ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: June 2016

Call: 12th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI 2017)

Call For Participation

12th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI 2017)
March 6-9, 2017, Vienna, Austria

Submission Deadline: October 3, 2016

The ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction is a premiere, highly-selective venue presenting the latest advances in Human-Robot Interaction. The 12th Annual HRI Conference theme is “Smart Interaction,” following Vienna’s “Smart City” initiative. The conference seeks contributions from a broad set of perspectives, including technical, design, methodological, behavioral, and theoretical, that advance fundamental and applied knowledge and methods in human-robot interaction. Full papers, alt.HRI papers, Late-Breaking Reports, and abstracts from Tutorials, Workshops, Demonstrations and Videos, will be archived in the ACM Digital Library and IEEE Xplore Digital Library. Full details of the submission tracks is provided at . Read more on Call: 12th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (HRI 2017)…

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Chatbot lawyer overturns 160,000 parking tickets, raises presence questions

[As this story from The Guardian suggests, even simple chatbots can be very useful and are likely to become much more common; the presence-related research questions include to what degree and in what ways do users perceive and treat the bot as a social actor, and how do their perceptions impact their likelihood to use and be satisfied with their interactions? –Matthew]

Parking ticket on car

Chatbot lawyer overturns 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York

Free service DoNotPay helps appeal over $4m in parking fines in just 21 months, but is just the tip of the legal AI iceberg for its 19-year-old creator

Samuel Gibbs
28 June 2016

An artificial-intelligence lawyer chatbot has successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets across London and New York for free, showing that chatbots can actually be useful.

Dubbed as “the world’s first robot lawyer” by its 19-year-old creator, London-born second-year Stanford University student Joshua Browder, DoNotPay helps users contest parking tickets in an easy to use chat-like interface.

The program first works out whether an appeal is possible through a series of simple questions, such as were there clearly visible parking signs, and then guides users through the appeals process.

The results speak for themselves. In the 21 months since the free service was launched in London and now New York, Browder says DoNotPay has taken on 250,000 cases and won 160,000, giving it a success rate of 64% appealing over $4m of parking tickets. Read more on Chatbot lawyer overturns 160,000 parking tickets, raises presence questions…

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Call: 5th IEEE International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health (SEGAH 2017)

Call for Papers

SEGAH 2017
April 2 – 4, 2017
Perth, Western Australia
co-located with 26th International World Wide Web Conference, 2017 (

View this call online at:

Supported by:
Polytechnic Institute of Cavado and Ave, IPCA, Barcelos, Portugal
Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia


Dear Colleagues,

The 5th IEEE International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health, SEGAH 2017, will be held in Perth, Western Australia, from 2-4 April, 2017.

The overall objectives of the conference are the discussion and sharing of knowledge, experiences and scientific and technical results, related to state-of-the-art solutions and technologies on serious games and applications for health and healthcare, as well as the demonstration of advanced products and technologies. The 5th edition of SEGAH also features a special-topic workshop on Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Wearable Technologies.

We particularly welcome research on topics in the following areas: Read more on Call: 5th IEEE International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health (SEGAH 2017)…

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Why does virtual reality matter? Presence!

[This piece from Recode is an excellent, brief summary of the challenges, rewards and current status of the evolution of virtual reality, and particularly the central role of presence, short for telepresence and otherwise, in the success of the medium. –Matthew]

Boy using Samgsung Gear at VidCon2016

[Image: Experiencing Samsung Gear VR at the Samsung Creator’s Lounge At VidCon 2016. Jonathan Leibson / Getty]

Why virtual reality matters

As a new medium, VR is in a peculiar predicament: Hailed as a multibillion-dollar industry, it’s also still in its creative infancy.

by Jason Brush Jun 28, 2016

Once upon a time, every medium in our incomprehensibly vast modern media landscape — photography, recorded music and radio, cinema, TV, video games, the Wii — was once just somebody’s impossible dream, a laughable absurdity. Movies, at their inception, were hand-cranked carnival attractions, TV an expensive, blurry, furniture-sized indulgence.

Every medium that permeates our lives was once attacked as being, at best, impracticable or, at worst, immoral. Each succeeded solely because of dedicated advocates and acolytes who fought to prove the merit of what others said was folly. They saw past technical challenges, low fidelity and — perhaps most crucially — beyond the status quo’s preconceptions of what was possible in order to investigate the potential of something unproven.

As a new medium, virtual reality is in a peculiar predicament: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony and others are making significant, high-profile investments in VR, with VR on center stage at their industry events and featured prominently in their company roadmaps; it’s regularly hailed as a new multibillion-dollar industry.

But at the same time, VR is in its creative infancy. There’s some remarkable content — just look at the amazing VR showcased at the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals — but VR content creators are really just in the early stages of understanding how the medium works. Not only is there no “blockbuster” VR piece yet, if you make an investment in a headset today, you’d be able to watch the majority of the best work in a weekend.

Because of this, VR faces many critics who decry it as a bubble waiting to burst. So, what makes VR a medium with potential? Why should consumers, brands, content producers and artists take a chance on its future?

Every popular medium was built upon its early advocates’ fervent belief in its unique potential. The early advocates of cinema saw its potential to bend time and transform space magically; the pioneers of recorded music saw the potential to immortalize sound, which was previously just ephemera. The early advocates of the web saw the potential to connect people to information and make it universally accessible. These are the reasons why those mediums mattered.

So, why does VR matter? Why is it so revolutionary?

The most common answer is presence: VR has the promise of making you feel present in another place, another time, or to have a perspective that you couldn’t have otherwise. This is perhaps why so many of the best VR experiences thus far have been documentary in nature, and why companies interested in telepresence, like Facebook, have invested in it so heavily. If presence is the defining attribute of VR as a medium, then the key to shaping meaningful, impactful VR experiences will be found in shaping presence. Read more on Why does virtual reality matter? Presence!…

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Call: Game Criticism – Chapter proposals for edited collection

Call for Chapter Proposals: Game Criticism

Editor: Gaines S. Hubbell

Proposals (500 words) due July 21, 2016

As attention to the study and criticism of games grows, attention to how games are studied and criticized must keep pace. For some time, game studies has relied on methods of criticism appropriate to previous media and developed by prior disciplines. These methods have treated games as objects for anthropological studies, textual analysis, literary analysis, user experience studies, and technology studies, among many others; however, games often require that they be treated differently because of the medial, technological, or textual constraints they place upon methods. These constraints can subtly change the definition of the object of analysis as it shifts, for example, from a designed technology to a played technology. The different definitions of what a game is reveal different arguments about their success as games.

This edited collection’s goal is to demonstrate how these various definitions affect the criticism and study of games using representative essays. Proposals that treat games as technological, as experienced, as communicative, as performative, as persuasive, as literature, as social, or as played are especially welcome.

Specifically, I am looking for proposals for chapters that analyze games or game play and make the methods of that analysis clear to readers. Authors are encouraged to identify how their chapter defines the game(s) in their proposal. Read more on Call: Game Criticism – Chapter proposals for edited collection…

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Microsoft’s vision of a presence future: The Windows Holographic OS

[Microsoft’s vision for Windows as a standard operating system for virtual and augmented (mixed) reality has important implications. Here are two stories on this development: the first is from CNN Money, where the original features Microsoft’s 1:03 minute concept video, and the second is a big picture analysis from IT Business Edge that, among other things, identifies the origins of a presence-infused future in the Reeves and Nass-inspired ‘Bob’ product. –Matthew]

Windows Holographic OS (concept video screenshot)

Microsoft unveils its new vision for Windows

by Hope King
June 1, 2016

Microsoft wants to do for virtual reality what it did for PCs: Make the emerging technology as ubiquitous as possible.

To do that, the company is trying to get its Windows Holographic platform into as many devices as possible, just like it did with Windows when personal computers first hit the market. (Think of Windows Holographic like a standard operating system for virtual reality and augmented reality.)

Microsoft presented its plans on Wednesday in Taipei during Computex, a consumer electronics trade show.

“Windows Holographic is coming to devices of all shapes and sizes from fully immersive virtual reality to fully untethered holographic computing,” Terry Myerson, head of Windows and devices, said in a statement. “[We’re looking ahead] to the future of computing, where the physical and virtual worlds intersect in all new ways, and create further scale for the Windows platform.” Read more on Microsoft’s vision of a presence future: The Windows Holographic OS…

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Call: Machine Ethics and Machine Law 2016

Call for Papers

Machine Ethics and Machine Law
Interdisciplinary perspectives on moral and legal issues in artificial agents
November 18, 2016 – November 19, 2016
Jagiellonian University
Cracow, Poland


Abstract submission: 9 September 23:59 CEST
Abstract guidelines: 1000 words, prepared for blind review via website

AI systems have become an important part of our everyday lives. What used to be a subject of science fiction novels and movies has trespassed into the realm of facts. Our machines are tasked with ever more autonomous decisions that directly impact on the well-being of humans. This leads directly to the question: What are the ethical and legal limitations of those artificial agents? It is clear that some constraints should be imposed; both the unintended and often unforeseen negative consequences of the technological progress, as well as speculative and frightening views of the future portrayed in the works of fiction, leave no doubt that there ought to be some guidelines. The problem is to work out these constraints in a reasonable manner so that machine can be a moral and legal agent.

The goal of the conference is to approach this question from various perspectives: of philosophy and ethics, law, robotics, and cognitive science. It is our hope that a stimulating exchange of ideas between scholars from different disciplines will generate new insights regarding the moral and legal dimension of Artificial Intelligence and develop further the ongoing debate on this subject. Read more on Call: Machine Ethics and Machine Law 2016…

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Edward Snowden’s strangely free life – As a robot

[This story from New York Magazine describes the interesting ways Edward Snowden uses telepresence to interact with the world and how people in the world respond, as well as his views on the emergence of virtual reality. This is an abridged version of the long original, which includes several more images. –Matthew]

Snowden at the Whitney

[Image: Attending “Astro Noise” at the Whitney. Photo: Henrik Moltke]

I, Snowden

For a man accused of espionage and effectively exiled in Russia, Edward Snowden is also, strangely, free.

By Andrew Rice
June 26, 2016

Edward Snowden lay on his back in the rear of a Ford Escape, hidden from view and momentarily unconscious, as I drove him to the Whitney museum one recent morning to meet some friends from the art world. Along West Street, clotted with traffic near the memorial pools of the World Trade Center, a computerized voice from my iPhone issued directions via the GPS satellites above. Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, was sitting shotgun, chattily recapping his client’s recent activities. For a fugitive wanted by the FBI for revealing classified spying programs who lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, Snowden was managing to maintain a rather busy schedule around Manhattan.

A couple nights earlier, at the New York Times building, Wizner had watched Snowden trounce Fareed Zakaria in a public debate over computer encryption. “He did Tribeca,” the lawyer added, referring to a surprise appearance at the film festival, where Snowden had drawn gasps as he crossed the stage at an event called the Disruptive Innovation Awards. Wizner stopped himself mid-sentence, laughing at the absurdity of his pronoun choice: “He!” Behind us, Snowden stared blankly upward, his face bouncing beneath a sheet of Bubble Wrap as the car rattled over the cobblestones of the Meatpacking District.

Snowden’s body might be confined to Moscow, but the former NSA computer specialist has hacked a work-around: a robot. If he wants to make his physical presence felt in the United States, he can connect to a wheeled contraption called a BeamPro, a flat-screen monitor that stands atop a pair of legs, five-foot-two in all, with a camera that acts as a swiveling Cyclops eye. Inevitably, people call it the “Snowbot.” The avatar resides at the Manhattan offices of the ACLU, where it takes meetings and occasionally travels to speaking engagements. (You can Google pictures of the Snowbot posing with Sergey Brin at TED.) Undeniably, it’s a gimmick: a tool in the campaign to advance Snowden’s cause — and his case for clemency — by building his cultural and intellectual celebrity. But the technology is of real symbolic and practical use to Snowden, who hopes to prove that the internet can overcome the power of governments, the strictures of exile, and isolation. It all amounts to an unprecedented act of defiance, a genuine enemy of the state carousing in plain view. Read more on Edward Snowden’s strangely free life – As a robot…

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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

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).


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.


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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