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Monthly Archives: August 2017

Call: Parallel Worlds: Designing Alternative Realities in Videogames

Parallel Worlds: Designing Alternative Realities in Videogames
Saturday 30 September 2017
Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Building on the sell-out success of last year’s Parallel Worlds Videogame Design conference at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, we’re excited to announce our follow up event, providing a critical and cultural platform to discuss one of the most important fields in contemporary design.

Read more on Call: Parallel Worlds: Designing Alternative Realities in Videogames…

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Understanding children’s relationships with social robots

[This post from the MIT Media Lab website (it also appears in Medium and IEEE Spectrum) is a first-person report on a program of research that examines children’s social (medium-as-social-actor presence) responses to robots; I think it’s a model for how to introduce a wider audience to these ideas (e.g., I plan to assign and discuss it in undergraduate courses). The original version includes several more pictures and a video. –Matthew]

[Image: A child listens to DragonBot tell a story during one of our research studies. Credit: Personal Robots Group]

Making new (robot) friends

Understanding children’s relationships with social robots

by Jacqueline M. Kory Westlund

Hi, my name is Mox!

This story begins in 2013, in a preschool in Boston, where I hide, with laptop, headphones, and microphone, in a little kitchenette. Ethernet cables trail across the hall to the classroom, where 17 children eagerly await their turn to talk to a small fluffy robot.

“Hi, my name is Mox! I’m very happy to meet you.”

The pitch of my voice is shifted up and sent over the somewhat laggy network. My words, played by the speakers of Mox the robot and picked up by its microphone, echo back with a two-second delay into my headphones. It’s tricky to speak at the right pace, ignoring my own voice bouncing back, but I get into the swing of it pretty quickly.

We’re running show-and-tell at the preschool on this day. It’s one of our pilot tests before we embark on an upcoming experimental study. The children take turns telling the robot about their favorite animals. The robot (with my voice) replies with an interesting fact about each animal, Did you know that capybaras are the largest rodents on the planet?” (Yes, one five-year-old’s favorite animal is a capybara.) Later, we share how the robot is made and talk about motors, batteries, and 3D printers. We show them the teleoperation interface for remote-controlling the robot. All the kids try their hand at triggering the robot’s facial expressions.

Then one kid asks if he can teach the robot how to make a paper airplane.

We’d just told them all how the robot was controlled by a human. I ask: Does he want to teach me how to make a paper airplane?

No, the robot, he says.

Somehow, there was a disconnect between what he had just learned about the robot and the robot’s human operator, and the character that he perceived the robot to be.

Relationships with robots?

In the years since that playtest, I’ve watched several hundred children interact with both teleoperated and autonomous robots. The children talk with the robots. They laugh. They give hugs, drawings, and paper airplanes. One child even invited the robot to his preschool’s end-of-year picnic.

Mostly, though, I’ve seen kids treat the robots as social beings. But not quite like how they treat people. And not quite like how they treat pets, plants, or computers.

These interactions were clues: There’s something interesting going on here. Children ascribed physical attributes to robots—they can move, they can see, they can feel tickles—but also mental attributes: thinking, feeling sad, wanting companionship. A robot could break, yes, and it is made by a person, yes, but it can be interested in things. It can like stories; it can be nice. Maybe, as one child suggested, if it were sad, it would feel better if we gave it ice cream.

Although our research robots aren’t commercially available, investigating how children understand robots isn’t merely an academic exercise. Many smart technologies are joining us in our homes: Roomba, Jibo, Alexa, Google Home, Kuri, Zenbo…the list goes on. Robots and AI are here, in our everyday lives.

We ought to ask ourselves, what kinds of relationships do we want to have with them? Because, as we saw with the children in our studies, we will form relationships with them. Read more on Understanding children’s relationships with social robots…

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Call: Philosophy and the Moving Image (book chapters)

Call for Chapters: Collective Book

Editors: Chris Rawls (Roger Williams University), Diana Neiva (University of Porto) and Steven S. Gouveia (University of Minho)

Preface: Professor Thomas E. Wartenberg (Mount Holyoke College)

Submission deadline: November 13, 2017

Topics and issues of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • Classical and contemporary film theory (formalist, psychoanalytic, feminist, cognitive, structuralist, etc.)
  • Definitions of cinema (essencialist – e.g. medium specificity – and nonessentialist)
  • Philosophical themes in film (ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, epistemology, etc.)
  • Genre(s) (the issues on film genres, avant-garde, documentary, pornography, horror, drama, etc.)
  • Specific films (interpretations, influences, presented philosophy, etc.)
  • Sex and gender issues (feminist and queer film, the image of women in movies, etc.)
  • Issues on narrative, spectatorship, authorship, etc.
  • Authors on philosophy and film (Arnheim, Carroll, Wartenberg, Mulvey, Bordwell, Deleuze, etc.)
  • Cinema and other arts (film and music, film and photography, film and architecture, etc.)
  • Filmmakers (Bergman, Tarkovsky, Chaplin, Eisenstein, Carpenter, Kubrick, etc.)
  • Video games and other forms of digital media
  • Other issues and relations between philosophy and film

We encourage people from various backgrounds to submit the proposal for we support a multidisciplinary dialogue. We also strongly encourage submissions any under-represented groups! Read more on Call: Philosophy and the Moving Image (book chapters)…

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Google’s presence experiment: VR vs. video to train people to make espresso

[This post from Google’s blog reports on interesting results and lessons learned from an experiment in presence. The original includes more images; for more information see coverage in Daily Coffee News. –Matthew]

Daydream Labs: Teaching Skills in VR

Ian MacGillivray, Software Engineer
July 20, 2017

You can read every recipe, but to really learn how to cook, you need time in the kitchen. Wouldn’t it be great if you could slip on a VR headset and have a famous chef walk you through the basics step by step? In the future, you might be able to learn how to cook a delicious five-course meal—all in VR. In fact, virtual reality could help people learn all kinds of skills.

At Daydream Labs, we tried to better understand how interactive learning might work in VR. So we set up an experiment, which aimed at teaching coffee making. We built a training prototype featuring a 3D model of an espresso machine which reacts like a real one would when you press the buttons, turn the knobs or drop the milk. We also added a detailed tutorial. Then, we tasked one group of people to learn how to pull espresso shots by doing it in VR. (At the end, we gave people a detailed report on how they’d done, including an analysis of the quality of their coffee.) For the purpose of comparison, another group learned by watching YouTube videos. Both groups were able to train for as long as they liked before trying to make a coffee in the real world; people assigned to watch the YouTube tutorial normally did so three times, and people who took the VR training normally went through it twice.

We were excited to find out that people learned faster and better in VR. Both the number of mistakes made and the time to complete an espresso were significantly lower for those trained in VR (although, in fairness, our tasting panel wasn’t terribly impressed with the espressos made by either group!) It’s impossible to tell from one experiment, of course, but these early results are promising. We also learned a lot of about how to design future experiments. Here’s a glimpse at some of those insights. Read more on Google’s presence experiment: VR vs. video to train people to make espresso…

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Call: TVX 2018 – ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video

Call for Papers

ACM TVX 2018: The ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video
Theme: ‘Immersive Media Experiences’
26 – 28 June
Seoul, Republic of Korea

Workshops proposals – 30 Nov. 2017
Full & Short Papers proposals – 2 Feb. 2018

The ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video (ACM TVX) is the leading international conference for presentation and discussion of research into online video and TV interaction and user experience. The conference brings together international researchers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines, ranging from human-computer interaction, multimedia engineering and design to media studies, VR/AR Technologies, media psychology, media artists, and sociology.

ACM TVX 2014 was held in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, TVX 2015 in Brussels, Belgium, TVX 2016 in Chicago, USA, TVX 2017 in Hilversum, The Netherlands. Next year TVX 2018 comes to Seoul, Republic of Korea for the first time in ASIA. All members of TVX look out the opportunity to build up a strong companion research community with Asian researchers and students.

Next year’s theme is ‘Immersive Media Experiences’   and we particularly welcome contributions that look into specific tools, methods and evaluation of experiences related to creating and enabling high-resolution VR media content consumption. The following topics are interested to be covered in the conference, but are not limited to: Read more on Call: TVX 2018 – ACM International Conference on Interactive Experiences for TV and Online Video…

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“Be there” for the August 21 total solar eclipse via 4K and VR

[This story from 4K describes options for experiencing next week’s total solar eclipse via technology. The CNN press release notes that “While only a fraction of the country will be able to witness the total eclipse in-person, CNN’s immersive livestream will enable viewers nationwide to ‘go there’ virtually and experience a moment in history, seven times over.” For more information about all aspects of the eclipse see coverage on the NASA website. –Matthew]

Where to Watch The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse In Full 4K And Virtual Reality

by Stephen on August 14, 2017

Although not even the best 4K OLED or QLED TVs on the market will beat experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse live and in-person with your own eyes (while using special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers), for those who can’t get a true naked-eye view of the upcoming fantastic astronomical event, there’s CNN. In partnership with Volvo, CNN will be broadcasting 2017’s Total Solar Eclipse of North America on August 21, and you’ll be able to watch it on your 4K resolution TV/Monitor or in immersive 360-degree virtual reality using a VR head-set.

The broadcast will be available all around the world in 4K resolution at, or in 4K and other available resolutions and formats through CNN’s mobile apps, Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus via Samsung VR, Oculus Rift via Oculus Video and through CNN’s Facebook page via Facebook Live 360.

According to CNN, the livestream will be enhanced by real-time graphics, close-up views of the sun, and the running commentary of experts from the science community. Four cameras will be spaced across the United States in four different locations: Snake River Valley, Idaho; Beatrice, Nebraska; Blackwell, Missouri; and Charleston, South Carolina. Each camera will be shooting 4K video shot of the total eclipse’s path.

Other sites like NASA, The Weather Channel, National Geographic and will be also broadcasting the natural event through their main websites and Facebook pages, presumably in 4K as well at least for NASA, which has a regular habit of shooting astronomical events in ultra HD for public consumption. Read more on “Be there” for the August 21 total solar eclipse via 4K and VR…

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Call: “Image Evolution: Technological Transformations of Visual Media Culture” for Yearbook of Moving Image Studies

Call for Abstracts/Articles

Yearbook of Moving Image Studies (YoMIS):
Image Evolution. Technological Transformations of Visual Media Culture

Deadline for Abstracts: November 5, 2017
Deadline for Articles: May 27, 2018

The double-blind peer-reviewed Yearbook of Moving Image Studies (YoMIS) is now accepting abstracts from scientists, scholars, artists, film makers, game designers or developers for the fourth issue entitled »Image Evolution. Technological Transformations of Visual Media Culture«. YoMIS will be enriched by disciplines like media and film studies, image science, (film)philosophy, phenomenology, semiotics, design and fine arts, art and media history, game studies and other research areas related to static, moving and digital images in general.

The history of images can be described as a history of technology and mediality, because material transformations have always had a great impact on form, structure or content of mediatized and often multimodal representations. It took many years from the origin of images in the caves of our prehistoric ancestors to the interactive, arithmetic and highly immersive images of the digital age. This development always seemed to be deeply rooted in the potentials of media technologies and the numerous human inventions in the range of traditional craftsmanship, engineering science, computer science, and art and design. This perspective is the beginning of an autonomous media theory, whether if it starts with leading thinkers like Walter Benjamin or Marshal McLuhan. Nowadays, these academic discourses would surely work with more profound and more detailed analytical tools and concepts. But also a modern media theory that analyzes describes and characterizes technological transformations surely receives new insights. The factual embedding of images in the historical-technological processes constitutes a complex structure of an autonomous »Image Evolution« that must be highlighted, characterized and analyzed by the interdisciplinary academic discourses that are related to the functions and structures of visuality, pictoriality and forms of multi-sensoric representations. The chosen term »Evolution« is deliberately indicating structural laws that underlie historical events. These laws are not teleological or ontological driven, but more intentional and logical processes of an historical and technological interdependency. In this interdependency, the technology is evolving out of its inherent structures and additionally embedded in anthropological conditions and sociocultural dynamics. In this context, we should work with the concept of an »Image Evolution«. The editors of YoMIS would like to understand images as visual, and further multi-sensoric, artifacts that are historically and technologically embedded within the ‘developments’ and ‘relations’ of materiality, mediality and reception. Beside the integration of this different aspects the issue is also expanding the time frame of the research topic: The development of mediality is not only a project for media historiographies in the context of a media archaeology, but also connected with the logic of recent developments in the context of prototypes, future ideas and innovations.

Topics of submissions should focus on (but are not necessarily limited to) the materiality and technology of images and media, the academic approaches on the history and logic of image evolution and media developments, the processes of creating or programming digital images, and the material and technological effects on the reception of dynamic representations, the multi-sensoriality of static, moving and digital images, which goes beyond pure visuality, and a specific focus on the historical, cultural and transformational impact of prototypes, prototype research and future innovations. Read more on Call: “Image Evolution: Technological Transformations of Visual Media Culture” for Yearbook of Moving Image Studies…

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Designing robots to account for intriguing ways humans interact with them

[This story from CNBC highlights the need for robot designers to carefully consider the range of responses, including medium-as-social-actor presence responses, their creations will evoke. For more on this topic see the recent story in Psychology Today’s blog “How do We Read Emotions in Robots? Of social robots, innovation spaces, and creatively trying things out.” –Matthew]

Next-gen robots: The latest victims of workplace abuse

  • Robots must contend not just with internal flaws and bugs but with humans.
  • Recent introductions of robots to everyday scenarios have led people to initiate some intriguing forms of interaction.
  • Knightscope’s security bot, for example, has been harassed by kids, painted in red lipstick and used as a canvas for graffiti artists.

Mike Juang
Published 9 Aug 2017 | Updated 11 Aug 2017

With jobs it’s oftentimes not the work that’s difficult, but the people.

Take STEVE, for instance. Throughout his career his brothers have been knocked over by drunkards, bullied by schoolkids and even sprayed with graffiti.

But STEVE is not a person. He is an autonomous security robot resembling a cross between a rocket ship and R2D2 and is officially called the K5 Security Technology Enhancement Vehicle — STEVE, for short.

Hiccups, bugs and public failures are an inevitable part of the deployment of any tool in the real world, but robots must also be designed to account for sometimes unpredictable human interactions.

“Social robots, if they’re engaged in a public sense — even in a limited public sense — the design has to include considerations for social interactions,” said David Harris Smith, associate professor at McMaster University’s Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia in Canada.

Smith knows this firsthand. Together with associate professor Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University in Canada — and a cadre of other scientists, artists and engineers — he developed HitchBOT, a robot designed to travel across a country by “hitching” a ride from friendly humans. Completely immobile, HitchBOT was designed with an LED “face,” a hitchhiking thumb and the ability to respond to simple voice questions. Creator Frauke Zeller said she wanted to create the impression that HitchBOT “is a helpless robot and challenge people to become active and engaged.”

The HitchBOT experiment came to an end after the bot was found dismembered and destroyed in a Philadelphia alley. With the dawn of the everyday robot age, destruction is a necessary part of creation.

“In terms of designing these robots, we have to take a step back and have people decide,” said Zeller. The key question is how — or if — we actually want to live with robots in our midst. Read more on Designing robots to account for intriguing ways humans interact with them…

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Jobs: Multiple positions in HCI at the University of Bremen, Germany

Multiple Job Openings in HCI at the University of Bremen, Germany

[Application deadlines: Immediate]

The Digital Media lab ( and the HCI lab ( at the University of Bremen ( ) (department heads: Rainer Malaka and Johannes Schöning) have multiple job openings for researchers, PhD students and Postdocs in the areas of:

  • HCI
  • Novel Interfaces
  • Entertaining Computing
  • Serious Games
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Semantic Modelling of Everyday Activities

We look for full time researchers (reimbursement according to TV-L EG13). The successful candidates will be working with a dynamic, friendly, and helpful team of computer science researchers. The University of Bremen is one of 11 institutions classed as an “Elite university” in Germany, and an university of approximately 23,500 students from over 100 countries, offering a broad range of fringe benefits such as sports facilities, cultural activities and daycare. We love to work with students with strong technical skills and backgrounds across disciplines. Candidates should have an excellent Master’s degree or equivalent in computer science, or related disciplines such as design, psychology, mathematics, physics, etc. Required skills are solid experience in software development, and a very good command of English (reading/writing/speaking). Ideally, you have specialized in one of the disciplines mentioned earlier and already have first experiences in academic research. In addition, the successful candidate will be highly self-motivated, passionate about their work, and have good ability to work both independently as well as in a team in a multidisciplinary environment. The jobs are available for up to 4 years (depending on the actual profile).

How to Apply & What to Do in Case of Questions: Read more on Jobs: Multiple positions in HCI at the University of Bremen, Germany…

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Have a near death experience in VR in “Flatline”

[This short interview from the Vive blog is about the use of virtual reality and presence to explore a universal experience in a visceral, first-person way. The original blog post includes a second image; for a text and audio report on the experience that includes more images see coverage by Southern California Public Radio (SCPR); and a 0:39 minute trailer is available on YouTube. –Matthew]

Take a trip to The Other Side in Flatline

Stephen Reid
August 3, 2017

What happens at the exact moment of death? Religion and science disagree, but many survivors of near-death experiences have similar stories from all around the world. In Flatline, you’ll have your own near-death experience in virtual reality. We chatted to Julian McCrea of Portal Experiences about the creation of this unique app.

Hello Julian! Tell us your part in the production of Flatline.

I’m the Executive Producer on Flatline (find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The production was directed by Jon Schnitzer and co-produced between Portal Experiences, The Brain Factory and 3DLive AXO. Our website is at

How would you describe Flatline?

Flatline is a non-fiction VR series where the audience have a near-death experience, go to the Other Side and come back, irreversibly changed.

In each episode you experience a Flatline, as retold by someone who had experienced it, first-hand. At the end of the episode you can hear from world expert psychologists, cardiologists and spiritualist who try and explain what happened to that ‘Flatliner’.

What was the initial inspiration for Flatline?

The initial inspiration came from the director Jon Schnitzer who had a close friend of his retell a near-death experience that had happened to him 16 years ago.

As we began digging into it, two things stuck out. Firstly the stories were viscerally very different but patterns started to emerge. It was like peeling an onion; every time you read a new one, the mystery of what happened on the Other Side grew larger and larger.

Secondly, virtual reality was perfect for telling these stories as it could allow us to retell the stories in first-person, intimately, in a visceral way that no-other medium could. We try and explain it as ‘Dr Strange meets Tree of Life‘. You will understand what I mean when you do it! Read more on Have a near death experience in VR in “Flatline”…

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    Use the links below to find researchers listed alphabetically by the first letter of their last name.

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