ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: September 2016

ISPR Presence News publication schedule for first week of October

ISPR Presence News publication schedule for first week of October

ISPR Presence News will not be published next week while some of us attend the 17th annual meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) in Berlin, Germany. ISPR Presence News will return on Monday October 10.

Read more on ISPR Presence News publication schedule for first week of October…

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Virtual reality takes on the videoconference

[This story from The Wall Street Journal considers the prospects for videoconferencing via virtual reality and concludes with the question of whether mass adoption would decrease or increase face-to-face meetings. See the original story for several more images and a detailed infographic. –Matthew]

Woman and man wearing VR headsets

[Image: Developers are working on virtual-reality systems that one day could replace videoconferencing as a common tool for business meetings. Photo: iStockphoto/Getty Images]

Virtual Reality Takes On the Videoconference

If meetings are held in virtual reality with avatars, will people feel more connected?

By Cat Zakrzewski
Sept. 18, 2016

Get ready for your next conference call—in virtual reality.

With equipment for virtual-reality viewing now on the consumer market, public tech companies and venture capitalists are exploring possible applications in everything from videogames to medicine. And some are betting that virtual-reality headsets could be the next big thing in business-meeting software, upending the dreaded videoconference call.

Some of virtual reality’s potential as a meeting and collaboration tool is suggested in a video recently recorded at the NYU Media Research Lab. In the video, lab researchers strap on Samsung Gear VR headsets with antler-like sensors attached to the goggles. The headsets usher the researchers into a virtual-reality environment in which they see digital avatars of themselves moving around a simulated environment. Soon, using hand-held electronic wands, the researchers are drawing 3-D models together.

Ken Perlin, a computer-science professor at New York University and director of the research lab, has been studying collaboration in the virtual world for the past two years, attempting to understand how virtual reality might change society—including the workplace.

“Of course we’re going to embrace any technology that makes us feel more connected,” Prof. Perlin says. Read more on Virtual reality takes on the videoconference…

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Job: Tenure Track Position in Interactive Media and Game Development at WPI

Tenure Track Position in Interactive Media and Game Development

Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, MA

For full consideration, applications due by December 15, 2016

The WPI Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD) Program and the Computer Science Department jointly seek to hire a tenure-track faculty member to start July 1, 2017. Candidates should hold a Ph.D. in Computer Science or related discipline at the time of appointment.

Established in 2005, WPI’s top-ranked IMGD program is a collaborative venture between the Computer Science, Humanities & Arts, and Social Science & Policy Studies departments, with close affiliations to the Learning Sciences and the Robotics Engineering Programs. IMGD has a robust undergraduate B.S. program that balances artistic and technical skills, with a growing graduate M.S. program in interactive media and game design. We welcome faculty candidates with expertise in any of a variety of relevant areas, such as (but not limited to): novel interface design, technical game development, mobile and networked games, virtual and augmented reality, procedural content generation, and technical animation. Successful candidates will have a clear plan to establish a research program within IMGD, seek external research funding, and participate in teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in IMGD and the Computer Science department.

The 14 core and 9 affiliated IMGD faculty members bring diverse skills and experiences to the teaching and scholarship of all things interactive. The IMGD Program enjoys strong support from the university and has state-of-the-art space and equipment for designing, creating, and evaluating next-generation interactive experiences. Further, Massachusetts offers an excellent home for game developers with an active independent game developer scene, hosting PAX East, Boston FIG, and a number of other game-related organizations and events. We expect successful candidates to contribute to the collaborative and collegial atmosphere we currently enjoy. For more information about the IMGD Program, please visit Read more on Job: Tenure Track Position in Interactive Media and Game Development at WPI…

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Utility PG&E thinks VR technology may make inspecting equipment faster and safer

[Another early-days but promising application of presence-evoking technology involves putting users ‘inside’ a city’s or nation’s technology infrastructure to maintain equipment and diagnose (and hopefully repair) problems; this story is from Fortune, where the original includes a 2:23 minute video. –Matthew]

Electric outlet 'wearing' VR headset (graphic)

Virtual Reality Goes Electric

Utility PG&E thinks VR technology may make inspecting equipment faster and safer.

by Jonathan Vanian
September 28, 2016

For an electric utility, a technical glitch could trigger a huge blackout, plunging entire cities into darkness.

Typically such an event would require utility workers to scramble to a faraway substation. But what if they instead strap on virtual-reality headsets and walk through a model of the facility to troubleshoot?

Could technology once seen only in sci-fi films help a utility company save precious minutes diagnosing a critical problem?

This is the future as envisioned by California utility PG&E, which is working on virtual-reality technology with data-crunching startup Space-Time Insight. PG&E says virtual reality could provide a quicker and safer way for workers to inspect equipment without the risk of getting zapped. Read more on Utility PG&E thinks VR technology may make inspecting equipment faster and safer…

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Call: Chapters for “Personal Assistants: Emerging Technologies”

Call for Chapters

Personal Assistants: Emerging Technologies

Intelligent Systems Reference Library

Deadline: December 15th, 2016


It has been shown that the quality of life for people remaining in their own homes is generally better than for those who are institutionalized. Moreover, the cost for institutional care can be much higher than the cost of care for a patient at home. To balance this situation, efforts must be made to move the services and care available in institutions to the home environment. Thus, society poses new challenges, demanding systems that overcome this issue.

Personal Assistants (PA) are a relatively new concept, advancing the Cognitive Orthotics concept that is only focused on direct assistance, to people with cognitive or physical disabilities, and expanding the area to include complex platforms that include sensors, actuators, monitoring abilities and decision processes.

PA is an area containing technologies such as cognitive assistants, multi-agent systems, robotics and applications (such as e-health and e-learning), among others. Essentially, PA is focused on people and their disabilities, providing tools that best fit them using personalization methods. They have been typically developed:

  • to perceive the intrinsic mechanisms of human cognition such as reasoning, learning, memorizing, acting and adapting;
  • to discover the thought process leading to each decision;
  • to build systems that can emulate those thought processes and make decisions or suggestions.

The Ambient Assisted Living has been prolific in providing solutions to assist the user. However, the personalization has not been widely addressed and it is necessary to have customized systems to properly respond to users’ expectations. Thus, the unification of the human computer interaction is essential to offer a more natural way of engaging with its users and translate desires to actions.

PA can range from a medication reminder to a messaging system that connects its users with their relatives. New developments like the IOT (Internet of Things) and the increasing amount of computing power that handheld devices have allowed the development of environments that were until now unavailable through embedded systems. Therefore, there are a lot of implementation options open for development on this area.

This book is intended to provide an overview of the research being carried out in the interdisciplinary area of personal assistants and cognitively inspired systems. Chapters presenting theoretical and applied research contribution in the field are welcome.

AREAS OF INTEREST Read more on Call: Chapters for “Personal Assistants: Emerging Technologies”…

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At DARPA, virtual reality is more than a toy

[Here’s an interesting perspective on the possibilities for presence-evoking technology from FedScoop. –Matthew]

VR headset (Getty Images)

At DARPA, virtual reality is more than a toy

Trung Tran, a program manager at DARPA, told an audience of virtual reality enthusiasts about the agency’s current goals, urging them to consider government partnership if they have big ideas.

By Samantha Ehlinger
September 27, 2016

For virtual reality to become more than another quick-to-fade fad like 3-D televisions or the overhyped Google Glass, it needs the type of careful nurturing that only government can give it through long-term developmental investments, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program manager told a crowd of VR enthusiasts Monday.

While many of the virtual reality applications from the commercial sector come off more like “toy games,” the government is better positioned to foster ideas that take more time to bear fruit, said DARPA’s Trung Tran.

“We fund those weird ideas that don’t seem to have an immediate return. And that’s the difference I think,” Tran said. “The problem with the commercial world is it’s very [return on investment-driven]. So when you look at the commercial world, it’s not really willing to make the investments that are looking 10 to 15 years out.”

“That’s really the question you have to ask yourself,” he said. “What can you do with real things as opposed to toys?” Read more on At DARPA, virtual reality is more than a toy…

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Call: ACM DIS 2017 – Designing Interactive Systems conference

ACM DIS 2017: Call for Papers and Notes

DIS2017 Space, Place and Interface: Bridging knowledge, connecting people
ACM SIGCHI Designing Interactive Systems conference

10-14 June 2017, Edinburgh, UK

Papers, Notes, Pictorials notice of intent due: January 9, 2017

The theme of DIS 2017 is bridging and connecting – across disciplines, practices, places and understandings. The most interesting things happen at edges and boundaries, and so the aim of the 2017 conference is to examine different approaches to framing knowledge about the design of interactive systems. As advancements in interactive technology continue to blur the demarcations between people and data, and between things and software, interaction designers and researchers are finding new ways to explore this evolving, interdisciplinary landscape. At DIS 2017 we shall consider the contrasts and commonalities that are central in shaping the landscape of emerging interaction paradigms.


DIS 2017 centres on designerly approaches to creating, deploying and critically reflecting on interactive systems. It is an interdisciplinary conference that encompasses how such systems are built, introduced and employed in a wide variety of socio-cultural contexts. We welcome a broad engagement with the field by inviting submissions that consider the following, from a diverse range of researchers and practitioners within the field of interactive systems design:

  • DESIGN METHODS AND PROCESSES: Methods, tools, and techniques for engaging people; researching, designing, and co-designing interactive systems; participatory design, design artefacts, research through design; documenting and reflecting on design processes etc.
  • EXPERIENCE: Places, temporality, people, communities, events, phenomena, aesthetics, user experience, usability, engagement, empowerment, wellbeing, designing things that matter, diversity, participation, materiality, making, etc.
  • APPLICATION DOMAINS: Health, ICT4D, children-computer interaction, sustainability, games/entertainment computing, digital arts, etc.
  • TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION (SYSTEMS, TOOLS, AND/OR ARTIFACT DESIGNS): Sensors and actuators, mobile devices, multi touch and touchless interaction, social media, personal, community, public displays etc.

We welcome and encourage theoretical contributions to DIS 2017. Rather than its own subcommittee, please consider submitting theory contributions to any of the above four subcommittees.

Papers and Notes accepted for presentation at DIS 2017 are published by the ACM in the Digital Library and have in the past attracted high impact, visibility and citations. Read more on Call: ACM DIS 2017 – Designing Interactive Systems conference…

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What I learned from 3 months with in-home consumer VR

[This post from SAP Community Network provides a thoughtful consumer’s observations on prolonged in-home use of VR; it’ll be interesting to revisit these and others’ observations as presence technologies evolve. –Matthew]

Three months in VR graphic

3 months in Virtual Reality, what I learned so far…

Posted by Patrick Willer on Sep 5, 2016

I can vividly remember my first VR experience. It was 25 years ago!

It was early 1990s. I was a teenager addicted to video games. When I wanted more sensation than my Game Boy could provide, there was only one option: the arcade hall. My favorite happy place took my pocket money piece by piece.

I didn’t have a lot of pocket money, so I selected the game economically. The longer I played the same game the better I got and the more value I received out of a coin. Of course I noticed the attractive big double coin machines like Out Run and After Burner. They looked amazing, but too expensive.

Until… Suddenly, out of nowhere, they had this new machine installed. A huge installation. It was guarded 24×7 by an operator and the cost were a whopping five guilders to play. It was an actual Virtual Reality experience. Some kind of shooter, where you could walk through some kind of platform. It looked like this. I was hooked! This was the future of gaming. Little did I know I had to wait 25 years for my next VR experience.

25 years later

In 2016, the first real commercial VR systems (Oculus, HTC Vive) hit the market with a mainstream strategy. Early adopters have to pay top dollar to satisfy their need for innovations, but really can’t help themselves. I simply needed to get my hands on the first Oculus Rift. The rift alone is a fairly reasonable investment for $599, but the PC needed to run smoothly starts around $1750. I’m a mac user, so I needed to buy a dedicated PC to get started.  I’m still waiting for $150 discount from Oculus Rift, but let’s say their service levels are just as young as their product.

The good news is that more systems and accessories are coming soon and prices will go down quickly. PlayStation is next and releases a VR set that is expected at $399. That will be a big step towards global acceptance of VR.

By the way, if you like to try it out for less, you can look into Samsung Gear or Google Cardboard or similar devices. Albert Heijn, a huge Dutch retailer, recently introduced AR and VR to every kid in the Netherlands. Again an impressive operation that smoothly introduces VR to a large population.

So, what have I learned?

So now I finally have my own VR setup at home. I’ve spent many hours in VR. I visited the Himalaya. I went to Pluto. I’ve had front row seats (and better) in concerts and I’ve been inside games like never before. But I’ve learned more: Read more on What I learned from 3 months with in-home consumer VR…

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Call: International Symposium on Evaluating Digital Cultural Resources (EDCR 2016)


International Symposium on Evaluating Digital Cultural Resources (EDCR 2016)
Glasgow, Kelvin Hall, 12-13 December 2016

Organized by the Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation

Submission deadline: Friday, 7 October 2016


Digital technologies are affecting all aspects of our lives, reshaping the way we communicate, learn, and approach the world around us. In the case of cultural institutions, digital applications are used in all key areas of operation, from documenting, interpreting and exhibiting the collections to communicating with diverse audience groups. The communication of collections information in digital form, whether an online catalogue, mobile application, museum interactive or social media exchange, increasingly affects our cultural encounters and shapes our perception of cultural organisations. Although cultural and higher education institutions around the world are heavily investing on digitisation and working to make their collections available online, we still know very little about who uses digital collections, how they interact with the associated data, and what the impacts of these digital resources are.


The symposium is organized by the Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation (ScotDigiCH), which is funded by The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ScotDigiCH is co-ordinated by the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII), at the University of Glasgow in collaboration with The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow Life Museums, the Moving Image Archive of the National Library of Scotland and the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Strathclyde.


The symposium seeks to address this gap by bringing together interested parties from a range of disciplines (e.g. computing science, digital humanities, museology, social sciences), practices and sectors to set an agenda for research and discuss the latest developments on evaluating the use of cultural digital resources. The symposium will address:

  • Who uses digital cultural resources, where and how
  • Diverse users’ needs and expectations (i.e. from schoolchildren and families to students and researchers)
  • Impact and value of digital cultural resources
  • Ways of recording and assessing impact and value
  • Implications for policy and future strategies

The programme will include a public lecture on the afternoon of the 12th December by Dr Mark O’Neill, Director for Policy and Research at Glasgow Life.

The symposium will also include an open evening dedicated to exploring the digital collections at the new state-of-the-art collections research facilities at Kelvin Hall, one of Glasgow’s iconic landmarks. Read more on Call: International Symposium on Evaluating Digital Cultural Resources (EDCR 2016)…

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Preserving experience: The virtual Holocaust survivor

[This story from The Guardian highlights one of, if not the, most important applications of presence-evoking technology, the preservation of individual and cultural history. The original version includes an additional image and a 0:51 minute video; also see “Holocaust Survivor Experiences Her Own Rescue in Virtual Reality“ (which includes a video) in TIME. –Matthew]

Hologram of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter

The virtual Holocaust survivor: How history gained new dimensions

Pinchas Gutter survived a Nazi death camp – and now his story will live on through a hologram that can answer your questions

Thomas McMullan
18 June 2016

Pinchas Gutter goes out of his way to find me biscuits. In a sun-baked living room in his north London home, he opens a packet of Rich Tea, sits down and tells me about the Holocaust.

Gutter was seven years old when the second world war broke out. He lived in the Warsaw ghetto for three and a half years, took part in its uprising, survived six Nazi concentration camps – including the Majdanek extermination camp – and lived through a death march across Germany to Theresienstadt in occupied Czechoslovakia.

“Remembrance is the secret of redemption, while forgetting leads to exile,” he says, quoting the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

“For me this whole thing is about not forgetting. Because if you forget, you repeat it over and over again. To me, the great importance of testimony is not to forget what people are capable of.” Sitting opposite him here in Hampstead, meeting his eyes and hearing his voice, the idea of forgetting this extraordinary story seems impossible.

One week later I am staring into Gutter’s eyes again. But these eyes are on a screen in the Alternate Realities strand of Sheffield’s international documentary festival. The version of Gutter projected on the monitor is a prototype for a responsive hologram that will be wheeled into classrooms, lecture halls and museums. The idea is that the audience asks questions and pre-recorded memories from Gutter will respond – much as if you’re talking to the real person. This virtual Gutter meets my gaze and tilts his head when I speak into the microphone.

The project, called New Dimensions in Testimony, was thought up by concept developer Heather Maio, and was made in a collaboration between the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and the Shoah Foundation – an organisation dedicated to making and archiving interviews with survivors and witnesses of genocide.

The prototype involved filming extensive interviews with Gutter using an array of cameras and a specialised light stage. The team at ICT then used natural language processing software to help create an interactive version of the video footage, with vocal cues triggering responses from the pool of recorded speech.

Complex algorithms dictate which responses are played back – faintly reminiscent of virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, except that while those pieces of software are primed to answer your questions about emails or the weather, New Dimensions in Testimony is based on communicating one man’s experience of genocide.

“We wanted the visitor to experience the discussion and what that means to them,” Maio tells me. “Not the technology that goes around it and makes it work. In fact, we didn’t want them to think there was technology around them at all.” Read more on Preserving experience: The virtual Holocaust survivor…

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