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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Call: Assessing the Effectiveness of Virtual Technologies in Foreign and Second Language Instruction (book chapters)

Call for Chapters: Assessing the Effectiveness of Virtual Technologies in Foreign and Second Language Instruction

Mariusz Kruk (University of Zielona Góra, Poland)

Proposals Submission Deadline: January 30, 2018
Full Chapters Due: April 30, 2018
Submission Date: August 30, 2018


Over the last few years there has been a quite specific interest in using virtual technologies in education, including foreign/second language education. This is because virtual technologies, such as virtual worlds, are particularly relevant to language teaching/learning in view of the fact that, among other things, they present language learners with situations similar to these found in the real world; they can lower the affective filter by engaging students in situations where their fears are bypassed; they offer opportunities to communicate in a target language by means of text/voice about their features, problem solving, language, etc. Thus, language learners can develop metacognitive and metalinguistic skills and they can practice the language by interacting with virtual users or objects, a very important issue for language learners who have no or little contact with native or target language speakers. It should be noted, however, that numerous published research projects mostly focused on opinions on the pros and cons of virtual technologies (e.g. virtual worlds) or their affordances for teaching and learning foreign/second languages. Therefore, there is a great need for solid empirical research in this area – a fact that lends a certain air of adventure to this undertaking.


This book will explore how virtual technologies have the potential to engage language learners both within and outside the classroom (or a combination of the two) and to encourage language learning and teaching in the target language there and/or by means of them. This book will be written for professionals who want to improve their understanding of virtual technologies in foreign/second language teaching and learning.


The target audience of this book will be composed of professionals, researchers and practitioners interested in the field of virtual technologies and their applications to foreign/second language teaching and learning. Read more on Call: Assessing the Effectiveness of Virtual Technologies in Foreign and Second Language Instruction (book chapters)…

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Inspired, magical, connected: How virtual reality can make you well

[In this story from The Conversation, Denise Quesnel, a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University, describes her experiences conducting research on the potential of VR (and presence) to promote positive experiences; she captures the sense of enthusiasm I’ve felt since grad school for advancing our understanding and use of presence to improve people’s lives. The original story includes more images and a 1:24 minute video. –Matthew]

[Image: Individuals wearing virtual reality headsets often look isolated. But research shows they can experience profound emotions such as awe, which enhance their feelings of social connection and wellbeing. (Credit: Shutterstock)]

Inspired, magical, connected: How virtual reality can make you well

Denise Quesnel, PhD student in iSpace Lab, Simon Fraser University
November 28, 2017

“Everyone needs to experience this. Especially if they are going through a rough spot.”

The study participant removed her headset. She still had goose bumps on her arms — even though the room was a toasty 25℃. She had just spent 10 minutes inside our immersive virtual reality (VR) environment.

It was like a surreal dream, and unlike many VR experiences, it wasn’t a game, and the goal was not to entertain or make money. It was research — investigating the potential of awe-inspiring VR experiences to create social connectivity and improve individual wellness.

“I felt more connected to the universe, and that my problems were going to be OK, and going to work out somehow.” She laughed and wondered if this was a bizarre thing to say. As our interview wrapped up, she paused at the door.

“Would it be OK if I can come back and try this again? You know, if I need to?”

Extending our reality

I design virtual reality environments, interfaces and experiences. Under the direction of Dr. Bernhard Riecke, in Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts & Technology’s iSpace Lab my colleagues and I study how people interact with the technology. We also research how to design these experiences, at a time when few frameworks exist. Read more on Inspired, magical, connected: How virtual reality can make you well…

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Call: The Mutual Shaping of Human-Robot Interaction – International Journal of Social Robotics issue

Call for Papers

International Journal of Social Robotics
Special Issue: The Mutual Shaping of Human-Robot Interaction
Submission deadline: January 31, 2018


The field of robotics has rapidly advanced over the last decades and has shown great promises in different fields. Robots were introduced in industry decades ago, and nowadays, robotic systems support humans as assistants, team-mates, caretakers, and companions, in diverse contexts such as education, health and eldercare, the home, retail, and in search and rescue. Discussions of the emotional, psychological, ethical, and societal consequences of these developments have emerged alongside technical advances.

Studies in human-robot interaction have shown that, when robots enter different contexts of our everyday lives, they influence and change those contexts beyond their intended use purpose alone. Social scientists have referred to this process as “mutual shaping” of technology and society. Mutual shaping implies that technological and societal developments do not proceed in parallel, or in a linear progression from technological development to societal application, but rather that technology and society continuously influence and (re)shape each other. Society changes as a direct and indirect result of the implementation of technology, which itself is created based on society’s (or a particular segment of society’s) wants, needs, beliefs, and practices. The mutual shaping of technology and society approach focuses on analyzing how social and cultural factors influence the way technologies are designed, implemented, used, and evaluated, as well as how technologies affect our construction of social values and meanings.

The decisions made in the design, adoption, implementation use, and evaluation process of robots affect people’s attitudes towards, uses of, and even their conceptualizations of these (socially) interactive systems. Social norms, values and morals are both implicitly and explicitly intertwined with technologies, reinforcing or altering our beliefs and practices. Once a robot has entered a social context, it may alter the distribution of responsibilities and roles within that context as well as how people act in that context. Research needs to explore how use practices of robot systems and the social environment mutually shape each other, and what form this mutual shaping process takes. Such studies are crucial for the future development and implementation of robots for broad societal use and for the design and acceptance of new and existing robot systems.


The aim of this special issue is to collect an overview of theoretical and empirical state-of-the-art research contributions on lessons learned about the mutual shaping of robots and society. Therefore, the International Journal of Social Robotics invites researchers from the many disciplines and approaches that intersect with the development and evaluation of robot systems (e.g. human-robot interaction, human-computer interaction, human factors, engineering, computer sciences, (interactive) design, sociology, communication science, anthropology, psychology, etc.) to submit to this Special Issue.

We invite a diversity of topics from researchers and practitioners from a wide variety of fields focusing on how social factors affect whether people choose to use robots, and (or) how robot design factors affect the social contexts in which robots are used. Topics include (but not limited to):

  • Human-robot (non)adoption and (non)use
  • Human-robot interaction
  • Mutual shaping of robots and society
  • Evaluation of robot applications and contexts of use
  • Socially intelligent robotics
  • Multimodal assessment technologies
  • Design of robotics systems
  • Social analysis of robotics
  • Social cognitive systems

Read more on Call: The Mutual Shaping of Human-Robot Interaction – International Journal of Social Robotics issue…

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In the midst of a coming elder care shortage, the case for robot caregivers

[The prospect of robots being used to care for elderly patients suggests many benefits but also raises a variety of concerns including of course those of the people who would receive the care. This story from Slate’s Better Life Lab blog provides a review; see the Pew Research Center study, and a related story in VC Daily, for more information. –Matthew]

[Image: Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker.]

In the Midst of a Coming Elder Care Shortage, the Case for Robot Caregivers

By Amanda Lenhart
November 11, 2017

An elderly woman nestles a white, fluffy baby seal in her arms. She murmurs happily to it, petting it and delighting as it responds to her touch and voice. This baby seal is a robot, a cuddly bot named PARO. And research suggests PARO has therapeutic value, calming and engaging agitated and anxious patients with memory loss. PARO, which can be seen in action on YouTube, is one of the earliest of the therapy bots. He arrived on the scene back in 2004. Since then, simpler, though still interactive, catbots (and dogbots) have democratized the world of therapy bots by bringing down the price to below $100.

Marianna Blagburn, program director at a memory care assisted living facility in Maryland, talks about Sam, a telepresence robot the facility helped pilot at one of the broader network of sites affiliated with her memory care unit: “On our main campus nearby, they had a visiting robot—Sam. They were a beta site for the robot. The bot would come in and ask how people were doing. It was very well-received in that environment—it had value and people got a kick out of it.”

Researchers aren’t just building social and companion bots—they’re hard at work building bots that can dispense medication, lift people, assess their vital signs, and connect them to family. A decade from now, PARO and other companion animal robots and telepresence bots like Sam may be seen as the progenitors of the robots that are caring for us all.

And caregiving is likely to become urgently needed—the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that between 2016 and 2026, we will need nearly 1.2 million more professional caregivers to care for our aging population. A recent Pew Research Center study suggests that while a majority (59 percent) of Americans are unenthusiastic about the thought of being cared for or having a loved one cared for by a robot, roughly 40 percent of Americans are open to the idea and even encouraging about its potential positives. But first, we may have to get over our own fears about robots as caregivers. These fears rest on two prejudices: first, that robots would necessarily be bad at caring for us, and second, that humans are particularly good at it.

The main hurdle for most of us around robot caregiving is the machine’s lack of empathy and its inability to forge an emotional connection with patients. Dr. William Leahy, a recently retired neurologist who developed a program that trains interested high schoolers to become certified nursing assistants, says, “When you look at the limitations of artificial intelligence—it’s really the empathy, the decision making, the things based on emotions, which are all limitations of machine learning. The pattern recognition, the verbal skills can all be done by computer, but I think the emotional aspect of care is something that is going to be distinctly human.” Read more on In the midst of a coming elder care shortage, the case for robot caregivers…

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Call: Post-cinema – VR and AR: A Postcinematic Modernity II

Call for Papers

Post-cinema – VR and AR: a Postcinematic Modernity II
Film Forum – XVI Magis International Film Studies Spring School
Gorizia, Università degli studi di Udine-Italy
March 3rd-7th 2018

Read more on Call: Post-cinema – VR and AR: A Postcinematic Modernity II…

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VR and presence give student-teachers a taste of the classroom

[This story from EdTech: Focus on K-12 reports on the use of VR and presence at SUNY Buffalo to train teachers for the classroom; coverage from UBNow includes more information and a 2:10 minute video and more details from a presentation by Richard Lamb and his colleagues are available from SlideShare. Presence is being used elsewhere too: A story in University Business highlights the use of TeachLive at the University of Wyoming and Penn State University’s First Class. –Matthew]

VR Gives Student-Teachers a Taste of the Classroom

A University at Buffalo virtual reality training program lets educators deepen their pre-service experiences.

By Wendy McMahon
November 13, 2017

One of the most common complaints from pre-service teachers is that they haven’t spent enough time in the classroom. For researchers at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, virtual reality is the solution to this familiar problem.

“We have this interactive, true, authentic classroom environment that allows teachers to practice their teaching” explains Richard Lamb, a researcher on the team leading the training project and an associate professor and director of the Neurocognition Science Laboratory.

Launched this past June with funding from the SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant program, VR-Teach simulates difficult student behaviors in the classroom — giving pre-service (and even in-service) teachers opportunities to learn how to deal with problematic situations. Read more on VR and presence give student-teachers a taste of the classroom…

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Jobs: Fully funded PhD studentships at Centre for Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI)

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI)

12 fully-funded PhD studentships to start September 2018
Covers fees at Home/EU rate and a stipend for four years

Application deadline: 31st January 2018

IGGI is an exciting opportunity for you to undertake a four-year PhD in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence, working with top games companies and world-leading academics in games research. We currently have 46 students conducting interdisciplinary research in areas such as:

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) to create interesting, fun, believable game agents,
  • AI-assisted game design and testing,
  • procedural content generation,
  • emotion and immersion in games,
  • interaction design for games,
  • Machine Learning (ML) to understand player psychology,
  • using games for learning and wellbeing,
  • game audio, graphics and animation,
  • game design, citizen science and gamification.

IGGI is a collaboration between the University of York, the University of London (Goldsmiths and Queen Mary) and the University of Essex. The programme trains PhD researchers who will become the next generation of leaders in research, design, development and entrepreneurship in digital games.

We have 12 studentships available for 2018/19 entry, which will fund full fees (at a Home/ EU rate) plus a tax-free living stipend, for a 4-year PhD programme. Could you join our large and growing group of games researchers in the world’s largest games research programme? Read more on Jobs: Fully funded PhD studentships at Centre for Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI)…

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Outrespectre simulates out-of-body experience at death to ease fear, start conversation

[Presence has long been used to ease our longing for those who have died (see Lombard and Selverian, 2008); the project described in this first-person report from The Next Web uses it to ease our anxieties about what will happen when we die, and to prompt a discussion about what we should do for people at the end of life. The use of a tapping hammer to simulate the user’s heartbeat mentioned here has now been refined and added to the experience, as reported in new coverage from De Zeen. Both stories include many images and the De Zeen story includes a 1:51 minute video. –Matthew]

How an out-of-body VR experience changed my views on dying

By Camille Charluet
September 22, 2017

Does the thought of dying absolutely terrify you?

If so, you might suffer from a condition known as ‘Existential Death Anxiety’, a disorder Dutch experimental designer, Frank Kolkman wants to treat with Outrespectre – a proposed medical device supposedly capable of simulating out-of-body experiences.

Intrigued, I contacted Frank to find out more and was invited to try his creation during the first ever human experiment this week in Amsterdam. Read more on Outrespectre simulates out-of-body experience at death to ease fear, start conversation…

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Call: What’s Next? The Future of Digital Entertainment – Communication Research Reports special issue

Call for Papers

What’s Next? The Future of Digital Entertainment
A Special Issue of Communication Research Reports

Guest Editors:
Allison Eden (Michigan State University)
Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn (University of Georgia)

Nicholas D. Bowman (West Virginia University)

Priority submission deadline: January 15, 2018

In the past years, with the advent of technology such as streaming media services, combined with market penetration of smartphones, tablets, and highly interactive platforms, such as immersive virtual environments (popularly known as “virtual reality”) and augmented reality, there has been a dramatic uptick in the number of hours per day we spend with digital media. A good portion of this time is solely devoted to entertainment, or as Zillmann and Bryant put it, “any activity to delight and, to a smaller degree, enlighten through the exhibition of the fortunes or misfortunes of others, but also through the display of special skills by the other and/or self” (1994, p. 438). Despite this centrality of entertainment to the digital media experience, academic research has lagged in its ability to analyze and understand what people are doing, thinking, and feeling with and about digital entertainment and the antecedents and outcomes of digital entertainment. The aim of this special issue, therefore, is to showcase state-of-the art research on digital media entertainment (broadly inclusive of all entertainment products, content, and services used for pleasure, leisure, amusement, recreation, relaxation, fun, enjoyment, interest, or diversion).

What’s coming next, and what can we expect based on what we are seeing now? What does the future hold for smartphone users, streaming media services, video/online games and apps, virtual and augmented environments, and social media? Research submitted for publication in the special issue should thus:

  • Present findings in brief empirical form on motivations, uses, and effects (intended and unintended) of digital entertainment.
  • Extend our understanding of digital entertainment by revealing the underlying mechanisms (e.g., moderators or mediators), or mutual dynamics such as reciprocal effects, longitudinal perspective, and direction of effects.
  • Test the feasibility and efficacy of practical applications of novel entertainment platforms (e.g., virtual or augmented reality games, streaming services) among diverse audiences.
  • Offer new insights for applying digital entertainment as a vehicle of attitude and behavior change, bridging the gap between theory and the “real life.”

Submission of studies using innovative research designs (e.g., experience sampling or diary research, big data, tracking of media use data, etc.) is strongly encouraged. Read more on Call: What’s Next? The Future of Digital Entertainment – Communication Research Reports special issue…

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Study shows potential of presence to influence eating experiences

[As noted at the end of this press release from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the finding that presence-evoking technologies can modify our evaluations of foods just as our non-mediated eating environment can, raises potentially important prospects for the promotion of healthy (and unhealthy) foods. See the original for more photos and a video. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: VTT]

VTT: Virtual and augmented reality technologies influence consumers’ eating experiences

November 22, 2017

Could health-promoting foods be made more appealing by using digital tools to enhance consumers’ eating experiences? VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has used Virtual Reality (VR) to amplify such experiences. VR immersion had significant effects on brain signals and consumers’ evaluations of the pleasantness of their eating situation and emotional responses. Read more on Study shows potential of presence to influence eating experiences…

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