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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Call: 4TU.Ethics Bi-annual Conference on the Ethics of Disruptive Technologies

Call for Papers

4TUEthicsEDT: 4TU.Ethics Bi-annual Conference on the Ethics of Disruptive Technologies
Technical University of Eindhoven
Eindhoven, Netherlands
November 7-8, 2019

Abstract registration deadline: June 15, 2019
Submission deadline: October 1, 2019

Throughout history, technology has been a driver of social change. The technologies of the industrial revolution played a crucial role in shaping modern society, and society has since then continued to be shaped by technological innovations. The conference focuses on technologies that will not just change specific domains or practices for which they were designed, but that will change our life in a much broader sense. They are called socially disruptive technologies (SDTs). SDTs transform everyday life, social institutions, cultural practices, and the organisation of the economy, business, and work. They may even affect our fundamental beliefs, rights, and values. Historical examples of such technologies include the printing press, the steam engine, electric lighting, the computer, and the Internet. Modern examples include digital technologies, bio- and brain technologies, and environmental and sustainable technologies.

The new generation of SDTs has a number of characteristics. First, it promises almost complete control over atoms, bits, genes, and neurons, allowing for everything to be reconstituted or redesigned, including human beings. Second, it is characterized by a convergence of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, resulting in new technologies at the intersection of information technology, biotechnology/biomedicine, nanotechnology, and neuroscience/cognitive science, such as synthetic biology and brain-computer interfaces. Finally, these technologies emerge in the context of a number of grand societal challenges, such as combating climate change and meeting the UN Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), which will actually require a range of technological and societal trans­formations.

The stakes are high. These new SDTs could bring great benefits to our society: opening up new medical perspectives, enabling new forms of political participation, or contributing to the solution of our sustainability problems. But they could also bring great harm if not properly developed and implemented (Jasanoff 2016). They could curtail our autonomy and privacy, damage our ecology, and exacerbate divisions and inequalities in society. That is why normative frameworks are so important: which values and normative principles should guide their development and introduction, and which benefits do we want for individuals and society?

Few will contest that novel technologies raise ethical questions that require ethical reflection and guidance. But a key problem in the case of SDTs is that these technologies are also challenging the very concepts and values that we normally appeal to in our ethical thinking. There are three sub-themes of the conference. Each of these sub-themes focuses on a number of key concepts that are being challenged by these socially disruptive technologies.

  1. The Human Condition: concepts that are basic to our moral self-understanding, such as (moral) agency, autonomy, human interdependence, and responsibility;
  2. The Future of a Free and Fair Society: concepts that form the basis of our political, social and legal institutions, such as democracy, public and private, justice, and equality;
  3. Nature, Life and Human Intervention: concepts and distinctions that we use to order our world: such as distinctions between natural and artificial, humans and machines, and agents and physical systems.

The format of the conference is as follows: there are keynote speakers and presentations of papers in parallel sessions. Each session will have a 20-30 minutes presentation, followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion. In addition there will be poster sessions.

Senior and junior researchers working in the field are invited to submit abstracts for the conference. Abstracts should be 500 words, excluding a short bibliography. These abstracts will be evaluated by the programme committee of the conference. Decisions will be made before the end of June. Papers that are not accepted for a parallel session may be presented as a poster.

Taskforces of 4TU.Ethics and others are invited to submit a special session proposal for the conference, with 3-4 presentations on a particular theme.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES Read more on Call: 4TU.Ethics Bi-annual Conference on the Ethics of Disruptive Technologies…

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How OpenXR could glue virtual reality’s fragmenting market together

[I was thinking of the VHS vs. Betamax videotape format “war” before I got to the quote at the end of this Ars Technica story about a new open standard for VR and AR developers to use to ensure compatibility across the rapidly expanding hardware market for these presence-evoking technologies. See the original story for two more images, and for a short primer on format wars see a story on the BT website.  –Matthew]

[Image: OpenXR is like a girl reaching for a moon, or something…]

How OpenXR could glue virtual reality’s fragmenting market together

This week’s provisional release could help unify cross-platform VR development.

Kyle Orland
March 19, 2019

Consumer-grade virtual reality (and, to a lesser extent, augmented reality) is only a few years old, but it’s already an extremely fragmented market. Wikipedia lists almost 30 distinct VR headsets released by dozens of hardware makers since 2015. Creating a game that works seamlessly with all of these headsets (and their various runtime environments) can be a headache even for the biggest studios.

OpenXR is out to change all that. With Monday’s release of the OpenXR provisional specification, Khronos’ open source working group wants to create a world where developers can code their VR/AR experience for a single API, with the confidence that the resulting application will work on any OpenXR-compliant headset.

“By accessing a common set of objects and functions corresponding to application life cycle, rendering, tracking, frame timing, and input, which are frustratingly different across existing vendor-specific APIs, software developers can run their applications across multiple XR systems with minimal porting effort—significantly reducing industry fragmentation,” Khronos said in a statement announcing the provisional release. Read more on How OpenXR could glue virtual reality’s fragmenting market together…

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Call: Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association Post Graduate Network Conference 2019

Call for Papers

Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association Post Graduate Network (MeCCSA PGN) Conference 2019
July 1-2, 2019
Bangor University, Wales, UK

200-400 word proposals due: 8th April 2019

‘Delivery technologies become obsolete and get replaced; media, on the other hand, evolve.’ -Henry Jenkins (2006: 13)

The changes that have taken place within any aspect of media over the last several decades have been immense; some areas of the field are all but unrecognisable following such drastic adaptations and alterations. It is these adaptations, these changes, the evolution of media itself that is the theme of this conference. ‘Media evolution is a cultural process; it does not follow a grand plan either, but sometimes the direction and speed of the development can be – more or less – planned’ (Stöber, 2004: 485-486). However, ‘recent developments in literature as well as in literary theory… have posed new challenges to established theories and concepts’ (Reinerth and Thon, 2016: 11), and as such we must ourselves evolve both creatively, and academically. Elements of media evolutions are the focus of this conference but such a topic can be interpreted in a multitude of ways; fields of research such as narratology, practice-based research, creative practice, film studies, game studies, performance analysis, etc. are but a few of many examples.

Marshall McLuhan stated that ‘the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology’ (1964: 7), and therefore as technology evolves, media evolves with it. For the MeCCSA PGN Conference 2019 we invite proposals for presentations, performances, or media works (maximum of fifteen minutes) that address or contribute to any of the areas of research mentioned above but also any further fields that might apply. We will also consider workshop/panel proposals (up to fifty minutes) that address such elements of media with particular interest to practical application within the industry. Proposals may be from an academic discipline but we are equally welcoming of proposals from outside the academy especially if submitted by those with experience within the industry.

Many fields of research within the greater disciplines have the potential to overlap, and we welcome submissions from interdisciplinary sources and experimental practitioners. Though candidates are not limited to this list, below are some example areas that candidates may present on:

  • Evolution of Media – The examination of how differing forms of media have evolved and adapted with passing time and how these changes affected both the industry and creative output.
  • Evolution of the Creator -The examination of how the creators of media have needed to adapt and change over time; script writers, novel writers, short-story writers, directors, producers, etc.
  • Evolution of the Recipient – The examination of the evolution of the audience. Impact of changes that have taken place in film and TV audiences, video-game players, internet users, students in a classroom, readers of novels and short-stories, listeners to podcasts and radio broadcasts, etc.
  • Evolution of Practice – Examinations of changes in the creative process, how creators view their own work critically and build from it, including in particular practice-based research within academia.
  • Evolution of Communication – The examination of communication in relation to media and the ways in which such communications have evolved and adapted with changing technology and content.
  • Evolution of Culture – The examination of evolution of wider culture in regards to media, changes within society or expectations that have in turn altered the forms of media popularity. This could be narrowed to cover only a sub-culture or portion of society at large, including minorities.
  • Evolution of Experience – The examination of how media has evolved to heighten its impact and the ways in which it can affect a recipient(s). How experiencing a form of media has changed with time and technology.
  • Evolution of Enhancement – How forms of media have enhanced one another in order to change the ways in which it is interpreted and received, elements of ergodic literature, virtual reality systems, augmented reality systems, etc.

PROPOSALS/DEADLINES Read more on Call: Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association Post Graduate Network Conference 2019…

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Presence for good: “Traveling While Black” VR documentary creates impactful experience

[This story from MediaPost is a first-person report that illustrates the encouraging potential of presence-evoking technology to create empathy, understanding and maybe even change. An excerpt from the Forbes story mentioned within it follows below (that story includes another picture and a 0:41 minute trailer, also available via YouTube). –Matthew]


A Time Machine Documentary

by Steven Rosenbaum, Featured Contributor
March 19, 2019

As I headed over to the West Side of Manhattan, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I’d been promised a time machine.

I’d been told to use the password “arcade” at the door. The building was big, empty and dark. The guard behind the desk looked up, and raised an eyebrow, as if to say, “So?” I said the password, and he pointed to the elevator bank. “Third floor,” he whispered.

OK, this was kind of weird.

Upstairs I found a long hall, at the end of which was a collection of high-tech exhibits. There was an AI system that asked you questions to create a custom perfume, a fabulous flying bird VR experience, and a somewhat puzzling offer to explore “the wolves in the walls.” (Hint: They’re not really wolves.)

But it was the scale model of Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington D.C. that called my name. I’d found the time machine, in the “Traveling While Black” VR documentary.

A view of how African Americans have been treated while traveling won an Academy Award this year for the film “Green Book.” And my friend and fellow TED resident Evita Robinson’s TED Talk “Reclaiming the Globe” brought the issue to light by discussing her modern-day experiences.

So I wasn’t entirely sure what a trip in a time machine would add to my understanding.

Then I put on the VR goggles.

It was most certainly a time machine. Director Roger Ross Williams puts you in a booth in the Chili Bowl and lets you travel through the decades. I sat fact to face with people engaging in the battle that goes on today — from the restaurant’s owner Virginia Ali to civil rights leader Courtland Cox to Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, the teenager shot by Cleveland police in 2014.

After 20 minutes, I was back. But things had changed for me. Read more on Presence for good: “Traveling While Black” VR documentary creates impactful experience…

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Call: “Interactive Assistants: How does their increasing ubiquity and intelligence impact users’ lives?” ACM IVA 2019 Workshop

Call for Papers

Interactive Assistants: How does their increasing ubiquity and intelligence impact users’ lives?
Workshop at ACM IVA 2019
July 2nd, 2019

Submission deadline for 2-page position papers: April 15, 2019


After several decades of developments and research that was mostly restricted to laboratories and academic realms, intelligent agents now finally they enter people’s homes. Autonomous systems using artificial intelligence (AI) to communicate with humans will soon be a part of everyday life. Systems like Siri, Alexa or Cortana can already be found in numerous households, enabling the whole family to operate home applications (e.g., switching on the light) or use the Internet (e.g., reading the weather forecast). Other applications (like companion agents for ambient assisted living or pedagogical agents) assist vulnerable groups such as the elderly in daily living or support learning in young children. Therefore, it is time to take a holistic look at the impact this has on people’s lives. It needs to be scrutinized how the emerging presence of intelligent artificial interaction partners influences human communication and relationships. There is an acute need to not only involve disciplines like computer science and psychology, but more broadly address ethics and law-related questions. Therefore, the workshop aims to bring together researchers who from different disciplinary perspectives want to contribute to analyzing the impact of the soon ubiquitous autonomous systems.

As intelligent interfaces and agents are now entering people’s homes, it is hugely relevant for the community to discuss the implications of ubiquitous dialogue with machines also considering ethics and law-related issues. The workshop therefore wants to provide a forum for related discussions and make the community aware of chances and pitfalls.


The workshop is targeted at anyone interested in and conducting research on interactive assistants that interact with users in real life settings. We expect position papers from researchers from the disciplines of computer science, psychology, sociology, ethics and law.

Attendees should submit a short position paper (2-4 pages). The paper can include reflections on impact on users’ lives from any of the relevant discipline’s perspectives or include interdisciplinary approaches. It might refer to own empirical work or experiences made. It should touch on either social, ethical or law-related implications of the dissemination of interactive assistants in the wild.

As we aim for a broad discussion among community members, we will filter the submissions mainly for relevance and quality. Read more on Call: “Interactive Assistants: How does their increasing ubiquity and intelligence impact users’ lives?” ACM IVA 2019 Workshop…

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“Rembrandt Reality” uses AR to let you join doctors in Rembrandt’s most famous painting

[The new free app described in this artnet News story appears to evoke effective presence illusions; see the original story for more pictures and a 2:01 minute video (also available via YouTube), and see coverage in UploadVR for more information and a 4:29 minute video (also available via YouTube). –Matthew]

You Can Now Join Doctors as They Dissect a Corpse in Rembrandt’s Most Famous Painting Through Augmented Reality

New technology is bringing Old Masters to life.

Sarah Cascone
March 19, 2019

As institutions in the Netherlands ramp up celebrations to mark the 350th anniversary of the death of Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), the Mauritshuis in The Hague has released a new augmented reality app that lets viewers step inside one of the artist’s most famous works.

The project, titled Rembrandt Reality and created by Dutch virtual reality start-up Capitola, allows viewers to enter The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632), getting up close and personal with the doctor and the corpse of the recently executed criminal Aris Kindte.

“Art and tech go really well together,” David Robustelli, Capitola’s head of digital, told artnet News. “You can experience art in [a] whole different way. With Rembrandt Reality, you travel back in time for a minute. It really immerses you in the whole experience.” Read more on “Rembrandt Reality” uses AR to let you join doctors in Rembrandt’s most famous painting…

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Call: “AI and ubiquitous smart technologies” issue of Evental Aesthetics

Call for Papers:

Evental Aesthetics
Themed issue: AI and ubiquitous smart technologies

Deadline: 31 March 2019

Evental Aesthetics is an independent, double-blind peer-reviewed journal dedicated to philosophical and aesthetic intersections. The journal is open-access, and there are no publication fees. The Editors seek submissions for a themed issue in the summer of 2019.

Read more on Call: “AI and ubiquitous smart technologies” issue of Evental Aesthetics…

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Facebook can make VR avatars look – and move – exactly like you

[Will Facebook’s “social presence laboratory” create “convincingly human avatars within four years”? The prospects – and both positive and negative possible applications – are discussed in this story from Wired. See the original version for a 1:02 minute video and 4 large animated gifs that demonstrate the technology; CBS News has more coverage that includes a 3:07 minute video report. –Matthew]

[Image: Research assistant Autumn Trimble sits inside “Mugsy,” one of the capture facilities Pittsburgh’s Facebook Reality Lab uses to create “codec avatars.” Credit: Lavender Leigh]

Facebook Can Make VR Avatars Look—And Move—Exactly Like You

Peter Rubin
March 13, 2019

“There’s this big, ugly sucker at the door,” the young woman says, her eyes twinkling, “and he said, ‘Who do you think you are, Lena Horne?’ I said no but that I knew Miss Horne like a sister.”

It’s the beginning of a short soliloquy from Walton Jones’ play The 1940’s Radio Hour, and as she continues with the monologue it’s easy to see that the young woman knows what she’s doing. Her smile grows while she goes on to recount the doorman’s change of tune—like she’s letting you in on the joke. Her lips curl as she seizes on just the right words, playing with their cadence. Her expressions are so finely calibrated, her reading so assured, that with the dark background behind her, you’d think you were watching a black-box revival of the late-’70s Broadway play.

There’s only one problem: Her body disappears below the neck.

Yaser Sheikh reaches out and stops the video. The woman is a stunningly lifelike virtual-reality avatar, her performance generated by data gathered beforehand. But Sheikh, who heads up Facebook Reality Labs’ Pittsburgh location, has another video he considers more impressive. In it, the same woman appears wearing a VR headset, as does a young man. Their headsetted real-life selves chat on the left side of the screen; on the right side, simultaneously, their avatars carry on in perfect concert. As mundane as the conversation is—they talk about hot yoga—it’s also an unprecedented glimpse at the future.

For years now, people have been interacting in virtual reality via avatars, computer-generated characters that represent us. Because VR headsets and hand controllers are trackable, our real-life head and hand movements carry into those virtual conversations, the unconscious mannerisms adding crucial texture. Yet even as our virtual interactions have become more naturalistic, technical constraints have forced them to remain visually simple. Social VR apps like Rec Room and Altspace abstract us into caricatures, with expressions that rarely (if ever) map to what we’re really doing with our faces. Facebook’s Spaces is able to generate a reasonable cartoon approximation of you from your social media photos but depends on buttons and thumb-sticks to trigger certain expressions. Even a more technically demanding platform like High Fidelity, which allows you to import a scanned 3D model of yourself, is a long way from being able to make an avatar feel like you.

That’s why I’m here in Pittsburgh on a ridiculously cold, early March morning inside a building very few outsiders have ever stepped foot in. Yaser Sheikh and his team are finally ready to let me in on what they’ve been working on since they first rented a tiny office in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood. (They’ve since moved to a larger space near the Carnegie Mellon campus, with plans to expand again in the next year or two.) Codec Avatars, as Facebook Reality Labs calls them, are the result of a process that uses machine learning to collect, learn, and re-create human social expression. They’re also nowhere near being ready for the public. At best, they’re years away—if they end up being something that Facebook deploys at all. But the FRL team is ready to get this conversation started. “It’ll be big if we can get this finished,” Sheikh says with the not-at-all contained smile of a man who has no doubts they’ll get it finished. “We want to get it out. We want to talk about it.” Read more on Facebook can make VR avatars look – and move – exactly like you…

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Call: “New Technological Applications for Foreign and Second Language Learning and Teaching” (Book chapters)

Call for Chapters

“New technological applications for foreign and second language learning and teaching”

Mariusz Kruk, University of Zielona Góra, Poland
Mark Peterson, Kyoto University, Japan

Proposals Submission Deadline: April 25, 2019
Full Chapters Due: August 23, 2019
Submission Date: December 16, 2019

Propose a chapter for this book:


The book entitled “New technological applications for foreign and second language learning and teaching” will offer a wide-ranging exploration of the latest advances in technology-enhanced language learning. This publication combines theoretical and applied research from an interdisciplinary viewpoint. The volume will encompass contributions from international experts in the field who possess extensive experience in the use of the latest technologies to enhance the process of foreign/second language learning. The book differs from earlier publications in that it will offer insights into state-of-the-art technological and methodological innovations and also new practical applications. Topics examined will include outcomes of the use of contemporary digital technologies for learners and teachers, as well as the application of recent technological developments to language learning and teaching. Further areas of investigation include the description and discussion of practical exemplars of the above phenomena in a range of language learning settings. Drawing together theoretical and empirical studies relating to language learning, the book will represent an essential resource for academics, researchers, practitioners and postgraduate students in the areas of computer assisted language learning, languages, linguistics and language teaching.


This book will explore how the latest technologies have the potential to engage foreign/second language learners both within and outside the language classroom and to facilitate language learning and teaching in the target language by means of them. This book will be geared toward language professionals, researchers and practitioners who wish to advance their understanding of how new technologies may be effectively applied in foreign and second language teaching and learning. Moreover, this book will appeal to those who wish to enhance language education by means of current technologies.


Because of the scope, the diversity of topics covered and the adoption of various theoretical perspectives, the book will be of interest not only to theorists and researchers but also to methodologists, practitioners and materials-developers and can be used in courses for undergraduate and graduate students.


Recommended topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • teaching and learning language systems and subsystems (e.g., speaking, vocabulary, pronunciation)
  • communication/interaction in the target language
  • learning analytics
  • immersive VR
  • learning in non-institutional environments
  • individual differences
  • affective variables (e.g., motivation, anxiety, willingness to communicate)
  • identity and CALL
  • individual variation in digital environments
  • learners with special educational needs and CALL
  • learner and teacher characteristics
  • testing/evaluation/assessment in CALL
  • learner autonomy and CALL
  • courseware design development
  • online learning and teaching
  • telecollaboration
  • digital games
  • virtual worlds
  • distance CALL
  • intelligent CALL
  • materials design
  • methodology of research

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE Read more on Call: “New Technological Applications for Foreign and Second Language Learning and Teaching” (Book chapters)…

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Japanese service creates wearable super realistic replicas of your pet’s head

[Here’s a very unusual example of presence. It’s from Grape, where the story includes many more pictures and the mentioned 9:37 minute video (also available via YouTube). –Matthew]

Japanese Service Creates Wearable Super Realistic Replicas Of Your Pet’s Head

Read more on Japanese service creates wearable super realistic replicas of your pet’s head…

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