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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Job: Research Assistant Professor for Immersive Environments at Virginia Tech

Research Assistant Professor for Immersive Environments
Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology
Virginia Tech University
Blacksburg, Virginia

Faculty Rank: Research Assistant Professor
Posting Number: SR0170329
Quick Link:

Employee Category: Research Faculty
If restricted or temporary, enter end date: Reviewed annually
Tenure Status: Non-Tenure Track
Academic Year or Calendar Year: Calendar Year
Percent Employment: Full-time
Pay Range: Commensurate with Experience

Job Posting Date: 08/18/2017
Review Begin Date: 09/11/2017


Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university, committed to teaching and learning, research, and outreach to the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world. Building on its motto of Ut Prosim (that I may serve), Virginia Tech is dedicated to InclusiveVT—serving in the spirit of community, diversity, and excellence. We seek candidates who adopt and practice the Principles of Community, which are fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion, and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members. Virginia Tech actively seeks a broad spectrum of candidates to join our community in preparing leaders for the world.


The Research Assistant Professor for Immersive Environments provides dynamic leadership for a growing body of programs in creative technologies and immersive environments within the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). This position leads and participates in immersive and augmented reality environment research teams as full-scale project manager, collaborative contributor, and/or facility technical support. Using Maya, Zbrush, Unity, After Effects, Unreal Engine, Max/MSP, Autopano Video, and other emerging applications, the immersive environments specialist conducts research intended to use and advance ICAT’s world-leading immersive environment facilities, produces content for use in a variety of virtual and augmented reality applications, assumes limited instructional responsibilities, and produces peer-reviewed papers and technical documentation. Read more on Job: Research Assistant Professor for Immersive Environments at Virginia Tech…

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Why Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will soon mean the same thing

[Precise and explicit definitions are essential for scholars (a quest close to my heart when it comes to presence). Especially in the last decade the evolution of the technologies that evoke presence has raised challenges for defining the nature and categories of the technologies and even for defining and measuring presence (e.g., many questionnaire items don’t apply well to augmented reality). This column from Computerworld outlines the situation and argues that despite the important distinctions, soon the technologies will all be commonly known as “virtual reality.” The original version of the column includes a second image and a 4:28 minute video. –Matthew]

Why Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are the same thing

People are already confused about virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), 360-degree video and heads-up displays. It will get worse before it gets better.

By Mike Elgan, Contributing Columnist, Computerworld
August 5, 2017

Words matter. And as a stickler for accuracy in language that describes technology, it pains me to write this column.

I hesitate to expose the truth, because the public is already confused about virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), 360-degree video and heads-up displays. But facts are facts. And the fact is that the technology itself undermines clarity in language to describe it.

Before we get to my grand thesis, let’s kill a few myths. Read more on Why Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will soon mean the same thing…

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Call: Chapters for “Research Games: Using Game Design Elements as an Inspiration for HCI Research Methods”

Call for contributions on an edited book on
Research Games: Using Game Design Elements as an Inspiration for HCI Research Methods

Chapter proposal deadline: 1st September 2017

In recent years, games have increasingly received attention as a source of inspiration for areas outside of games and play itself. After a successful workshop at CHI 2016 we are preparing an edited book in the Springer Human-Computer Interaction Series explicitly aiming to reveal bridging concepts and presenting methods for introducing the application of game elements and game design principles to research in the field of HCI. This Book will focus on how game design elements can be used to improve HCI research and how such elements can become part of the different phases in human-centered and participatory design. The book will focus on both, complete ‘research games’ and on the use of single game design elements in research.

We hope to encourage game designers, HCI researchers, and practitioners to contribute with their work to the suggested topics (but not limited) below:

Theoretical reflections and positions:

  • Applying existing game models to ‘research games’
  • Critical reflections on research games
  • Bridging concepts: classical game design concepts that could be relevant for research games
  • Positioning ‘research games’ within various research and design fields, such as, HCI, HCD, or PD, (e.g. in relation to serious games, design games, participatory design games, playful interactions)
  • Literature review: map which existing game design elements are relevant for research games

Case studies and application domains:

  • Examples of game-based HCI methods
  • The use of game design elements in very diverse HCI phases and/or domains
  • Lessons Learned, both positive and negative

Methodological Approaches of using research games:

  • Focus on games as a research method: which game elements worked well in research and which didn’t?
  • Design process of research games
  • Added value of research games compared to existing HCD methods → how to compare, which criteria?
  • How complete or open-ended should a research game be? When do we still talk about a research game?

SUBMITTING YOUR CHAPTER PROPOSAL: Read more on Call: Chapters for “Research Games: Using Game Design Elements as an Inspiration for HCI Research Methods”…

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More presence coming to the dining experience

[This story from the Irish Independent describes several ways presence experiences are becoming more common at restaurants; the original version includes two more pictures and for more information check out the websites of Shanghai’s Ultraviolet and Ibiza’s Sublimotion. –Matthew]

[Image: Sea food: Diners at Shanghai’s Ultraviolet restaurant take in an underwater experience. Photo: Scott Wright of Limelight Studio]

Out for a byte: dining is now a feast for all senses

Technology à la carte will whisk you away to a Tuscan garden while kitchen robots flip your burgers. Sue Quinn savours the thought

June 7 2017

Have a taste of this: you fancy going out for dinner, so you ask your voice-activated reservations device to recommend a restaurant based on your culinary tastes and budget. When you walk through the restaurant door, staff instantly recognise your face, recall your name and remember it’s your birthday, along with your favourite drink and the most appropriate food for your genetic profile.

You sit down at your interactive smart table and an iBeacon triggers a menu to appear – a virtual buffet that you tap to order. While a kitchen robot chops your salad and flips your burgers, you strap on a headset that whisks you to a virtual world: should you eat your meal underwater or in a sun-drenched Tuscan garden?

Forget about catching the eye of a server – Kinect sensors pick up hand gestures that send a request for more wine. And when you’ve finished eating, there’s no waiting for the bill: you get up and leave, automatically paying for your meal with your phone.

Futuristic fantasy? Not at all, say the experts designing tomorrow’s restaurants. Almost all the technology in this scenario is now being developed and could soon be headed to a restaurant near you. Read more on More presence coming to the dining experience…

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Call: International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Information

Call for Abstracts

International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Information
University of Porto (Portugal)
December 5-7, 2017

Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2017

Dear all,

Proposals are welcome for the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Information, which will be held at the Faculty of Arts, University of Porto (Portugal) on December 5, 6 and 7, 2017. The official language is English.

Graduate students, junior researchers and senior scholars are welcome to submit their work.


  • Professor Luciano Floridi (University of Oxford)
  • Professor Estela Bicho (University of Minho)
  • Professor Eugénio Oliveira (University of Porto)
  • Professor Luis Moniz Pereira (University of Lisbon)


We invite submission for a 30 minute presentation (followed by 10 minute discussion).

The following tracks are available:

Track A: Human-Technology Interfaces

  • History and Philosophy of Brain-Computer Interfaces;
  • Conceptual issues (what is and what is not a BCI);
  • Neural prostheses, neurochips and neural interfaces;
  • Brain-Machine interfaces and its applications;
  • Invasive, Partially Invasive and Non-invasive BCIs;
  • Electronic neural networks and brain-to-brain interfaces;
  • Future directions and challenges;

Track B: Philosophy and Ethics of Information

  • Conceptual nature and basic principles of information;
  • Unified theory of information and logical theories of information;
  • The symbol-grounding problem and the gettier problem;
  • the 4th Revolution: the impacts of ICTs and the infosphere;
  • The Design of Internet Architecture and Human Rights;
  • The Ethics of Big Data and Cloud Computing: the Right to be forgotten;
  • Theoretical Foundations of Computer Ethics;

Track C: Artificial Intelligence

  • History and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence;
  • Artificial General Intelligence and Friendly AI;
  • Artificial neural network models;
  • Computational Theories of Mind versus Biological Theories of Mind;
  • Weak AI, Strong AI and Skepticism;
  • Logic versus Anti-Logic approaches to AI;
  • Embodied, Enactive, Extended and Embedded approaches to AI;
  • Machine Learning and Quantum Computation;
  • Robots replacing humans (Moley robotics, Everwin Precision Technology, Da Vinci (surgery), Humanoid robots, Robot sex, Nursing, Health Care, Law, etc.);

Track D: General Ethical Considerations

  • The Consequences of BCI technology, the side-effects and alteration of personhood;
  • Blurring of the division between human and machine;
  • Therapeutic applications and their possible exceedance (human enhancement), mind-reading and privacy, mind-control, use of technology by governmental authorities;
  • Animal welfare and experimentation;
  • Risks of an uncontrolled AI development (the Control Problem, Robots of War, Virtual Reality Torture, etc);
  • Existential Risks (Hawking, Musk, Bostrom, Gates);

Track E: Transhumanism

  • Whole Brain Emulation (mind-uploading) and life extension technology (digital immortality);
  • Moore’s Law, computer power and technological singularity;
  • Brain simulation and reverse-engineering;
  • The problem of Personal Identity (Ship of Theseus) and survival;
  • The enhanced carnality of Post-Biological Life and Neurobotics;
  • Superintelligences, Virtual Reality and Natural Cyborgs;

Track F: Ethics and Law of Artificial Agents

  • Artificial Agency and Moral Status of robots;
  • Ethical and Moral Considerations in Non-Human Agents;
  • Programming Machine Ethics;
  • Robots, AI Revolution and Unemployment;
  • Political, legal and ethical consequences of non-human agents;

Track G: Open Track (other topics)

  • The Imaginary of Artificial Intelligence in the Arts (film, series, literature, etc);
  • Dystopian narratives, privacy and freedom of speech;
  • Robotic Art;
  • Other topics related with Artificial Intelligence and Information.

An extended abstract of approximately 250-500 words should be prepared for blind review and include a cover page with full name, institution, contact information and short bio. Files should be submitted in doc(x) word. Read more on Call: International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Information…

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Finally: An augmented reality app that injects the internet into real life

[As this story from Wired notes, in the possibly-near future a virtual layer of experience will become overlaid on and intertwined with our nonmediated world, with lots of potential uses and impacts. The new Mirage app is an early step toward that future. –Matthew]

Finally: An Augmented Reality App that Injects the Internet into Real Life

Peter Rubin
August 8, 2017

When Ryan Staake and Patrick Piemonte first worked together, they helped you get around: Both were interface designers at Apple, with Piemonte working specifically on the iPhone’s map technology. Now, nearly a decade later, the two are working together again—but this time, instead of helping you get around, they want to use the power of augmented reality to appreciate the hidden things around you.

That’s the idea behind Mirage, an iOS app the duo and a small team just released. It’s not the first AR app available in the App Store, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it may well be the only one to marry augmented reality’s hidden-world appeal with social media’s shareable, re-mixable content. And in doing so, it’s making AR not simply a technology of curiosity, but one of connection.

In case you’ve been at a three-month silent retreat, you’ve likely heard something about how certain tech titans are charging toward AR—and using your phone’s camera to get there. Both Facebook and Apple have introduced developer platforms that allow people to integrate AR effects into apps. However, while early experiments have been encouraging, especially those using Apple’s ARKit, they’re essentially built around simulations that bridge some sort of experience gap: What does that bulgogi bowl look like in real life? Could my yard handle a SpaceX Falcon 9 landing? How many cats fit in my office? Whether they’re useful or fantastic, they feel very much like sealed products. You fire it up, see the thing you need to see, and … well, that’s it.

Mirage, for its part, is even less useful than a floating tic-tac-toe game. But that’s the idea. It’s not a service or a simulation or a product—it’s a palette. The whole point, as Staake says, is for people “to communicate through the real world.” Read more on Finally: An augmented reality app that injects the internet into real life…

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Call: Emotional Machines: Perspectives from Affective Computing and Emotional Human-Machine Interaction (interdisciplinary conference)

Interdisciplinary Conference:
Emotional Machines. Perspectives from Affective Computing and Emotional Human-Machine Interaction
September 21-22, 2017 at the Institute of Philosophy, University of Stuttgart, Germany

Free with registration

Humans have emotions, machines do not. This seems to be a truism: Human beings are made of flesh and blood; they do not just act rationally but impulsively and emotionally. They make decisions, feel attracted to objects or subjects or repelled by them. They mourn others, are in a good mood or suffer from depression. But what about machines? At first glance machines and emotions seem to be at odds with each other. We program machines and they calculate without any emotions. However, if we take a closer look, things are not so clear: machines are today able to recognize and react to emotions, and according to their designers some even possess emotions.

Interdisciplinary research on emotions in machines has been divided until now in two branches of research which have so far been largely unrelated: affective computing and emotional human-machine interaction. By associating these two branches and by combining technological perspectives with the humanities and social sciences, we hope to provide a forum for research on machines that are supposed to be equipped with emotions and/or are capable of interacting emotionally with humans.

The aim of this conference is to bring together international top researchers who work on emotional machines from different disciplines to discuss questions related to the topic from various perspectives, for instance:

  • Can machines have emotions?
  • How do machines elicit emotions?
  • How do humans react to emotional machines?
  • Do we need emotional machines?
  • How to design an emotional machine?
  • How do people interact with emotional machines?
  • How do the arts approach this topic?
  • What purposes may emotional machines serve?
  • What is possible from a technical point of view?
  • Which ethical considerations are indispensable?

Read more on Call: Emotional Machines: Perspectives from Affective Computing and Emotional Human-Machine Interaction (interdisciplinary conference)…

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Beyond virtual reality: Synthetic reality and our co-created futures

[This big picture perspective on the future of mediated experience from Forbes makes a compelling case that today’s technologies are leading us toward what has only been considered in science fiction, raising some of the same intriguing philosophical questions about the nature of humans and how we would use or misuse such technologies. –Matthew]

[Image: A picture taken on June 8, 2016 in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles shows ‘Waterfall’ installation by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. The spectacular installation cascades into the Grand Canal of the famous royal gardens outside Paris. Eliasson created eight works for the palace built by ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV, the most absolute of France’s absolute monarchs.  (Photo credit: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images)]

Beyond Virtual Reality: Synthetic Reality And Our Co-Created Futures

Robert C. Wolcott, Contributor – I explore business, leadership and humanity in our technological age.
August 18, 2017

Louis XIV of France, the quintessential absolute monarch, demanded that the extensive water features of his beloved Versailles palace grounds remain constantly in operation.  His minister of finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert, recognized this would be financially ruinous. To satisfy the king’s demand, the Versailles staff constantly tracked his whereabouts, ensuring that all of the fountains he could see would be in operation, leaving the rest dormant but ready.

Louis’s agents were creating a ‘virtual’ reality responsive to his desires. As far as the Sun King knew, his fountains were always on. Technology later this century will enable each of us to command our realities in a similar fashion— or for others to create our realities on our behalf.

Many people perceive virtual reality (VR) as a sort of video game: an environment constructed by programmers in which the user is simply a participant. As VR matures, users will become increasingly engaged in co-creation. Platforms like Minecraft already offer this, where users create their own virtual worlds and interact with others within them. The experience will become far more comprehensive and customized.

Beyond ‘Virtual’ Realities

Later this century, virtual environments may become experienced comprehensively as new versions of reality, as we have explored in past articles in Forbes and HuffPost. The only way you will know they are virtual (i.e. not the “default world”) is that you will know they are so, similar to how dreams feel real while dreamt.

As computational systems become more capable of deciphering and anticipating human preferences, such systems could generate customized environments in real-time with less conscious input from users. Eventually such systems may not require conscious input to capture and respond to shifting user preferences, though user intervention might still remain an option.

The notion of ‘virtual’ fails to accurately describe such a world. Even the terms ‘augmented reality’ and ‘mixed reality’ reflect neither the permutations that may evolve, nor the manners of their construction. We propose a new moniker to describe where we’re heading: synthetic reality. Such systems will synthesize our will and preferences, whether or not consciously provided, into new, ever-evolving realities.

VR experiences are always co-created to some extent, between the pre-defined capabilities and rules of the environment and the cognitive boundaries of users. As this process becomes more organic, arising from interactions between human and AI systems, and dynamic, potentially based on the preferences of multiple systems and actors in a given environment, new realities will synthesize, evolve and proliferate. Ones not bounded by our imagination or perception of our current default world’s limitations. Again, dreams offer a good analogy– where our default world’s rules can be bent and our mind accepts such conditions as reality. Read more on Beyond virtual reality: Synthetic reality and our co-created futures…

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Call: Design for Health

Call for Papers: Design for Health

Design for Health is an international refereed journal covering all aspects of design in the context of health and wellbeing. The Journal is published twice a year and provides a forum for design and health scholars, design professionals, health-care practitioners, educators and managers worldwide.

Design for Health is affiliated with the Design4Health conference, established in 2011.

The Journal aims to publish thought provoking work based on rigorous research. It invites high quality, original submissions that make a contribution to knowledge and practice in the context of the design of health products, services and interventions that promote dignity and enhance quality of life. It adopts the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as the ‘state of complete physical and mental wellbeing and not only the absence of disease’ (1948).

The Journal publishes work which utilizes design and creative practices as methods and tools within research to engage people to understand problems, and visualize new possibilities and future scenarios. Read more on Call: Design for Health…

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Ethical, practical challenges of VR-AR-AI-IoT blurring the lines between physical and virtual reality

[Presence scholars should lead the way in making sure everyone involved considers and addresses the challenges created by evolving technologies, as highlighted in this column from Futurism. –Matthew]

[Image: “Reality is An Illusion” by Louis Dyer via Deviant Art]

Will AI Blur the Lines Between Physical and Virtual Reality?

By Jay Iorio, Innovation Director for the IEEE Standards Association
August 15, 2017

The Notion of Reality

As technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), big data, 5G, and the internet of things (IoT) advance over the next generation, they will reinforce and spur one another. One plausible scenario is a physical world so enhanced by personalized, AI-curated digital content (experienced with what we today call augmented reality) that the very notion of reality is called into question.

Immersion can change how we interact with content in fundamental ways. For example, a fully immersive AR environment of the future, achieved with a wide-field-of-view headset and full of live content integrated with the built environment, would be intended by design to create in the user an illusion that everything being sensed was “real.” The evolution toward this kind of environment raises a host of ethical questions, specifically with attention to the AI that would underlie such an intelligent and compelling illusion.

When watching a movie, the viewer is physically separated from the illusion. The screen is framed, explicitly distinct from the viewer. The frame is a part of traditional art forms; from the book to the painting to the skyscraper, each is explicitly separated from the audience. It is bounded and physically defined.

But with digital eyewear, things change. Digital eyewear moves the distance of digital mediation from the screen (approximately 20 feet) to the human face, which is at zero distance, and almost eliminates the frame. It starts raising inevitable questions about what constitutes “reality” when much of one’s sensory input is superimposed on the physical world by AI. At that stage of the technology’s evolution, one could still simply opt out by removing the eyewear. Although almost indistinguishable from the physical world, that near-future world would still be clinging precariously to the human face.

The next step would be moving the source of the digital illusion into the human body – a distance of less than zero – through contact lenses, implants, and ultimately direct communication. At that point, the frame is long gone. The digital source commandeers the senses, and it becomes very hard to argue that the digital content isn’t as “real” as a building on the corner – which, frankly, could be an illusion itself in such an environment. Enthusiasts will probably argue that our perception is already an electrochemical illusion, and implants merely enhance our natural selves. In any case, opting out would become impractical at best. This is the stage of the technology that will raise practical questions we have never had to address before. Read more on Ethical, practical challenges of VR-AR-AI-IoT blurring the lines between physical and virtual reality…

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