ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: November 2018

Call: Participation in online workgroup to develop evaluation instrument for social agents

Call for participation in an online workgroup to develop an evaluation instrument for social agents

Our vision is to create a validated standardised questionnaire instrument to evaluate human interaction with a social agent. This instrument will help researchers to make claims about people’s perceptions, attitude and beliefs towards their agent. It will allow agents to be compared across user studies, and importantly, it helps in replicating our scientific findings. This is essential for the community if we want to make valid claims about the impact that our social agents can have in domains such as health, entertainment, and education.

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Christmas presence: Immersive “A Christmas Carol” weds VR with motion-capture live actor

[The new production Chained is an intriguing model for personalized, vivid, narrative-based presence experiences. This story about it is from CNET – see the original version for several other pictures and a 3:23 minute video. –Matthew]

This VR-live actor mashup is like your best absinthe-fueled nightmare

Chained, an immersive reimagining of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, weds virtual reality with a motion-capture live actor. Could it be the gateway that makes VR a hit?

By Joan E. Solsman
November 29, 2018

As a chain-laden ghost, I lumber through slices of moonlight in a dark, fire-lit room. I morph into a demonic specter, arching and slumping my massive frame around a pauper’s kitchen, before I re-materialize as a faceless floating apparition, taking you by the hand through a snow-covered graveyard.

At least, that’s what I would look like to you. In your Oculus Rift headset, I become the main character in Chained, a 20-minute immersive VR reimagining of A Christmas Carol and one of the hottest tickets in Los Angeles right now.

In real life, I’m dressed head-to-toe in a black bodysuit covered with tiny gray balls to capture my movements, and all I want to do are cartwheels.

Chained is the latest experience experimenting with a new trend in virtual reality that marries motion-capture live performers with scenes, sets and characters that exist only inside an audience member’s headset. The added wrinkle is that these actors are standing right next to you, taking a supernatural form thanks to VR.

“I think of the characters almost like the best costumes you could possibly have. You start living in a completely different body,” said Michael Bates, the motion-capture actor who plays all of Chained’s VR characters.

I first went through Chained as a guest in VR, donning the headset and shrieking in surprise when Bates’ real hand grasped mine and jerked me into the haunted Victorian virtual world. But I also got a behind-the-scenes look at how Chained performances happen. I wore a mo-cap suit alongside Bates as he tutored me in the movements he uses for each of Dickens’ ghosts. Read more on Christmas presence: Immersive “A Christmas Carol” weds VR with motion-capture live actor…

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Call: Informed Experiences, Designing Consent Workshop

Call for Abstracts:
Informed Experiences, Designing Consent
Workshop, April 6, 2019

Submission deadline: January 23, 2019

Informed Experiences, Designing Consent is a symposium interrogating the intersections of consent and the design of interactive media and technologies. The symposium is hosted at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions and the HASTAC Scholars fellowship program on April 6, 2019. It is organized by Michael Anthony DeAnda, Elisabeth Hildt, Kelly Laas, and Leilasadat Mirghaderi.

Read more on Call: Informed Experiences, Designing Consent Workshop…

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What it’s like to eat at Tokyo’s Tree by Naked virtual reality restaurant

[High-end restaurants are utilizing presence-evoking technologies to enhance the dining experience in interesting ways – here’s a first-person report from Food & Wine; see the original story for more pictures. –Matthew]

I Ate at a Virtual Reality Restaurant and … It’s the Future?

Tokyo’s Tree by Naked is one of the most unique dining experience in the world.

Maria Yagoda
November 28, 2018

Aside from using and abusing the failed portable gaming console Virtual Boy in 1995, I’ve never been excited by virtual reality and its many promises. My reality is vivid, and grotesque, enough—why would I seek out extra reality?

But when I visited Tokyo in October, a city known for its exceptional, wildly diverse dining (and the most Michelin stars of any city in the world), I put one restaurant on the top of my to-eat list that I suspected would pull me out of my comfort zone: Tree by Naked yoyogi park, the new virtual reality dining concept from artist Ryotaro Muramatsu. Increasingly, artists and chefs alike are experimenting with melding multi-sensory story-telling elements into the experience of dining. Ibiza’s Sublimotion, for example, is essentially a molecular gastronomy opera—and one of the most expensive restaurants in the world at over $3,000 a head.

Opened in July 2017, Tree by Naked is the wacky masterpiece of Muramatsu, a visual artist famous for his films and global installations, and eating there, you can tell an artist is at the helm, which perhaps set this concept apart. Fortunately, the food matches the visuals; the Tree by Naked experience comes with eight precise courses of seasonal Japanese cooking. Read more on What it’s like to eat at Tokyo’s Tree by Naked virtual reality restaurant…

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Job: Assistant or Associate Professor in Human-Centered Emerging Technologies at Michigan State U

Tenure System Assistant or Associate Professor in Human-Centered Emerging Technologies
Department of Media and Information
Michigan State University

Review of applications will begin on January 1, 2019

The Department of Media and Information (M&I) at Michigan State University (MSU) seeks an innovative, dynamic individual to fill a full-time, tenure stream position at the assistant or associate professor level who can connect the creative and research approaches in the department, college, and university. We are particularly interested in someone who uses human-centered approaches to design, and is interested in emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, games, gamification, autonomous vehicles, Internet of things, smart homes, health technologies, neuro/biosensors, wearable devices, tangible computing, and other new technologies that are reshaping the world around us. We also value interests in socially relevant topics and making positive change in the world. Our ideal candidate both builds new things in the world and seeks to understand the impacts of the things they build, integrating the “arts” and “sciences” in their work.

Candidates will be expected to gain visibility through juried creative works and/or peer-reviewed academic research publications. Given our strong interdisciplinary culture we welcome applications from individuals from a diverse range of disciplinary and methodological traditions who thrive in a vibrant academic environment. Faculty members are also expected to pursue external funding to support their research and/or creative activity. In addition, candidates will teach in our undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as advise graduate students on projects, theses, and dissertations. Expected start date is August 16, 2019.

M&I is a top-five ranked, research and grant-active department. The department’s 31 faculty have core interests that focus on the study of technology and society, human-technology interaction, and technological systems. The M&I faculty was deliberately recruited from a range of disciplines, including communication, computer science, media, human-computer interaction, management, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, science and technology studies (STS), and design to complement and create a unique intellectual energy. This environment takes the best and most useful elements of various disciplines to create novel insights. The department strives to promote work that is cross-disciplinary and transdisciplinary. Such endeavors expand our knowledge in new and innovative ways. Read more on Job: Assistant or Associate Professor in Human-Centered Emerging Technologies at Michigan State U…

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Spatial audio design is key to creating ‘presence’ in VR and AR

[Too few stories about presence acknowledge and discuss the importance and dynamics of audio in presence experiences, and too few use the specific term presence; this story from VentureBeat does both. See the original version for two more images, including one of the “Cone of Experience.” –Matthew]

Spatial audio design is key to creating ‘presence’ in VR and AR

Amir Bozorgzadeh
November 18, 2018

George Lucas once received a hearty round of applause back in 2011 when he declared that “sound is half of the experience of a motion picture.” If that’s true, what happens to the equation in the setting of VR and AR, where the vicarious experience of a 2D cinematic transcends into experiential 3D immersion?

After all, immersive worlds are creative imitations of the real world, in which sound and the auditory function play far more of an operative role than we tend to realize.

“Sound is usually an afterthought. Sound is invisible; it is vibrations of molecules and we cannot hold it in our hands, it exists only in time, and is the sonic expression of an object in motion.” said Laura Sinnott, a sound designer and doctor of audiology, at the NYVR Expo I attended.

Indeed, it is important to acknowledge the fact that in the process of growing up in a modern world filled to the brim with jumbled layers of noise, our brains respond and adapt to the chaos by numbing and tuning out (synaptic pruning) much of the full spectrum, and all for the sake of streamlining our daily lives.

Triggering an auditory renaissance

Sinnott kindly educated me recently on how fundamental hearing is to our very existence; that it serves not only as a medium for communication, but is key to our emotional well-being, cognition, and, perhaps more relevant in the past than our present reality, but even to our survival. Hearing, she says, is one of the first senses to be developed in the uterus, primarily hooked to our instinctive center, and although it is an organ that we have lost significant sensitivity to, XR has the potential to help restore it.

“The sense of hearing is one of the most primitive senses; it likely evolved before vision, although after the balance system. It behooves sound designers, whether designing immersive audio for web or even traditional mono radio, to understand a little bit about just how powerful sound is.” Sinnott said.

Even if it is the case that this primary sense organ has somehow been relegated in our collective minds to playing the role of second fiddle, the panel last month at the NYVR Expo that was filled with experts in spatial audio made me a believer that XR can open the door to a kind of auditory renaissance in humanity’s appreciation for it. In the backdrop of the panel, the slides read: “Our eyes can only see what’s in front of us, our ears can take in the world all around us.”

Spatial audio design is key Read more on Spatial audio design is key to creating ‘presence’ in VR and AR…

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Call: Storytelling and the Body: An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference

Call for Papers

Storytelling and the Body: An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference
15th to 16th July 2019
Verona, Italy projects/storytelling/storytelling-and-the-body/conferences/

Submission deadline: 22nd February 2019

We live in an era where stories about bodies – in/visible bodies, glamorous bodies, engineered bodies, trafficked bodies, dismembered bodies, persecuted bodies – are omnipresent. While bodies are literally made of flesh and blood, our understanding of bodies is constructed through fictional and non-fictional stories that shape perceptions of what constitutes the body, how a body should look, how a body should behave, how a body should experience the world and how bodies should interact with each other. By creating these types of norms, stories also shape perceptions of what constitutes deviant, non-normative and otherwise undesirable bodies. Telling stories about the body is therefore an act loaded with ideological, political, sociological, theological, ontological and aesthetic implications.

At the same time, notions of the body have also had a significant impact on the stories cultures have created and passed down through generations. Suffering bodies are central to the foundational narratives of various religious, cultural and political traditions. Genres have emerged with stories about monstrous bodies, sexual and erotic bodies, bodies at war, modified bodies, bodies coming of age and ageing, bodies being tested by nature, bodies enhanced by (bio)technology, politicised bodies and so forth.

At a time when the socio-political landscape is dominated by the construction of barriers among the population based on race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and class, it is more important than ever to consider how stories about bodies and perceptions of bodies shaped by stories not only foster division and difference, but also inspire cohesion and belonging. Stories help to create tangible and intangible barriers and borders between human beings. At the same time, stories can also foster awareness and compassion for our common humanity in order to transcend borders and overcome barriers. Some barriers are more personal, and therefore less obvious, because they take the form of a physical or psychological issue that somehow limits an individual’s capacity to participate in their community and/or to achieve their full potential.

Accordingly, the second inclusive interdisciplinary Storytelling event seeks to explore the complex, multi-faceted dynamics of this symbiotic relationship between storytelling and the body with a view to forming a publication to engender further collaboration and discussion.

Particular disciplines, practices and professions have inscribed stories and bodies with particular meanings that, when viewed in isolation, can be skewed and limited. Accordingly, the project aims to break down these boundaries through inter-disciplinary engagement that emphasises inclusivity, dialogue and collegiality.

Consistent with its interdisciplinary ethos, the event proposes to step outside the traditional conference setting and offer opportunities for artists, photographers, practitioners, theorists, independent scholars, academics, performers, writers, and others to intermingle, providing platforms for interdisciplinary interactions that are fruitful and conducive to broadening horizons and sparking future projects, collaborations, and connections.

The organisers welcome proposals for presentations, displays, exhibits, round tables, panels, interactive workshops and other activities to stimulate engagement and discussion on any aspect of the interplay between stories, bodies, barriers and borders, particularly in relation to:

  • Law, jurisprudence and public policy
  • Morality and ethics
  • Business/economics
  • Education
  • Religion and spirituality
  • Labour/human capital
  • Medicine, health and wellness
  • Science and technology
  • Social work
  • Activism
  • Social media
  • Film and television
  • Theatre
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Fine Art
  • Sport
  • Popular culture
  • Body art: implants, painting, piercings, tattoos, scarification, sculpting, shaping
  • Body modifications
  • Non-human bodies, the bodies of other species
  • Post-human bodies

Read more on Call: Storytelling and the Body: An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference…

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Origibot2 telepresence robot is armed for interactivity

[This is a short description of a telepresence robot that has an arm so that the user can not only move through but manipulate a remote environment. The story is from New Atlas, where it includes two more pictures and a 2:58 minute video (also available via YouTube). For much more information see the product’s Indiegogo page. –Matthew]

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Call: Impact of Immersive Environments – Journal of Virtual Worlds Research

Call for Papers

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research
Issue on Impact of Immersive Environments

To be edited by:
Michael Thomas, University of Central Lancashire, UK (Prime)
Tuncer Can, University of Istanbul, Turkey
Michael Vallance, Future University, Japan

Abstracts deadline: December 20, 2018


Over the last two decades research on virtual worlds and immersive environments has engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders and beneficiaries across many disciplines and fields that naturally involve high stakes, engaging with participants with learning and physical disabilities to the military, citizen democracy and digital civics.

In this issue we want to tackle the following issues:

  • What is the usefulness of such research?
  • Who are the main beneficiaries of the research?
  • What real-world problems does the research on virtual worlds address?
  • How can the effectiveness of the research be measured, if at all?
  • Can we identify short, medium and longer term conceptions of impact?

While study and research for their own sake or for character development have been core components of many disciplines, particularly in the humanities or social sciences, the consolidation of neoliberal values in higher education has led to questions about the practical application of research and its influence on and relationship with society and stakeholders.

Specifically, in the UK the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) adapted this approach to impact to help measure the real-world application of research, its public engagement and use-value, in relation, for example, to health, the economy, society or culture. While impact has attracted much criticism and debate, it has been consolidated in the intervening period and with REF2021, the next UK Government exercise aimed at evaluating research excellence in higher education, impact, now defined as activity that can take place both internal and external to universities, has increased its weighting in the exercise. While the impact agenda has been influential in higher education in the UK, we now find other governments and research councils around the world adopting similar definitions (e.g., Australian Research Council, Hong Kong, the AACSB in the USA).

Definitions of “impact” have proliferated alongside critique and it is important to consider the applicability of the term, as well as to reflect on how it can be shaped and defined to lead to productive and meaningful research and scholarly activity.

In terms of the REF exercises impact is defined in relation to “reach (the extent and/or diversity of the organizations, communities and/or individuals who have benefited from the impact) and significance (the degree to which the impact enriched, influenced, informed or changed the policies, practices and understanding or awareness of organizations, communities or organizations)” (REF, 2012, p. 93).

It does not merely relate to measuring dissemination activity e.g., how many people read a book, or visited a gallery, or follow your research findings on Twitter. Rather, it relates to what measurable influence the research has had on it beneficiaries as a result of activities associated with it.

For the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK (ESRC), impact can be defined as “Academic impact”, which is the “demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes in shifting understanding and advancing scientific, method, theory and application across and within disciplines” and/or “Economic and societal impact”, which is the “demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes to society and the economy, and its benefits to individuals, organizations and/or nations” (

This special edition of The Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is a timely intervention into these debates in the context of educational technology and seeks to develop productive critical perspectives on impact, discussing in what ways, over what time periods and to what extent impact can be a valuable concept in this field.

Authors are invited to submit original scholarly manuscripts that will make significant contributions to the advancement of our understanding of research impact with respect to virtual worlds and immersive environments defined broadly.

We encourage transdisciplinary research as well as diverse methodological approaches and welcome both qualitative and quantitative research studies, as well as theoretical, conceptual, and empirical studies. Critical perspectives on virtual worlds research and what constitutes impact are encouraged, rather than merely small-scale experimental studies. Authors may wish to reflect on their work over a longer period of time and to produce narratives that combine findings from several studies. Meta-analyses of research in the field which adopt a longer-term perspective are also encouraged.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Impact on disciplines (e.g., health and wellbeing, politics, psychology, medicine, arts and humanities)
  • Impact on people (e.g., special educational needs, the disabled, migrants and refugees, children, families and parents, communities, and/or in terms of race, class, ethnicity and sexuality)
  • Impact on tools (e.g., AR, AI, eResearch methods, robotics, mobile applications, educational resources, gamification, serious games)
  • Impact on problems (e.g., real-world challenges, citizenship, big data, pedagogical etc.)

The editors welcome efforts to define and problematize “impact” as a category for evaluating research, and articles that seek to promote transdisciplinary research on immersive and virtual worlds, nationally and internationally, in established western contexts as well as in emerging contexts in Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia. Read more on Call: Impact of Immersive Environments – Journal of Virtual Worlds Research…

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“Virtual Archaeology” lets University of Illinois students explore mammoth cave on campus

[The story below from the University of Illinois Behind the Scenes blog describes another example of how presence experiences can help people “learn by doing.” The original version includes eight pictures and a 0:59 minute video; see coverage in The News-Gazette for more details. –Matthew]

[Image: Third-year doctoral student Cameron Merrill ‘digs’ as anthropology Professor Laura Shackelford watches a monitor Friday Nov. 16, 2018, at Virtual Archaeology, a virtual-reality lab in Davenport Hall on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. Photo by: Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette.]

Excavating a cave without leaving campus

By Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, U. Of I. News Bureau
November 14, 2018

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – I’m in a cave with three identical waterfalls. The roar of water fills my ears as I look around, a little shakily. This is not what I was expecting when I showed up to Davenport Hall for an interview. But when I said, “Yes, I’d love to try out a virtual reality environment,” two students perched a headset on my head, adjusted the earphones and set me loose in this “cave.”

I can hear anthropology professor Laura Shackelford gently guiding me. I’m aware that I’m in a room with her and the students, but I’m also in a cave, alone.

This virtual environment is part of a test meant to help Shackelford and her colleagues design Virtual Archaeology, a new VR laboratory that next semester will allow 24 lucky students to participate in an archaeological dig without leaving campus. Two standard-reality classroom sessions will bracket the VR lab each week. Over the course of the spring semester, the students will uncover and interpret the history of an actual North American cave, layer by layer.

The students will get something very close to the full field-school experience, Shackelford says: They’ll learn to map the cave, lay out an excavation grid and use ground-penetrating radar to locate potential underground features. They’ll set up test pits, dig for human and animal artifacts, and record and interpret their data.

In the process, they’ll learn about archaeological ethics and standard practices, Shackelford says. They also will learn to collaborate, pooling their data and comparing their findings to arrive at solid scientific conclusions. Read more on “Virtual Archaeology” lets University of Illinois students explore mammoth cave on campus…

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  • Find Researchers

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

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