ISPR Presence News

Monthly Archives: January 2019

Call: Simulations special issue: The Societal and Ethical Dimensions of Computer Simulations

Call for Papers

Simulations Special Issue

Guest Editors:

  • Juan M. Durán (TU Delft)
  • Jeroen van den Hoven (TU Delft)

Submission deadline: June 30, 2019

Computer simulations are a fundamental method for the progress of scientific and engineering research. Jim Gray (2007) called them the third paradigm of research, along with theory, experiment and Big Data (the first, second and fourth paradigm respectively). While the specialised literature has extensively focused on epistemological, ontological and methodological issues of computer simulations (Humphreys, 2004, Winsberg, 2010, Morrison, 2015, Durán, 2018), less has been said on the social and ethical dimensions of computer simulations (Brey 1999, 2008, Tolk and Ören, 2017).

The purpose of the special issue “The societal and ethical dimensions of computer simulations” is to address core questions about the role and use of computer simulations in scientific and engineering practice, as well as their influence in society, democracy, and education, among other contexts. To this end, we invite philosophers, educators, sociologists, engineers, scientists and all researchers interested in studies on computer simulations to submit their work to this special issue (for a list of possible topics, see below).

This special issue of SIMULATION ( addresses critical concerns in the actual practice and use of computer simulations in scientific and engineering research. To this end, we invite researchers invested in answering these problems to submit to this special issue. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:


  • Code of conduct
  • Bias simulations, democracy, and justice
  • Irresponsible uses of results of simulations
  • The profession of designing, programming, and using computer simulations

Values for design:

  • The accountability of designers, programmers, and users of computer simulations
  • Responsible innovation with computer simulations
  • Shaping policymaking in the light of computer-based research
  • Values, uncertainties, and distrust in simulation models


  • Including methods from computer science in scientific and engineering curricula
  • Educating engineers and scientists to simulate-first build-later

The future of science and engineering:

  • Computer simulations as the third paradigm of research
  • New forms of scientific and engineering practice
  • Computer simulations, AI, and Big Data: the new frontiers of science and engineering

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: Read more on Call: Simulations special issue: The Societal and Ethical Dimensions of Computer Simulations…

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New virtual reality experience transforms you into a majestic tree

[This story from Mother Nature Network describes a new VR-generated presence experience that lets users experience the life, and death, of a tree (compare it to the recent installation We Live in an Ocean of Air from another ISPR Presence News post); the story, which includes a second image, a 1:46 minute video, and a link to an extended interview in Vive, ends with information about how you can visit actress Judi Dench’s private forest in Surrey, England via virtual reality. –Matthew]

[Image: Scene from the virtual reality experience ‘Tree’ from the MIT Media Lab. Credit: Screenshot from Vimeo/MIT Media Lab.]

New virtual reality experience transforms you into a majestic tree

Michael d’Estries
January 29, 2019

Ever gaze into the crowning branches of some massive tree and wonder what it might be like to hold silent court over the world below?

Thanks to a new virtual reality experience, you can trade your feet for roots and immerse yourself in the life cycle of a rainforest tree. The immersive project, aptly titled “Tree,” is the brainchild of New York-based artists Milica Zec and Winslow Porter. The pair, who partnered with The Rainforest Alliance, chose their subject and the technology to bring it to life as a personal way to reveal firsthand the impacts of climate change.

“With this piece, we wanted to make deforestation appear as something deeply personal,” Zec told Vive. “In ‘Tree,’ climate change happens to you. Beyond that, it’s an intimate and solitary experience that hopefully increases respect for nature — how it functions, and how much it does for us on earth.” Read more on New virtual reality experience transforms you into a majestic tree…

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Call: 7th International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2019)


The 7th International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2019)
Kyoto, Japan — 6-10, October 2019

Full paper submissions due: 14 May 2019

HAI 2019 is the 7th annual International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction. It is a venue with an interdisciplinary nature to discuss and disseminate state-of-the-art research on topics that relate to human interactions with a range of agent systems, including physical robots, virtual agents, socially interactive agents, and artificially intelligent agents.

The theme for HAI 2019 is “Human-Agent Interaction, the Heart of Artificial Intelligence.”

Due to the rapid progress of deep learning, AI has reached a human or superhuman level in image recognition and games such as Go and is approaching the level of human in speech recognition, translation, automatic driving, and many other applications. It can be said that Human-Agent Interaction (HAI) has now become the most exciting target area of AI.

While all submissions related to HAI are welcome as usual, you are especially encouraged to submit papers in line with the theme for HAI 2019, “Human-Agent Interaction, the Heart of Artificial Intelligence.” We are looking forward to sharing the latest research results of HAI that contribute to elucidate the mechanism of intelligence, implementation reports of groundbreaking HAI utilizing cutting-edge AI technology, and advanced research results of the boundary region between HAI and AI such as interactive machine learning and human-AI partnerships.

The HAI conference seeks contributions from a broad range of disciplines such as engineering, computer science, psychology, sociology, cognitive science, and design.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • studies of Human-Agent Interaction, with quantitative/qualitative results;
  • theories, design aspects and evaluations of human-agent interaction;
  • theoretical models;
  • technological advances;
  • experimental methods;
  • impacts of embodiment;
  • character and avatar design;
  • agents in social networks;
  • user experience design with social agents; and
  • digitally-mediated human-human communication.

Since 2014, HAI proceedings are published in-cooperation with ACM, and HAI 2019 is in the process of achieving a similar status. Read more on Call: 7th International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction (HAI 2019)…

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Astonishing NASA documentary “Apollo 11” evokes intense, inspiring presence

[Anyone who questions the ability of film to evoke an intense and multi-faceted sense of presence should read this IndieWire review of (and go see) a new NASA documentary called “Apollo 11.” If nothing else read the fifth paragraph (“Honestly, …”) below. I missed seeing “First Man” in an IMAX theater but a group of us here at Temple University saw an extended preview scene that made us viscerally feel like we were there in the capsule during the countdown and take-off. “Apollo 11” uses newly discovered and restored high resolution footage and audio recordings of the event along with minimal graphics and no narration to produce what sounds like an inspiring illusion of presence as transportation, engagement and perceptual and social realism. For more information and to watch the trailer see and collectSPACE. –Matthew]

‘Apollo 11’ Review: Astonishing NASA Documentary Is One Giant Leap for Film Restoration — Sundance

With “Apollo 11,” Todd Douglas Miller compiles never-before-seen NASA footage into a staggeringly clear look at our trip to the moon.

David Ehrlich
January 25, 2019

At a time when the average person compulsively records, shares, and archives images and video of the mundane trivialities they experience in their day-to-day lives, it can be hard — emotionally, if not intellectually — to accept that most of our species’ defining moments have been lost like tears in the rain. The world has access to more footage of an adorable panda being startled by a sneeze than it does of the entire Roman Empire, and that’s just the way things are.

History books and homework will always be there to remind us of what happened once upon a time, but the past is only getting harder to believe without documentary evidence, and even the present is starting to come under question; it used to be “pics or it didn’t happen,” and now it’s “maybe those kids in the MAGA hats were just trying to peacefully express their cultural beliefs.” When people can no longer believe their eyes, it seems foolish to assume that they’ll continue to believe something they’ve only read about or seen recreated. It seems even more unlikely that they’ll be able to understand what that history cost, or be inspired to build upon it.

This puts something like the moon-landing, an earth-shaking event that came after the advent of the moving image, but prior to its complete ubiquity, in a strange middle ground (Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old” located World War I in that same void). We all believe that it happened (well, most of us do anyway), and images of its success are among the most iconic ever taken. There are countless documentaries about it, and a woefully under-appreciated Hollywood biopic that excavates astronaut Neil Armstrong’s inner life with clinical precision. When this critic was a kid, he met a drunk Buzz Aldrin at a Utah bar and grill. This history is right behind us, still close enough to reach back and touch, and yet — without having seen it for ourselves with the clarity and immediacy that’s baked into even the most frivolous Instagram Story — it feels just a bit unreal. Not fictitious, but rather too dryly factual; we know what happened in the summer of 1969, but a growing number of generations can’t access the true awe of the launch, or appreciate how that one giant leap for all mankind made the dreams of an entire planet seem possible.

There are passages — utterly astonishing passages — of Todd Douglas Miller’s “Apollo 11” that might change that forever; change that for the people who were alive to watch history being made on their fuzzy television sets, and for their millennial children who were born two or three decades later, and for anyone who comes after us. Entirely comprised of pristine, unprocessed, never-before-seen 65mm footage that was recently discovered in the depths of the National Archives (alongside 11,000 hours of uncatalogued NASA audio recordings), the film is as much a documentary as it is a bonafide public service. Upon realizing that they’d hit the motherlode, Miller and his team set about digitizing the raw material in a way that would make it seem as clear and present as the world in front of your face. Mission accomplished: The resulting transfer, created in a custom scanner capable of resolutions up to 8K, is (in the filmmaker’s words) “the highest quality digital collection of Apollo 11 footage in existence.”

Honestly, Miller is selling it short. It’s one thing to boast about the specs of these images, and quite another to see the spruced up footage for yourself. It’s rare that picture quality can inspire a physical reaction, but the opening moments of “Apollo 11,” in which a NASA camera crew roams around the base of the rocket and spies on some of the people who’ve come to gawk at it from a beach across the water, are vivid enough to melt away the screen that stands between them. The clarity takes your breath away, and it does so in the blink of an eye; your body will react to it before your brain has time to process why, after a lifetime of casual interest, you’re suddenly overcome by the sheer enormity of what it meant to leave the Earth and land somewhere else. By tricking you at a base sensory level into seeing the past as though it were the present, Miller cuts away the 50 years that have come between the two, like a heart surgeon who cuts away a dangerous clot so that the blood can flow again. Such perfect verisimilitude is impossible to fake. It took Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” a long time to make audiences forget they knew how this story ends; “Apollo 11” accomplishes that same feat in milliseconds. Read more on Astonishing NASA documentary “Apollo 11” evokes intense, inspiring presence…

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Call: “Robots for Social Good: Exploring Critical Design for HRI” – Workshop at HRI 2019

Call for Papers

“Robots for Social Good: Exploring Critical Design for HRI”
A half-day, hands-on Workshop at HRI 2019, the 14th Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction
Daegu, Korea
11 March 2019


Submission Date: 25 February 2019
Notification Date: 28 February 2019
Workshop Date: 11 March 2019

More information:
Submission page:


  • Selma Sabanovic, Associate Professor of Informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington (USA)
  • Chi Hyung Jeon, Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy, KAIST (Korea)
  • Ana Paiva, Full professor at Instituto Superior Técnico and coordinator of the Intelligent and Social Agents Group, GAIPS (Portugal)

Robots are being increasingly developed as social actors, entering public and personal spaces. However, if we consider these robots as social interventions, then it is important to recognize that the robot’s design – its behavior, its application, its appearance, even its marketing image – will have an impact on the society and social spaces it enters. While in some cases this may be a positive effect, social robots can also contribute negatively, e.g., reinforcing gender stereotypes or promoting ageist views.

Ultimately, we want to promote robots for social good that can contribute to positive social changes for socio-political issues (e.g., ageism, feminism, homelessness, environmental issues). This workshop aims to strengthen this discussion in the HRI community, with the goal of working toward initial recommendations for how HRI designers can include elements of critical design in their work.

WORKSHOP SUBMISSION Read more on Call: “Robots for Social Good: Exploring Critical Design for HRI” – Workshop at HRI 2019…

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Universal files patent to put guests on a virtual reality leash

[This short story from the Orlando Weekly describes (and links to) a new patent application for a combination of form (a tether system) and content (virtual obstructions like gates and fog) to manage the paths of multiple VR and AR users at theme parks. See the original for more images. –Matthew]

Read more on Universal files patent to put guests on a virtual reality leash…

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Jobs: 4 postdoc positions in WEAVR R&D project at University of York

Vacancies: WEAVR recruiting four new post docs for esports research

Role: 4 PDRA roles (see details and specific adverts below)
Institution: University of York (United Kingdom)
Closing date: 31/01/2019
Contract status: 2 years (fixed term)
Salary: £32,236 – £39,609

Read more on Jobs: 4 postdoc positions in WEAVR R&D project at University of York…

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Instagram’s increasingly realistic virtual influencers

[The images of the Instagram CGI character Imma (roughly, “now”) in this story from Inverse are compellingly realistic and raise intriguing questions about the impacts of the “virtual influencer” trend. For more examples see ITP Live, and for information about a potentially important factor in the impacts see the 2014 story in Motherboard titled “Lonely People Are More Likely to Think Inanimate Objects Are Alive.” –Matthew]

The Weirdest Trend on Instagram: Virtual Influencers Who Make Real Content

By Danny Paez
January 19, 2019

The sun may already be setting on the age of the ambiguously famous social media influencer. After all, why pay an actual human being to hawk nutrition concepts or multi-level-marketing schemes when you can create a virtual human who, being not a real person, is perfectly willing to strut, pose, and even make memes for free.

The latest virtual influencer to go viral is named Imma, a self-described “virtual model” who’s on the February 2019 cover of the Japanese computer graphics magazine, CGWorld. She accomplished this despite being completely fake, rendered entirely in CGI. A recent photo shows it standing in the middle of a city street, hands on hips, with the caption, “hello earth 🌎 hello human 👶 hello ai.” It’s not clear what artificial intelligence is at play, though.

The incredibly lifelike fashionista first hit the internet on July of last year, and has since amassed 8,900 followers on Instagram. It sounds impressive, but it’s peanuts compared to some of the other computer-generated influencers like Lil Miquela, who boasts about 1.5 million. That said, Imma’s almost indistinguishably human appearance makes her significantly more compelling. Not only that, it’s a sure sign that we could see increasingly humanlike iterations of models like Imma, who was created by Tokyo-based CG company Modeling Cafe, according to a report by IT Media.

What Is a “Virtual Influencer”? Read more on Instagram’s increasingly realistic virtual influencers…

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Call: The Challenges of Working on Social Robots that Collaborate with People – CHI 2019 Workshop

Call for Papers

CHI 2019 Workshop: The Challenges of Working on Social Robots that Collaborate with People
Workshop at CHI 2019 in Glasgow
Saturday 4th May 2019
Workshop website:


  • Submission Deadline: (on or before) 12 February 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: (on or before) 1 March 2019
  • Workshop day: Saturday, 4th May, 2019, Glasgow UK
  • Submission template: CHI Extended Abstracts. Please use the appropriate template, available for both LaTeX and Word (Windows and Mac).
  • Submission format: All submissions must be in PDF format and submitted through:
  • Review process: Submissions will be peer reviewed based on their quality, relevance, and applicability to workshop themes and goals.
  • Attendance requirements: It is a requirement that at least one author of each accepted position paper must attend the workshop and that all participants must register for both the workshop and for at least one day of the conference (
  • Our workshop on the official CHI site:

We welcome papers (4-6 pages) on the topic of the workshop, but we are especially interested in position papers outlining research work carried out in one of our challenge areas, we would also welcome any new challenges.


Despite advances in robotics, there are still currently many barriers and challenges to adoption, not least the somewhat flaky hardware. However, it is important that as robotics evolves and becomes more a part of our everyday lives that we make sure that robots, especially socially collaborative robots, integrate well into people’s routine practices, homes, and communities. We welcome position papers from researchers who are working in between or in the areas of HCI and HRI and who would like to work together to find the right methods for studies relating to socially collaborative robots in home, public, work and community settings. Specifically, we need to consider a wide array of methods from efficacy and effectiveness studies, to realistic evaluation, to lab testing, to design and evaluation at scale and in the wild.

CHALLENGES Read more on Call: The Challenges of Working on Social Robots that Collaborate with People – CHI 2019 Workshop…

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RealityVirtually: These developers are trying to make virtual reality more useful

[The RealityVirtually Hackathon at MIT sounds like a fascinating, fun and valuable event where people gather to bring creative ideas for presence applications to life. This story from The Boston Globe (where it features a different image) describes many of the projects at this year’s event; for much more information about them see the Winners page on the RealityVirtually website. –Matthew]

These developers are trying to make virtual reality more useful

By Scott Kirsner, Globe Correspondent
January 24, 2019

If you’ve seen a set of virtual reality goggles — in person or otherwise — you may have jumped to a few conclusions. Maybe a useful gadget for hardcore gamers, but not me. Who wants to stand around swiveling his head and looking like an apprentice welder from the Planet Cybertron?

And how much more antisocial could people possibly get?

But over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, virtual reality drew nearly 450 people from about 35 different countries to the campus of MIT for an event called RealityVirtually. The participants formed small teams and spent four days building, from scratch, fully functional pieces of software for virtual reality and augmented reality headsets. (Augmented reality is a sibling of virtual reality, using glasses that you can see through but that can overlay digital imagery onto the real world.)

It offered an incredible glimpse into the nascent medium’s potential and possibilities. It’s a medium, Northeastern University professor David Tamés observes, where “the hardware development is way ahead of where the storytelling and the applications and the content are. People are pouring huge amounts of money into the hardware, and nobody is really making the big investments in the software.” (Tamés was among the participants at the RealityVirtually event.)

In other words, this is like television before Ed Sullivan or “I Love Lucy.” And the hardware makers know they need to do a better job persuading people why they might need this gear; at RealityVirtually, they were offering cash prizes of up to $3,000 to teams that came up with the best software demos. Read more on RealityVirtually: These developers are trying to make virtual reality more useful…

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