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Monthly Archives: June 2017

Call: Robophilosophy 2018 – Envisioning Robots in Society: Politics, Power, and Public Space

Call for Papers

International Research Conference
Envisioning Robots in Society – Politics, Power, and Public Space
Robophilosophy 2018 / TRANSOR 2018
February 14-17, 2018
University of Vienna, Austria

Deadline for submission of abstracts for papers and posters: Oct. 31, 2017
Deadline for submission of workshop and panel proposals: Sept. 15, 2017


Automation is the new key strategy for productivity gain—many countries are well on their way towards the production model of “industry 4.0” where software bot and robots will appear in all industrial sectors including service industries. The core driver of this disruption complex is robotics, producing ever more intelligent, ever more connectable artificial agents that function in ever more complex physical and social surroundings. This raises a host of complex questions for policy-makers, engineers, and researchers. Which socio-political, socio-cultural, economic, and ethical challenges will we humans be confronted with as robots will be included into more and more contexts of our everyday life? Are we bound to increase the precariat or will the ‘robot revolution’ open up new paths towards greater social justice?  How should we envision robots in society? The European Parliament has called for national ethical and legal councils to support decision making on the profound and comprehensive disruptions that automation will likely engender—“without stifling innovation” while keeping ethical and cultural values in view. This is a crucial signal to policy-makers that economic considerations alone must not prevail.  It is also an important signal to experts on cultural conditions and dynamics, i.e., researchers in philosophy and other Humanities, in the human and social sciences.

This is the time for researchers, policy makers, engineers, and corporations to realize that they jointly share the burden of responsibility for shaping the course of the ‘robot revolution’. The conference Robophilosophy 2018 – Envisioning Robots In Society: Politics, Power, And Public Space has three main aims; it shall:

  • present philosophical work and interdisciplinary Humanities research in and on social robotics that can inform policy making and political agendas, critically and constructively.
  • investigate how academia and the private sector can work hand in hand to assess benefits and risks of future production formats and employment conditions.
  • explore how research in the Humanities, including art and art research, in the social and human sciences, can contribute to imagining and envisioning the potentials of future social interactions in the public space.

Robophilosophy 2018 – Envisioning Robots In Society: Politics, Power, And Public Space is the third event in the biennial Robophilosophy Conference Series ( which facilitates robophilosophy, a new area of interdisciplinary applied research in philosophy, robotics, and other disciplines in the Humanities, social and human sciences.  The event with gather researchers, artists, representatives from politics, and actors of the private sector with the aim of creating constructive dialogue and concrete collaborations on the joint task of envisioning robots in human societies.


The conference will feature about 100 talks in plenaries, special panels and workshops, and parallel sessions of reviewed research papers. Read more on Call: Robophilosophy 2018 – Envisioning Robots in Society: Politics, Power, and Public Space…

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Digital humanities VR site takes you into poet John Ashbery’s home to understand his work

[This story from Yale News describes a project designed to evoke presence to help users better understand the poet John Ashbery and the inspiration for his work; for more information and the link to the website (when it launches July 1), see the project’s web page. –Matthew]

[Image: Award-winning poet John Ashbery stands outside his Victorian home in this screenshot taken from a new Digital Humanities Lab project. John Ashbery’s “Nest” takes visitors on a virtual tour inside of his house, and invites them to “walk” through the spaces that the poet inhabits to learn about the objects that have provided the inspiration for many of his works.]

New virtual reality site creates a ‘sonic collage’ of esteemed poet John Ashbery’s works

By Elizabeth Connolly Martell
June 29, 2017

In many of his poems, John Ashbery endeavors to create for his readers the feeling of home. A new Digital Humanities Lab project takes that one step further — by creating a website that takes visitors on a virtual tour inside Ashbery’s house, and invites them to “walk” through the spaces that the acclaimed poet inhabits and learn about the objects that have provided the inspiration for many of his award-winning works. Read more on Digital humanities VR site takes you into poet John Ashbery’s home to understand his work…

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Call: Researching Digital Cultural Heritage – International Conference

Call for papers

Researching Digital Cultural Heritage – International Conference
Manchester, UK
30 November – 1 December 2017

Organised by The University of Manchester and Newcastle University

Submission of proposals: 21 July 2017

Digital tools, approaches, platforms and experiences have become ubiquitous within cultural heritage research and practice. The diverse facets of heritage that lend themselves to both multi/interdisciplinary and focused disciplinary investigation have made heritage a fertile ground for an abundance of methodological explorations: analogue, digital and hybrid. More recently, a range of digitally mediated frameworks, methods and tools, such as data mining, crowdsourcing, social network analysis, visual analysis, sentiment analysis and research-through-design have been adopted in heritage research challenging, expanding, re-defining and re-imaging the questions, methodologies and analytical approaches we are able to tackle. Although the resurgence of digital approaches within heritage and museum studies triggered the creation of the term Digital (Cultural) Heritage in the late 1990s, the reciprocal relationship between digital research methodologies and heritage and how they interface and shape each other has attracted limited critical attention and interest so far. However, in other fields the convergence of digital and academic research has led to the emergence of new disciplinary areas such as Digital Anthropology (Horst and Miller, 2012) and Digital Sociology (Orton-Johnson and Prior, 2013), the articulation of new ways of practicing research, e.g. Digital Ethnography (Pink et al, 2016) and Netnography (Kozinets, 2009 and 2015) and the rise of the broader fields of Digital Culture and Digital Humanities.

In the face of rapid technological, political and cultural change, which continuously re-shapes our understanding of heritage, there is the need to critically reflect on how we capture and research cultural heritage that is continuously mediated and/or re/constituted digitally. What are the challenges and implications of this research and how does it impact on different notions of heritage? For example, the emergence of digital cultural heritage spaces, objects and practices has prompted discussions about digital materiality; highlighted the ambiguity of digitally-born content as cultural heritage; and propositioned social media platforms and gaming spaces as meaningful research environments for emerging heritage practices.

The capacity of the digital to be both the focus and the method of cultural heritage inquiry raises both methodological and ethical issues in designing, conducting and analysing research in digital cultural heritage. If digital cultural heritage is “a field in which we practice as much as we analyse”, to borrow a phrase from digital ethnography (Pink, Digital Ethnography, p. 6), what does this mean for the methods we use and what kind of new imaginaries of heritage research do these methods enable?

Researching Digital Cultural Heritage proposes a critical examination of established and emerging theoretical, methodological and analytical frameworks in researching cultural heritage spaces, objects, audiences and practices in the digital realm. This includes both the impact that digital media have in developing new research methodologies and frameworks of analysis of cultural heritage; and the practice of researching digitally mediated or digitally constituted heritage objects, spaces and interactions and the environments in which this research takes place.

The conference aims to bring together established and early career academics, students, practitioners and policy makers from fields as diverse as museology, heritage studies, digital humanities, social anthropology, sociology, geography, education, history, archaeology, material culture studies, design, communication studies, cultural studies, media studies and computer science, who are interested in reflecting critically on research practices in digital cultural heritage.

We invite proposals for 20 minute presentations that focus and critically reflect on theoretical, methodological, ethical, or analytical approaches in researching cultural heritage in the digital realm. Indicative themes include:

  • Current and emerging research design, methodologies, methods and tools in researching cultural heritage in the digital realm (e.g. digital ethnography, social network analysis, visual analysis, sentiment analysis, text mining, big data, data visualisation, digital archives, web and social media analytics)
  • Digitally enabled collaborative, participatory and reflexive approaches in cultural heritage design, research and practice
  • Ethical considerations and processes in researching digital cultural heritage
  • Researching digital materiality in cultural heritage
  • Researching social media and digital games as cultural heritage
  • Researching audiences in digital cultural heritage environments
  • Researching organisational strategies, structures, processes and workforce in digital cultural heritage
  • Digital/online cultural heritage spaces as research environments

Please download and complete the proposal template and email it to Read more on Call: Researching Digital Cultural Heritage – International Conference…

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A marketer considers the ethics of presence

[This thoughtful column by a marketer comes as Google has announced its first prototype of an ad format for virtual reality. The column is from Mumbrella and you can read about and see a demo of the VR ad on the Google Developers Blog. –Matthew]

It’s not long now until we’re playing God!

As marketers explore the potential of virtual and augmented reality worlds Shae Duncan asks whether enough thought has been given to the ethical aspects of the products, in a post which is part of the LinkedIn Agency Influencer program.

By Shae Duncan, a business executive at Society Social
June 29, 2017

“How many of the things that we have in our lives actually don’t need to be physical?” – Mark Zuckerberg, 2017

When we talk about the future of the marketing landscape, AR and VR are at the forefront of conversation. The future is bright for virtual worlds and with 2020 being only 30 months away, the future will be here before we know it. However with this revolutionary tech and the advertising ops that come with it, the question emerges; when does blurring the lines of reality become unethical and unsafe? Read more on A marketer considers the ethics of presence…

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Job: Post-doc position in Dialog Systems and Social Robotics

Postdoctoral position in Dialog systems and Social robotics
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, School of Computer Science and Communication
Stockholm, Sweden

Last application date: 31 August 2017


The work will be done in a newly funded project called “Exploring situated interaction with social robots using augmented reality”, lead by Assoc. Prof. Gabriel Skantze. The goal of the project is to explore how augmented reality can be used to create virtual robots that can interact with humans. A central question will be how social robots should engage in spoken interaction with humans in their surroundings, and how they can adapt their conversational behavior to the users’ level of attention and engagement.

The initial task will be to develop a framework using (for example) Microsoft HoloLens and our open source tools for conversational systems (IrisTK). This framework will then be used to record interaction data, and build machine learning models that can be used to understand the user’s behavior, as detected by the HoloLens sensors. Finally, the framework will be used for controlled experiments in which we will explore how the robot’s behavior and appearance affects the interact ion, and compare with physical robots.

The position is mainly a research position, with a small fraction of departmental duties (e.g. teaching). This postdoctoral position is a full-time employed position for one year with a possible one-year extension. The starting date is open for discussion, though ideally we would like the successful candidate to start as soon as possible.


Applicants should have a PhD degree in a subject relevant for the research, such as computer science, speech technology, computational linguistics, or cognitive science. The position requires good skills in programming, machine learning, and statistical analysis. Good command of English, in writing and speaking, is a prerequisite for presenting research results in international periodicals and at conferences. We also expect applicants to have a deep interest in spoken language interaction, and to have done their PhD in a related area. Read more on Job: Post-doc position in Dialog Systems and Social Robotics…

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How augmented reality will be used in the operating room

[It’s early days, but there’s great potential for the use of presence by surgeons. This story is from New Scientist and for more information see the press release from Cambridge Consultants and coverage in MIT Technology Review and Forbes. –Matthew]

Augmented reality goggles give surgeons X-ray vision

By Matt Reynolds
11 May 2017

Augmented reality could soon let surgeons peer inside a patient’s body without needing to make a large incision, helping them to carry out keyhole surgery.

By donning an augmented reality headset, a surgeon will see a virtual 3D map of a patient’s internal organs overlaid directly onto their body as they lie on an operating table. The system has been tested using data from people projected onto a surgical mannequin during simulated operations (see photo, above).

Surgeons could tag virtual organs with notes before an operation to help guide their procedure, says Simon Karger, who led the development of the tech at Cambridge Consultants in Boston, Massachusetts. A doctor might highlight a nerve bundle that should be avoided or label which part of an organ should be removed, for example.

Later versions of the system could include real-time feedback to help guide less experienced surgeons through complicated procedures, says Karger. “We can take these very complicated specialist procedures and make them accessible to far less specialist surgeons,” he says.

But Shafi Ahmed, a surgeon at Royal London Hospital who live-streamed an operation in virtual reality last year, thinks that no amount of help from augmented reality can replace the hands-on experience of a specialist surgeon. “We can’t trust these systems at the moment,” he says. But he believes they could be precursors to fully automated surgical systems. Read more on How augmented reality will be used in the operating room…

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Call: “What can Synthetic Biology offer to Artificial Intelligence? New frontiers” (SB-AI 2017) at ECAL 2017

Call for Abstracts

SB-AI 2017: What can Synthetic Biology offer to Artificial Intelligence? New frontiers
September, 4, 2017 – Lyon, France

Satellite Workshop at ECAL 2017 – The European Conference on Artificial Life
September, 4-8, 2017

Co-organized by
Luisa Damiano (University of Messina, Messina, Italy)
Yutetsu Kuruma (ELSI, Tokyo, Japan)
Pasquale Stano (University of Salento, Lecce, Italy)

Deadline for abstracts: July, 30 2017

Traditionally Artificial Intelligence (AI) research, broadly conceived as the study of intelligence through the construction of artificial models of natural cognitive systems, has been developed in the context of computer science and robotics. Today the emergence of Synthetic Biology (SB), conceived as the chemical synthesis of biological parts/systems/processes, allows the scientific community to extend AI research within the field of experimental biology.

The workshop aims at offering an interdisciplinary forum in which nascent programs involving cooperation between SB and AI in the exploration of biological and cognitive processes can be discussed in their groundings, their procedures, their possibilities and their limits, as well as enriched through scientific exchange of ideas.

The main focus will be double. On one side, we are interested on current and possible applications in AI research of the emerging SB front -line research, with a particular attention for bio-chemical based Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) founded on the convergence of biological, chemical, and physical approaches, often in combination with progresses in miniaturization like micro-fluidic devices and Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). On the other side, the workshop points to actual and possible approaches and research programs that involve AI in SB research.

Most of the participants will have a SB, AI, and/or bio-chem-ICT background, or come from scientific disciplines dealing with theoretical, epistemological and/or experimental issues related to the synthetic study of life and cognition. Our goal is to stimulate the interaction between applied and theoretical research, as well as epistemological reflection, and to support a front line in SB and AI focusing on (some of) these questions:

  • Can cognition be studied through the construction and exploration of synthetic biological systems and processes? In which conditions? More specifically: What can SB offer to AI?
  • Which are the groundings, procedures, possibilities, limits, expected results, and impacts of current and possible research programs involving SB in AI research? How AI will advance by encompassing SB and bio-chem-ICT approaches?
  • Can we nowadays plan concrete collaborations between computer science, robotics and SB in the scientific study natural forms of intelligence? How?
  • Are the emerging directions of research in AI (such as embodied AI, enactive AI, soft robotics, …) good candidate to cooperate with SB in the exploration of natural forms of cognition? Can SB contribute to the development of artificial forms of cognition (artificial cognitive systems which do not model natural cognitive systems)?

The workshop intends to bring together researchers interested in investigating one or more of these aspects of the (possible/actual) relationships between SB and AI. The aim is developing an interdisciplinary dialogue able to promote the reflected involvement of SB in AI, and to create an interdisciplinary community concretely developing research programs based on the cooperation of SB and AI, and all related domains and lines of research. Read more on Call: “What can Synthetic Biology offer to Artificial Intelligence? New frontiers” (SB-AI 2017) at ECAL 2017…

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New 3D display takes the eye fatigue out of virtual reality

[Eye fatigue is a barrier to effective presence experiences and the research described in this news release from the Optical Society of America suggests a possible solution that shifts the operation of displays to match how humans see. –Matthew]

[Image: The new display creates a 3D image using optical mapping. An OLED screen is divided into four subpanels that each create a 2D picture. The spatial multiplexing unit (SMU) shifts each of these images to different depths while aligning the centers of all of them with the viewing axis. Through the eyepiece, each image appears to be at different depth. Image Credit: Liang Gao, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]

New 3D Display Takes the Eye Fatigue Out of Virtual Reality

Innovative technology mimics the depth cues our eyes are accustomed to in the real-world

21 June 2017

WASHINGTON — There is a great deal of excitement around virtual reality (VR) headsets that display a computer-simulated world and augmented reality (AR) glasses that overlay computer-generated elements with the real world. Although AR and VR devices are starting to hit the market, they remain mostly a novelty because eye fatigue makes them uncomfortable to use for extended periods. A new type of 3D display could solve this long-standing problem by greatly improving the viewing comfort of these wearable devices.

“We want to replace currently used AR and VR optical display modules with our 3D display to get rid of eye fatigue problems,” said Liang Gao, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Our method could lead to a new generation of 3D displays that can be integrated into any type of AR glasses or VR headset.”

Gao and Wei Cui report their new optical mapping 3D display in The Optical Society (OSA) journal Optics Letters. Measuring only 1 x 2 inches, the new display module increases viewing comfort by producing depth cues that are perceived in much the same way we see depth in the real-world. Read more on New 3D display takes the eye fatigue out of virtual reality…

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Call: Ethics for New and Emerging Technologies: From Moral Intuitions to Ethical Theories

Call for Papers

Ethics for New and Emerging Technologies. From moral intuitions to ethical theories
Annals of the University of Bucharest – Philosophy Series

Submission deadline extended to 9th of July 2017

We invite paper submission for a special issue of the Annals of the University of Bucharest – Philosophy Series, to be published in the second part of 2017. The editors of this special issue are Julian Savulescu (University of Oxford) and Constantin Vică (University of Bucharest). The issue is entitled Ethics for New and Emerging Technologies. From moral intuitions to ethical theories.

It is often contended that our moral intuitions and dispositions dictate responses to new and emerging technologies. At the same time, there is a growing body of empirical findings that point out to the systematic errors of our moral intuitions. As a consequence, the methodology of moral reasoning and the reliability of our moral intuitions as solutions to ethical problems must come under scrutiny. This issue focuses on, but is not limited to, three fields of technological innovation which have generated intense controversy in the last decade: information and data technologies, neuro- and bio-enhancement, and robotic embedded Artificial Intelligence.

The special issue aims at addressing (not exclusively) some of the following questions:

  1. How can we deal with various and conflicting moral intuitions about new and emerging technologies? Is there a (principled) way to discriminate between them?
  2. Is it possible to select reliable moral intuitions? On what criteria do we assess reliability?
  3. Could our evolved moral intuitions about privacy, authenticity, security, ownership, and cooperation be a good starting point in generating satisfactory moral judgments under the radically new conditions of a highly technological world?
  4. Framing effects, biases, and the shift in external conditions of heuristics lead to systematic judgment errors. On the other hand, human practices are outlined by them. How could we escape from this conundrum?
  5. Are classical ethical theories, from virtue theory to utilitarianism and deontologism, still able to take into account the particularity of moral questions concerning emerging technologies?
  6. Could moral imagination exceed the limits of moral intuitions in designing valuable new technologies?
  7. Do we need new normative frameworks for emerging technologies? How should such frameworks inform public policies and governance of technologies?

These themes are only indicative and do not limit the scope of the expected research papers. We encourage submission based on experiments and empirical research. Theoretical and conceptual positions are also welcome. Read more on Call: Ethics for New and Emerging Technologies: From Moral Intuitions to Ethical Theories…

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VR and 3D-audio used to create ‘ghost orchestra’ at Cathedral of Notre Dame

[This press release from the Acoustical Society of America via EurekAlert! describes an intriguing project that integrates sophisticated visual and aural technologies to create a compelling place-based presence experience. For much more information including audio and video materials and a 15-slide presentation, see the project’s website. –Matthew]

Seeing with your ears

Novel acoustics project aims to improve virtual reality and explore ear shape effects on 3-D sound

Acoustical Society of America

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2017 — Paris’ Cathedral of Notre Dame has a ghost orchestra that is always performing, thanks to a sophisticated, multidisciplinary acoustics research project that will be presented during Acoustics ’17 Boston, the third joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the European Acoustics Association being held June 25-29, in Boston, Massachusetts.

In the project, computer models use recordings from a live concert held at the cathedral and detailed room acoustic simulations to produce a novel type of audience experience: a virtual recreation of the live performance using spatial audio and virtual reality. Read more on VR and 3D-audio used to create ‘ghost orchestra’ at Cathedral of Notre Dame…

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