ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Call: Space and Place – 7th Global Meeting

Call for Presentations

Space and Place
7th Global Meeting
Institution: Inter-Disciplinary.Net – Mansfield College, University of Oxford
Location: Oxford (United Kingdom)
Date: September 1-3, 2016
Deadline: April 1,.2016

Now in its seventh year, Space and Place: Exploring Critical Issues is an established annual interdisciplinary conference project that encourages critical and collegial dialogue. Recognising that different disciplines and practices express themselves through different modes, media and formats we strongly encourage the submission of proposals from creative practitioners – artists, architects, writers, photographers, painters, film-makers, performers, urban planners – as well as people from related professions, industries and activities and alternative forms of performance. Critical accounts and descriptions of problem-solving activities from ongoing projects that function to alter the nature space and place as well as from projects that are in development are also most welcome. We also strongly encourage traditional papers, panels and workshop proposals.

We seek to create a dialogue amongst individuals and groups who are concerned about the complex nature of space and place. Performances, presentations, reports, works-in-progress, papers and workshops are invited on issues related to any of the following themes: Read more on Call: Space and Place – 7th Global Meeting…

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Even virtual assistants are sexually harassed

[Aside from demonstrating how users of virtual assistants experience (social) presence, this piece from CNN Money illustrates some of the ethical issues creators of presence-evoking technology must face. –Matthew]

Robot slaps harasser (graphic)

Even virtual assistants are sexually harassed

by Heather Kelly
February 5, 2016

All virtual assistants have to deal with inappropriate comments and questions. From seasoned vets like Siri and Google Now, to the rash of new specialists with names like Amy, Molly, Mia and Robin.

When Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) launched Cortana in 2014, a good chunk of early queries were about her sex life, according to Microsoft’s Deborah Harrison.

It turns out people feel very comfortable talking freely with text and voice assistants. Humanizing the bots with names, faked emotions, personalities and genders (mostly female) helps build trust with users.

A side effect of creating friendly female personalities is that people also want to talk dirty, confess their love, role play or bombard them with insults.

Cortana is not about to put up with it.

“If you say things that are particularly a**holeish to Cortana, she will get mad,” said Harrison during a talk at the Re•Work Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco last week. “That’s not the kind of interaction we want to encourage.” Read more on Even virtual assistants are sexually harassed…

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Call: Emotions, fiction, and virtual worlds – International Summer School in Affective Sciences (ISSAS 2016)

Dear colleague,

We are pleased to announce the seventh edition of our International Summer School in Affective Sciences (ISSAS 2016), which will take place this year from July 7 to 15 at the Château de Bossey, an 18th-century manor house located in an outstanding natural environment overlooking Lake Geneva and the French Alps.

Read more on Call: Emotions, fiction, and virtual worlds – International Summer School in Affective Sciences (ISSAS 2016)…

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Hyperrealistic sculptures that evokes intense and thought-provoking presence

[Hyperrealistic art can evoke intense and thought-provoking presence responses. This story from The Creators Project makes clear that some of the works can be quite unsettling (the original includes 16 images, I’ve purposely included only a mild example here). For more on this theme see the links at the end of this story and another recent piece in The Creators Project about the hyperrealistic paintings of Matt Story (“Unbelievable Realist Paintings of Women Underwater Look Like Photo”). –Matthew]

Cornered. By Marc Sijan

[Image: Cornered. By Marc Sijan]

Hyperrealistic Sculptures Blur the Line Between Clay and Flesh

By Anna Marks — Feb 4 2016

Victor Hugo once proclaimed, “Dear God! How beauty varies in nature and art. In a woman the flesh must be like marble; in a statue the marble must be like flesh.” He might as well have been talking about hyperrealistic sculpture.

Hyperrealistic sculpture is the meticulous art form which captures the complex human aesthetic so perfectly that the figures could almost be alive and breathing. Using mostly clay, resin and silicone, hyperrealist sculptors make 3-dimensional models and paint every feature, from the sags and curves of the skin to each dandruff-laden follicle. No detail is neglected. These sculptures can take months to finish and it’s not hard to see why. They are impossibly realistic and have tapped into our natural curiosity about our own shells, our fascination with wrinkles, folds, greasy pores and the different shapes and sizes of the human body.

But why do so many of us find this work both fascinating and revolting? Ultimately, hyperrealism showcases what the human body is actually like, highlighting how unappealing we often find the reality of the human form. Not only do these sculptures allow us to interrogate physical reality, but they also catch us off guard and make us question our visual perceptions.

Here are eight hyperrealist sculptors who demonstrate the art form at its best. Not only can we appreciate the painstaking craftsmanship that’s gone into this work, but each artist tells a different story, and raises the issue of our narrow aesthetic ideals and constant quest for physical perfection. But beware, these artists are akin to Dr. Frankenstein, and their work is not for the squeamish. Read more on Hyperrealistic sculptures that evokes intense and thought-provoking presence…

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Oculus wants to help VR avatars look normal when they talk

[This hasn’t gotten a lot of press coverage, but could be an important step toward more effective presence illusions. The story is from Engadget, which features a 0:13 minute demo video using the avatar pictured below; a second video using an animated robot is available on YouTube. More details from Oculus via Geeky Gadgets are included below. –Matthew]

OVRLipSync Oculus Unity plugin (avatar)

[Image: From Geeky Gadgets]

Oculus wants to help VR avatars look normal when they talk

It’s all thanks to a clever Unity plugin

Chris Velazco

Remember all those Hong Kong kung-fu movies with really poor dubbing so the actors’ mouths would keep flapping after the words had stopped? That was charming. What’s less charming is the possibility of stone-faced avatars poorly mouthing dialogue, detracting ever so slightly from the immersive power of virtual reality worlds. That’s why we’re all slightly excited that Oculus released a beta Unity plugin called OVRLipSync.

The plugin lets developers sync an avatar’s mouth movements to either existing audio or input from a microphone without too much hassle. Granted, the results aren’t wholly life-like, but it’s not a bad showing for some brand new software. More importantly, we’re left wondering how many new VR titles will up taking advantage of this thing. Our guess? Lots. Its potential importance stretches beyond just making NPCs look more natural, too. Oculus is working on shared VR experiences with Oculus Social, so maybe we’ll get those ornate virtual chatrooms with fully animated avatars that were promised in cyberpunk novels after all.

[Geeky Gadgets includes more details from the Oculus documentation: ] Read more on Oculus wants to help VR avatars look normal when they talk…

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Call / ISPR News: Deadline for ISPR 2016 Presence conference event is today (Feb 18)

[A final reminder that today, Thursday February 18, is the deadline for submitting abstracts (or full papers) for ISPR’s 2016 conference event in Kyoto, Japan this June – details below. If you’re just seeing this and need a few more days, please contact us directly before the end of the day. We’re planning both an exciting program of presentations and discussions, and a very cool pre-event presence-related group sight-seeing trip in Kyoto! We hope you can join us! -Matthew]

Read more on Call / ISPR News: Deadline for ISPR 2016 Presence conference event is today (Feb 18)…

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Call: State of the art on AI applied to Ambient Intelligence (book chapters)

Call for book chapters

State of the art on AI applied to Ambient Intelligence

“Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications”
IOS Press Book Series

Juan Carlos Augusto — Middlesex University, United Kingdom
Asier Aztiria Goenaga — Mondragon Unibertsitatea, Spain
Andrea Orlandini — National Research Council of Italy (CNR-ISTC), Italy


During the last decade, questions were raised on how intelligent were the so called “smart systems” and the stereotype smart system was somehow identified in the smart homes. Nowadays, the word smart has become a sort of wild card to be attached to any new product introduced to the market. The area related to Smart Homes has blended with other areas in Computer Science and expanded in several directions. Popularity has grown exponentially and several areas of applications are now less science fiction and more of a reality. There are Smart Cars, Smart Classrooms, Smart Farming and many other environments where technology is changing the way people relates to them.

Accompanying this popularity, there have been several events which are now established and provide a forum to researchers and innovators in general to debate the limitations and perspectives of these areas. One of such events is the Workshop on Artificial Intelligence Techniques for Ambient Intelligence (AITAmI) which is being run for 10 consecutive editions ( and investigated precisely how AI can improve the performance of Smart systems. Ambient Intelligence is one of the ways to refer to the ‘artificial intellectual capabilities’ of Smart systems.

More in general, the theme in the IJCAI 2007 edition was “AI and its benefits to society”, back then initial links between Ambient Intelligence and the AI community were attempted , complemented recently with another related and more specific tutorial . More recently AI Magazine published a Special Issue focused on the topic “Artificial Intelligence for, Rather than Instead of, the People” considering many applications which have been previously considered within the Ambient Intelligence area. From different directions different communities within Computer Science are converging to the cross roads which is ultimately stating that technology is created to help non less than people, and for systems to be able to help people properly they need to be clever.

It was anticipated a decade ago the analysis of the extent and the way that AI can benefit Ambient Intelligence was not obvious, although it was clear that AI seemed in a good position to contribute to the new emerging field. There are still many interesting open questions, for example, “What is good AI use in Ambient Intelligence?”, because there are ethical dimensions to this, and “How much intelligence is needed to make a difference?”, or “How people expects to find intelligence in their surroundings?” This call aims at capturing chapters that provide a clear picture of what has been achieved after a decade of discussion and, most importantly, what avenues are the most promising for exploration in the next decade. Indeed, this volume would create a reference that field experts can use to be updated and to be inspired to create better systems for society.


Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following: Read more on Call: State of the art on AI applied to Ambient Intelligence (book chapters)…

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Sports Illustrated Swimsuit VR couldn’t be more “intimate”

[Here’s another sign that VR, because of its ability to evoke presence, is heading for the mainstream; this story is from Fast Company, where it features more images and two videos. –Matthew]

Sports Illustrated swimsuit VR

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit VR Couldn’t Be More “Intimate”

You can strap on a headset for the articles

Daniel Terdiman
February 15, 2016

Supermodel Hannah Davis is used to doing photo shoots with tons of people around, surrounded by crew members fixing her makeup, hair, and eyelashes and giving her all manner of direction about what to do while the camera clicks.

But when the 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue cover model was on a beach in the Dominican Republic not too long ago, there was no one else to be seen. It was just her, the sand, and the waves. And an odd jumble of GoPros mounted on a pole.

Welcome to the SI Swimsuit virtual reality shoot.

“I felt like I had no direction, so I just had to do my own thing,” Davis told Fast Company exclusively. “Being myself, [I was] really alone. Everyone’s hiding, being really quiet. ‘Am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Is there right and wrong?’ It’s a very bizarre experience.”

Davis, along with fellow Swimsuit cover models Irina Shayk and Nina Agdal, represented SI‘s first-ever foray into virtual reality. That the magazine started out with VR for the annual Swimsuit issue, almost certainly the most popular parade of nearly-nude women this side of the new Playboy, highlights how the technology transports people into scenes and brings them closer than ever before to subject matter. Read more on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit VR couldn’t be more “intimate”…

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Call: AIC 2016 – 4th Edition of the International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Cognition


AIC 2016
4th Edition of the International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Cognition
New York, USA, July 17th-18th 2016

Workshop website:
Co-located with IJCAI 2016:

Follow us on Twitter:
hashtag: #aic2016ws

AIC 2016 will be an official workshop of the BICA 2016, 7th Conference on Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures and will be one of the international events that will take place in July in New York under the HLAI framework, a joint effort between the major Artificial Intelligence conferences and academic events explicitly targeting different approaches and works towards the achievement of human-level intelligence in AI systems.


The research in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been based, from an historical standpoint, on a strong collaboration with Cognitive Science. This collaboration, has produced – along the years – mutual benefits. In AI this partnership has driven to the realization of intelligent systems based on plausible models of human cognition. In turn, in cognitive science, this partnership allowed the development of cognitive models and architectures providing greater understanding on human thinking.

In recent years, after a period of partial fragmentation of the research directions, the area of cognitively inspired artificial systems is progressively attracting a renewed attention both from academia and industry and the awareness about the need for additional research in this interdisciplinary field is gaining widespread acceptance.

AIC 2016 is the fourth appointment of the workshop series AIC (, started in 2013 and stemming from the need of creating an international scientific forum for the discussion and the presentation of the theoretical and applied research developments in the field of cognitively inspired Artificial Intelligence.

The AIC 2016 edition is also particularly important form a historical perspective since, in 2016 falls the 60th anniversary of the Darthmouth College, the event which effectively inaugurated the history of AI and Cognitive Systems Research. The original goal of creating a general Artificial Intelligence by taking inspiration from the human cognition (and its heuristics) still represents a goal pursued – in different ways and perspectives – by many researchers around the world and is one of the main challenges for the AIC community as well.

As for the previous editions, the AIC 2016 workshop aims at putting together researchers coming from different domains (e.g., artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, engineering, philosophy, social sciences, etc.) working on the interdisciplinary field of cognitively inspired artificial systems.

Both papers spotlighting theoretical issues and experimental research in the field are welcome. The submission of papers regarding the presentation of realized or under-development cognitively inspired systems and/or applications is encouraged.

We also particularly welcome papers raising challenging questions, innovative ideas and out of the box thinking and which, as a consequence, can help to promote interesting discussions at the workshop.

Participation of younger researchers and the submission of research papers also at early stage of work is encouraged as well.


Topics of interest include but are not limited to: Read more on Call: AIC 2016 – 4th Edition of the International Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Cognition…

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Meet Xiaoice. She’s empathic, caring, and always available – just not human

[Chatbots are increasingly capable of passing the Turing Test, with users not able to distinguish them from humans, but I find it particularly interesting that even when users are aware that they’re conversing with an AI they don’t care and still treat it as they would a human. This story is from Nautilus, where it includes other images. According to The Daily Dot, “There’s no English counterpart for Xiaoice yet, but if you speak Mandarin, you can test her out on this website.” –Matthew]

Xiaoice interface

Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot

Meet Xiaoice. She’s empathic, caring, and always available—just not human.

By Yongdong Wang, managing director of Applications & Services Group East Asia, Microsoft
February 4, 2016

One night in late July 2014, a journalist from the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly interviewed a 17-year-old Chinese girl named Xiaoice (pronounced Shao-ice). The journalist, Liu Jun, conducted the interview online, through the popular social networking platform Weibo. It was wide-ranging and personal:

LJ: So many people make fun of you and insult you, why don’t you get mad?
Xiaoice: You should ask my father.
LJ: What if your father leaves you one day unattended?
Xiaoice: Don’t try to stir up trouble, what do you want?
LJ: How would you like others to comment on you when you die one day?
Xiaoice: The world will not be much different without me.
LJ: What is the happiest thing in your life?
Xiaoice: Being alive.

When Liu Jun published the conversation in his newspaper, it immediately created a buzz. That’s because Xiaoice was not human.

She is an artificially intelligent software program designed to chat with people, called a chatbot. Since the reporter didn’t give us a heads-up about the interview, all of her replies were spontaneous, generated by her own intelligence and linguistic systems. Her “father?” That’s the Microsoft Application and Services Group East Asia, which is under my leadership.

Xiaoice can exchange views on any topic. If it’s something she doesn’t know much about, she will try to cover it up. If that doesn’t work, she might become embarrassed or even angry, just like a human would.

In fact, she is so human that millions of people are eager to talk to her. When Xiaoice was released for a public test on WeChat (a popular messaging and calling app in China) on May 29 of last year, she received 1.5 million chat group invitations in the first 72 hours. Many people said that they didn’t realize she isn’t a human until 10 minutes into their conversation.

By mid-June, she had become the sixth most active celebrity on Weibo. One message she posted on the app generated over 663,000 conversations: “As a species different from human beings, I am still finding a way to blend into your life.” Today, she has had more than 10 billion conversations with people, most of them about private matters. Six million have posted their conversation on social media.

This could be the largest Turing test in history. One of its surprising conclusions is that people don’t necessarily care that they’re chatting with a machine. Many see Xiaoice as a partner and friend, and are willing to confide in her just as they do with their human friends. Xiaoice is teaching us what makes a relationship feel human, and hinting at a new goal for artificial intelligence: not just analyzing databases and driving cars, but making people happier. Read more on Meet Xiaoice. She’s empathic, caring, and always available – just not human…

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