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Monthly Archives: November 2018

Call: Chapters for “Intersectional Automations: Robotics, AI, Algorithms, and Equity”

Call for Book Chapters

Intersectional Automations: Robotics, AI, Algorithms, and Equity

Abstracts and bios due 1 April 2019

This collection will explore a range of situations where robotics, biotechnological enhancement, artificial intelligence (AI), and algorithmic culture collide with intersectional social justice issues, such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and citizenship.

Some call it the 4th industrial revolution (Brinded, 2016; Kaplan, 2015). Robots, AI, and algorithms have grown from their early uptake in some industries (such as robots in manufacturing) to an accelerating presence in other spheres ranging from customer service roles (for example, reception, check-outs, food service, driving) to professional and creative roles previously unheard-of and un-thought-of (for example, expert legal and medical systems, automated journalism, musical and artistic production (Kaplan, 2016; Ramalho, 2017; Hirsch, 2017)). The World Economic Forum warns that “this will lead to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020” (Brinded, 2016), a serious challenge to ethical labour practices, and potential looming crisis leading some to consider alternative societal models-such as Universal Basic Income (Frase, 2016), or a robot tax (Walker, 2017)-to compensate.

Meanwhile, there is marked evidence that robots, AI, biotechnology, and algorithms are becoming in general and over-top of employment roles more integrated in human societies. Human-machine communication (HMC) has moved from an important yet somewhat-marginal field to lodge itself at the centre of societal workings and visions for the future. From autonomous vehicles (Bowles, 2016), to the algorithmic filtering of search results (Noble, 2018) and social media content (Gillespie, 2018), from online harassment and political boosterism via bots (Dewey, 2016; Woolley, Shorey, & Howard, 2018), to sex robots (Levy, 2007; Danaher & MacArthur, 2017), from ubiquitous AI assistants in our homes and smart devices (Guzman, 2019), to wearable tech that tracks and shares our biometric data (Forlano, 2019) and/or extends our biological capacities (Brooks, 2003; Jones, 2019), such technologies are rapidly mapping themselves onto almost every conceivable realm of human experience.

And yet, there is mounting evidence that the creation and programming of robots, AI, and algorithms, being artifacts of human culture, do not escape that context, sometimes carrying into their computational logics, platforms and/or embodiments stereotypes, biases, exclusions, and other forms of privilege. One can think of True Companion’s Roxxxy sex robots that some argue have personality options based on racist and sexist stereotypes of womenhood, for example the Barely-18 “Young Yoko” and resistant “Frigid Farah” that, as Gildea and Richardson (2017) note, seem to fetishize underage girls and sexual assault. Or you could think of the abandoned Amazon HR algorithm which, after being fed years of resumes and hiring decisions, used computational logic to identify traits that that were historically associated with Amazon hiring decisions, with the view of automating part of the hiring process, and encoded a preexisting sexism from the HR data that showed that applicants with work experience or activities that included the word “Women’s,” or who were educated at all-women colleges, were often not hired (Jones, 2018). Finally, one could contemplate how polities using data aggregation and predictive algorithms to manage and make decisions about social programs, resource allocation, or policing can end up targeting and profiling poor or racialized populations, with occasionally terrifying results-such as any mistake on an online application being interpreted by an automated system as “failure to cooperate” (Eubanks, 2017).

This edited collection will draw an analytical circle around these interconnected and adjacent issues, lending a critical eye to what is at stake due to the automation of aspects of culture. How do equity issues intersect with these fields? Are the pronouncements always already dire, or are there also lines of flight towards more equitable futures in which agentic artefacts and extensions can play an active part? Chapters may address one or multiple equity issues, and submissions that address emergent intersections between them will be given special consideration.

Proposed chapters may address topics such as, but not limited to: Read more on Call: Chapters for “Intersectional Automations: Robotics, AI, Algorithms, and Equity”…

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Researchers in Japan make android child’s face strikingly more expressive

[The refinement of the robot child Affetto’s ability to evoke presence in just 7 years suggests that we may cross the Uncanny Valley in the not-too-distant future. This story is from Gizmodo, where it includes three videos, including a looping video with both versions of the robot; for more information including links to other videos, see the Osaka University press release. –Matthew]

Read more on Researchers in Japan make android child’s face strikingly more expressive…

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Call: 13th European Conference on Game Based Learning (ECGBL 2019)

Call for Papers

13th European Conference on Game Based Learning (ECGBL 2019)
3 – 4 October 2019
The University of Southern Denmark
Odense, Denmark

This call will close on 14th of March 2019.

Read more on Call: 13th European Conference on Game Based Learning (ECGBL 2019)…

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Hyperrealistic nipple tattoos are changing the game for breast cancer survivors

[Although we rarely think about it, cosmetic surgeries and even make-up are designed to evoke a sense of presence, the perception of the absence of mediation by technology. This story from InStyle makes the point vividly, emphasizing the positive impact these techniques can produce; see the original story for more images. –Matthew]

[Image: Credit: Ergey Filimonov/Stocksy –]

Hyperrealistic Nipple Tattoos Are Changing the Game for Breast Cancer Survivors

By Romy Oltuski
October 18, 2018

This April, Piret Aava spent the full duration of a sluggish, five-hour train ride home from Washington, D.C., to New York City drawing nipples. “Someone next to me was looking at me like, What are you doing?!” the Estonia-born cosmetic tattoo artist says with a laugh. But her neighbor also seemed impressed with the lifelike sketches.

Best known as The Eyebrow Doctor, Aava has built an eyebrow microblading empire tending to the arches of Serena Williams, Malin Akerman, and scores of beauty editors. An appointment with the semi-permanent tattoo specialist comes with a $1,500 price tag, a year-long wait list, and bragging rights to a full-brow look coveted by 40,000 Instagram followers. She’s devoted more than a decade to thickening cilia.

But since attending a workshop in D.C. this spring, Aava’s become even more invested in a new niche: three-dimensional tattoos of areola for women who’ve lost theirs to breast cancer.

Nipple tattoos are becoming an increasingly popular option among women who’ve undergone breast reconstruction surgery after cancer, she says — and with good reason. Scroll through Aava’s small but growing gallery of areola, and you’ll have to squint to make out that they’re actually flat, drawn images. The nipples appear to protrude. The surrounding skin seems to pucker; chapped, dark folds fade into lighter, smoother rings of flesh. They’re so hyperrealistic that Instagram, which has yet to #FreeTheNipple, took down a photo of one of her tattoos, citing the platform’s strict no-nudity policy. (You’ll see for yourself as you keep scrolling into this article.) “I take it as a huge compliment,” says Aava, who created a second account, @AreolaDoctor, to make sure her brow-focused page isn’t penalized. Read more on Hyperrealistic nipple tattoos are changing the game for breast cancer survivors…

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Call: Wandering Games Conference 2019

Call for Papers: Wandering Games
July 10–12, 2019
Bangor University, UK

Abstracts and author biographies due by February 1st 2019

  • What does it mean to be a wandering body in a game world?
  • What does it say about the game?
  • The world?
  • The body?
  • What can the act of wandering do?

We seek proposals on wandering games from academics, game designers, and creative practitioners for a conference at Bangor University from July 10–12, 2019. Walking Simulators, the genre of videogame in which there are no points, goals, or win/loss conditions, have for the last several years served as a catalyst for (sometimes furious) debates about anti-game aesthetics, changing gamer demographics, and the radical potential of poetic spatial storytelling in videogames. From Myst to Gone Home, The Path to The Stanley Parable, what began as the derogatory sneer “Walking Simulator” has become a catch-all term for games that are interested in alternative modes of expression, drawing together considerations of embodiment, environment, orientation, and community. We are interested in work, on Walking Simulators and their context, that focuses on some aspect of wandering in games but also could draw connections and intersections from long traditions of walking thought in performance, philosophy, pilgrimage, and protest.

Proposals are invited for contributions in the following formats:

  • Games & game ideas (digital, physical, AR, VR, site-specific, experimental, etc.)
  • 20-minute papers
  • 5 minute splash talks
  • Full panel proposals
  • Alternate formats: performance pieces, workshops from game devs, hikes/VR hikes, team brainstorming sessions, workshops, protest designs, any other format you want to propose

Papers will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of Gaming & Virtual Worlds. Read more on Call: Wandering Games Conference 2019…

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Kognito uses conversations with virtual humans to prevent suicides on campus, increase empathy in doctor’s office

[A November 12, 2018 story on NBC10 in Philadelphia about La Salle University’s success using the simulation program Kognito to help faculty, staff and students identify and help people who are at risk for suicide led me to the May 2018 story below from CNET with more information about Kognito and other uses of its presence-evoking simulations. See also a 5:53 minute video report from February 2018 from Fox5 in New York via YouTube. –Matthew]

[Image: Interactive role-play simulations are helping health care professionals build empathy and practice communication skills. Source: Kognito.]

Virtual humans could improve conversations at the doctor’s office

Game-like simulations are training health care professionals to be more empathetic and to tackle conversations on tough topics like mental health.

By Abrar Al-Heeti
May 3, 2018

You sit down to talk with your doctor, but you sense he’s in a rush to get to the next patient. Add to this the lack of training many physicians have had in effective patient communication, and it becomes nearly impossible to have an engaging conversation about your health.

But virtual humans might help to change that.

Simulations using virtual patients are training health care professionals to be more empathetic and to tackle important conversations on topics like mental health and substance abuse.

One health simulation company, Kognito, uses gaming technology and virtual patients to create mock clinical scenarios in which real-life physicians, nurses and other practitioners test out different conversation paths to see how virtual patients respond. They’re then given real-time feedback on how to have more effective and meaningful conversations.

“Simulations and gaming technology can help create a safe environment for people to learn through practice,” said Kognito co-founder and CEO Ron Goldman. “It’s risk-free. I can try to do things in a simulated environment that if I try to do them in real life can have bad consequences on people’s health.” Read more on Kognito uses conversations with virtual humans to prevent suicides on campus, increase empathy in doctor’s office…

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Call: 3rd Workshop on Theory-Informed User Modeling for Tailoring and Personalizing Interfaces (HUMANIZE)

Call for Papers:

3rd Workshop on Theory-Informed User Modeling for Tailoring and Personalizing Interfaces (HUMANIZE)
March 20, 2019
Los Angeles (USA)

In conjunction with IUI 2019

Submission deadline: December 3, 2018


The HUMANIZE workshop aims to explore the interface between data-driven and theory-driven approaches for constructing intelligent/personalized user interfaces. Data-driven approaches for personalized user interfaces can rely on building models from observed and measured user interaction behavior that can predict future behavior from historic behavior. Theory-driven approaches rely on understanding of how certain psychological traits (e.g. personality, cognitive styles, interests) affect the experience/needs of the intended users.

The combination of these two approaches, model-driven and data-driven, provides an interesting research direction. Understanding what traits of a user influence how an interface can be best personalized to match their needs and experience can be captured in a formal user model. Through data mining of interaction data these formal models can be fit to the data and as a result interfaces can be personalized in an informed, grounded way.

Advances in combining formal user models with data mining can be and have been made in grossly two ways that complement each other. On the one hand this can be done by identifying formal user models that can be used to base personalization on (such as cognitive style). On the other hand this can be done by finding ways to infer these user models from data. These two ways complement each other can be combined in a theory-informed personalization.

The HUMANIZE workshop combines practical data mining methods and theoretical knowledge for personalization, providing a venue where researchers from different fields come together to share their thoughts and experiences. In addition, the workshop will allow for an exploration of future opportunities in hopes of identifying possible links between the algorithmic side of behavioral analysis and the theoretical understanding of users for personalization.


A non-exhaustive list of topics for this workshop is:

  • Identification of psychological traits that can be used as a formal user model for personalization (e.g., personality, level of domain knowledge, need for cognition, cognitive styles)
  • Data mining methods to infer user profiles in terms of identified formal user models (e.g., how to infer someone’s personality from their social media)
  • How (user) interfaces can be tailored to better match certain user psychological traits (e.g., altering the number of search results for users with a higher need for cognition, ordering of interface elements, using visual versus textual representations)
  • Of particular relevance are user studies that combine one or more of the above points

Read more on Call: 3rd Workshop on Theory-Informed User Modeling for Tailoring and Personalizing Interfaces (HUMANIZE)…

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Furhat addresses Uncanny Valley and diversity challenges in social robotics

[The new Furhat robot addresses the Uncanny Valley and diversity challenges involved in creating medium-as-social-actor presence. The story is from ZDNet, where it includes a 1:02 minute video. There’s also a press release on the company’s website and a collection of videos on YouTube. –Matthew]

Robots have a diversity problem. This Swedish startup could change that

Furhat Robotics is seeking to revolutionize social robotics by moving away from a one-face-fits-all approach.

By Greg Nichols
November 13, 2018

Swedish startup Furhat Robotics, which makes a tabletop social robot that’s a bit like an in-your-face Alexa, unveiled its latest generation social robot last week. The key feature of the robot is an expressive face that’s designed to leapfrog across the Uncanny Valley and foster genuine communication with users.

Furhat’s secret sauce is a rear projection unit inside the robot’s neck that displays a lifelike animated face on an anthropomorphic mask. Unlike most humanoid robots, the platform doesn’t suffer from the “close but no cigar” cringe-factor induced by silicon and rubber humanoids. Read more on Furhat addresses Uncanny Valley and diversity challenges in social robotics…

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Jobs: 3 faculty positions in HCI and accessibility at Rochester Institute of Technology


Three faculty positions
Department of Information Sciences and Technologies
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
Rochester, New York

  • Faculty Type (Tenure Status): Tenure-Track
  • Faculty Discipline: Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, Information Sciences & Technologies
  • Faculty Rank: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor
  • Employment Category: Fulltime
  • Anticipated Start Date: 15-Aug-2019
  • Required Application Documents: Cover Letter, Curriculum Vitae or Resume, List of Publications, List of References, Research Statement, Statement of Teaching Philosophy
  • Review of applications begins immediately. Candidates are encouraged to apply by December 15, 2018

As part of a growing, strategic research cluster in human-computer interaction (HCI) and computing accessibility, the Department of Information Sciences and Technologies at RIT invites applications for three full-time tenure-track positions, at the assistant, associate, or full professor rank, for an appointment beginning fall 2019.

We are seeking candidates with expertise in one or more of the following or related areas: computing accessibility for people with disabilities or older adults; data visualization; human-centered machine learning; health informatics; social computing; or wearable, mobile, or ubiquitous systems. Outstanding applicants in other areas of HCI will also be considered, especially those with methodological expertise in physical or interactive prototyping for system-building and evaluation.

RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT: RIT is home to the Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research (CAIR) ( and the HCI at RIT Research Community (, with multiple RIT faculty and students actively engaged in research in the fields of human-computer interaction and accessibility.  Since 2014, CAIR faculty have secured over $2 million in external research funding support, over 90 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications, and multiple Best Paper and Honorable Mention Awards from major research venues, including the ACM CHI and ASSETS conferences.  RIT is an interdisciplinary research hub, with research groups and communities encompassing a range of domain areas, including: RIT’s Personalized Healthcare Technology initiative (, Center for Cybersecurity (, Center for Human-Aware Artificial Intelligence (, and the Media Arts Games Interaction Creativity (MAGIC) Center (  In addition, RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), with over 1,300 Deaf and Hard of Hearing students on the campus.

Applicants should possess a PhD degree in Computer Science, Informatics, Information Science, or a related field by the start date of the appointment, and conduct high-quality, cutting-edge research that shapes the HCI or computing accessibility fields. Applicants should show strong commitment to undergraduate/graduate teaching, demonstrate the ability for innovative research and high-impact publications, and exhibit potential to pursue externally funded research.

We are seeking an individual who has the ability and interest in contributing to RIT’s core values, honor code, and diversity commitment. Read more on Jobs: 3 faculty positions in HCI and accessibility at Rochester Institute of Technology…

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New advertising for and inside virtual reality

[Two stories on advertising and virtual reality: First, Adweek describes a new Facebook ad campaign for the Oculus Go (Variety also notes the emphasis on media consumption rather than games) and the importance of engagement by current users vs. the number of headsets sold; the story includes four of the ads, which are also available on YouTube (1, 2, 3, 4). Then, 360i reports on the first programmatic advertising (targeted, algorithm-based placements) inside virtual reality experiences, in this case to promote the second season of National Geographic’s television series Mars. See The Drum for more coverage. –Matthew]

[Image: The rapper Wiz Khalifa stars in a new Oculus Go ad about VR entertainment. Credit: Facebook]

Watch Wiz Khalifa, Leslie Jones and Jonah Hill Experience Virtual Reality in New Oculus Ad

It’s all about entertainment

By Marty Swant
November 13, 2018

Oculus has a new star-studded 60-second spot that aims to highlight how virtual reality entertainment—not just gaming—could be appealing to the masses.

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Facebook-owned VR company has recruited a slew of celebrities—Wiz Khalifa, Leslie Jones, Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, Behati Prinsloo and Awkwafina—to wear an Oculus Go headset while watching everything from basketball games to Oscar-winning movies.

According to Rebecca Van Dyck, CMO of AR/VR at Facebook, the goal of the ad is to help show all that’s possible within a headset beyond gaming—a feature the company initially marketed earlier this year when the headset first debuted. She said 80 percent of people who’ve already bought the Go are new to VR.

“We also just wanted to continue to normalize VR a bit more,” she said. “Especially with this really accessible price point.”

The Go, Facebook’s most consumer-friendly VR device, costs $200, a price the company hopes will make VR accessible enough for anyone interested in buying their first headset, without having to attach it to a powerful PC or an Android smartphone. Read more on New advertising for and inside virtual reality…

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