issues,
  • related legal, ethical, philosophical and social issues.

Read more on Call: New Friends 2015 – 1st International Conference on Social Robots in Therapy and Education…

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Explore a VR recreation of Van Gogh’s masterpiece ‘The Night Cafe’

[I wonder what Van Gogh would think about this use of modern technology to expand on his work; this is from Good magazine, where the story includes more images and a 1:23 minute video; follow the link to the Oculus Mobile VR Jam for more information. –Matthew]

'The  Night Cafe' VR screenshot

Explore This Gorgeous Virtual Recreation of a Van Gogh Masterpiece

by Rafi Schwartz
May 13, 2015

Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is widely held as one of the most significant and influential artists of all time. Van Gogh’s explorations of light and color blazed a luminescent path upon which subsequent artists have spent entire careers following to varying—but never equal—degrees of success. His brilliance lies in the ability to evoke a dream-like sense, in which objects, landscapes, and people appear both intimately real and hauntingly “other.” His paintings are textured (in terms of both “layers of meaning,” as well as globs of paint) in such a way as to make an observer want to crawl inside and explore every inch of the world as van Gogh saw it, full of warmth and color.

And now you can.

As part of this year’s Oculus’ Mobile VR Jam, developer Mac Cauley has rendered an entire virtual environment based on van Gogh’s iconic 1888 painting Le café de nuit. Cauley’s “The Night Cafe” is as close as a person can get to being immersed in the ambient glow of van Gogh’s world. Read more on Explore a VR recreation of Van Gogh’s masterpiece ‘The Night Cafe’…

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Call: Third International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2015)


The Third International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2015)
Daegu, Korea, October 21-24, 2015

Due to the volume of requests, we have extended the submission deadline to May 22nd, 2015, 23:59 PDT

People are increasingly interacting with computerized agents. Examples include autonomous and tele-presence robots in homes, healthcare, or search and rescue, virtual characters in the expanding gaming industry or for serious games, and agents representing other people through on-line social and interactive meeting places. Although these broad areas have their own unique research challenges, there is a clear commonality to be addressed in the investigation of how people interact with agents, whether they have physical or virtual embodiments, or represent remote people or an AI algorithm; this commonality requires explicit consideration.

The Third International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2015, in co-operation with ACM SIGCHI) aims to be the premier interdisciplinary venue for discussing and disseminating state-of-the-art research and results that have implications across conventional interaction boundaries including robots, software agents and digitally-mediated human-human communication. HAI will gather researchers from fields spanning engineering, computer science, psychology and sociology, and will cover diverse topics, including: human-robot interaction, affective computing, computer-supported collaborative work, gaming and serious games, artificial intelligence, and more.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to Read more on Call: Third International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2015)…

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Will robots replace our urban pets?

[Along with practical and ethical concerns, this raises interesting issues regarding the boundaries of ‘medium as social actor’ presence. It’s from IEEE Spectrum; the image is from coverage by The Sydney Morning Herald (which also includes two videos). –Matthew]

Samantha Kraft with a Sony AIBO robotic dog

[Image: Three-year-old Samantha Kraft was among the first Australians to receive Sony’s AIBO robotic dog in 2001. Photo: David Gray]

Robots Might Be the Necessary Future of Urban Pet Ownership

By Evan Ackerman
Posted 13 May 2015

We all love our pets. We love them a crazy, ridiculous amount that is often entirely out of proportion to reality: you don’t want to know how much I spent on medical care for my $5 pet store gerbil. As the world population grows and more people move into cities, it’s going to get increasingly difficult to afford to give larger pets (like cats and especially dogs) the life that they deserve in urban environments. Pets will be a luxury that wealthy people will be able to afford, but what about the rest of us? The answer is, as always, robots.

Jean-Loup Rault, a faculty member with the University of Melbourne’s Animal Welfare Science Centre, has an opinion piece in the open access journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science that discusses how pets will evolve in the digital age. Rault argues that “pet ownership in its current form is likely unsustainable in a growing, urbanized population,” but it’s obviously not realistic to suggest that we just abandon the meaningful relationships that we can make with animals.

However, over the last several centuries and millenia, the relationship that most people have with animals has transitioned from “that looks tasty” to “that’s my ride” to “that’s cute and snuggly.” The industrial revolution replaced horses with engines, because engines better served our needs. Is it crazy to think that the digital revolution could replace pet animals with pet robots for exactly the same reason? Read more on Will robots replace our urban pets?…

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Call: Workshop on “In-vehicle Auditory Interactions” at ICAD 2015

Call for Participation

Workshop on “In-vehicle Auditory Interactions” at ICAD (International Conference on Auditory Display) 2015

Graz, Austria, July 6, 2015


The scope and prevalence of in-vehicle technologies has dramatically expanded, which increases drivers’ visual, physical, and mental workload. In an attempt to reduce this workload, but allow for necessary interactions, auditory displays have been used in vehicles over the years, but only for basic information transmission. The goal of our joint workshop is to discuss the use of auditory displays for interaction in the vehicle at a more advanced level in order to offer better driver experience in rapidly changing vehicle environments. This full day workshop will secure sufficient time for intermingling participants, presenting conceptual sounds, discussing issues, and integrating ideas.


We have five explicit goals in our workshop:

  • Provide an organized discussion about the topic of how auditory interactions can be efficiently and effectively applied to in-vehicle contexts;
  • Build and nurture a new community that bridges the auditory display community with the automotive user interface community;
  • Discuss and exchange ideas interactively within and across sub-communities;
  • Suggest promising directions for future trans-disciplinary work; and
  • Yield both immediate and long-term community-, research-, and design-guidance products.

To this end, we will invite researchers and practitioners from all backgrounds, who are interested in auditory display and automotive user interface fields. In this discussion and the formation of future directions, we will particularly focus on “unobtrusive interfaces” and aspects of “gamification”. Unobtrusiveness will allow auditory displays to be informative, but stay at the periphery of the driver’s attention and be easily accepted by end users. To accomplish this, we will discuss several design guidelines based on blended sonification. Gamification can promote users to keep their motivation for behavioral change for a longer period of time (e.g., in the context of eco-driving applications). Through achieving the goals of this workshop, we will provide an opportunity to move this integrated field forward and build a solid community that includes ICAD.

TOPICS OF INTERESTS: Read more on Call: Workshop on “In-vehicle Auditory Interactions” at ICAD 2015…

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Love in the time of bots

[This article from The Washington Post explores how compelling ‘artificial’ social interaction can be, and the implications of that as technology evolves; the provocative film Ex Machina, which I just saw with a group of presence scholars, carries the logic even further, to a physically embodied rather than virtual technology. –Matthew]

Ava from Ex Machina

Love in the time of bots

By Dominic Basulto
March 17, 2015

Convincing people to have a romantic relationship with a computer might be easier than it sounds. At this year’s SXSW in Austin, a chatbot on Tinder convinced a number of users that she was a cute 25-year-old woman eager to strike up a romantic relationship. Too bad “Ava” turned out to be just an Instagram account for a character in an upcoming film (“Ex Machina”) about the implications for romance in the era of artificial intelligence.

In many ways, “Ava” was playing a simplified form of Alan Turing’s famous “imitation game” by trying to convince human conversational partners that it was human — or at least human enough to get Tinder users to watch a trailer for a movie. In one conversational exchange captured by AdWeek, Ava used a typical chatbot tactic – keeping a human off-balance by asking questions you wouldn’t expect from a computer (“Have you ever been in love?” and “What makes you human?”) – to convince male, techie-hipsters at SXSW that she was a real woman.

We’ve already seen evidence that carrying on a relationship with a bot is easier than it sounds. Consider the Invisible Boyfriend (and Invisible Girlfriend) experience, which really started as a clever way to use technology to cover up a lack of a romantic significant other. It turns out the experience was so addictive that people started to fall for the Invisible Boyfriend bot — even when they knew it was a bot and that the whole relationship was made up — and paid for — from the beginning.

In an era when teens rely so much on text messages to launch, maintain and end relationships, it’s perhaps no surprise that a bot experience such as Invisible Boyfriend or Ava could take off. If you think about the typical teen romance carried out via text message these days, it’s essentially a chatbot experience powered by a really powerful computer — the human brain. The witty reply, the shared insider lingo between two lovers, the concerned text from a lover demanding a rapid reply — this could all be simulated by an artificially intelligent chatbot. Read more on Love in the time of bots…

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