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Category Archives: Presence in the News

News stories explicitly or implicitly related to presence from a wide variety of sources

Call: CONVERSATIONS 2019 – 3rd International Workshop on Chatbot Research

Call for Papers

3rd International Workshop on Chatbot Research
November 19, 2019
University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Paper submission deadline: August 25, 2019

Chatbot researchers are invited to CONVERSATIONS 2019, a full-day workshop on chatbot research. This is the third time we arrange this workshop where chatbot researchers meet to collaborate and share their experience and insights from their work. The workshop is free of charge, and a good place to actively participate in this rapidly advancing field.

Participants are encouraged to submit papers presenting new empirical or theoretical work, as well as research on chatbot design, concepts, and evaluation. Relevant paper topics include, but are not limited to, the key challenges identified below.

All papers will be peer reviewed by three members of the workshop program committee. Accepted full papers will be included in the workshop proceedings, published in the Springer LNCS series.

We encourage two kinds of submissions:

  • FULL PAPERS: Empirical studies, theoretical contributions, or presentations of design research (6-14 pages, Springer LNCS format) that advance the state-of-the-art. To be presented at the workshop and published in the workshop proceedings.
  • POSITION PAPERS: Author positions on open issues related to chatbot or chatbot demonstrations (3-6 pages, Springer LNCS format). To be presented at the workshop and published at the workshop webpage.

The objective of the workshop is to advance the state of the art on chatbot research, through cross-disciplinary sharing and collaboration. Join in on this opportunity to meet peers, share knowledge, and collaborate on future directions for chatbots and chatbot research.


  • August 25: Submission deadline
  • September 25: Author notification
  • October 25: Submission of revised papers
  • November 19: Workshop

KEY CHALLENGES Read more on Call: CONVERSATIONS 2019 – 3rd International Workshop on Chatbot Research…

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OSU using VR to train medical residents to take history of patients with limited English proficiency

[The Columbus Dispatch report below describes a new program that uses VR and social presence to train medical residents in an important part of their job; see the original story for a second image, and see coverage from WBNS 10 for a 1:11 minute video news report. –Matthew]

[Image: Douglas Danforth, the academic program director at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine explains a virtual reality program to residents. The program is being used to help residents get the medical history of patients who don’t speak English as a first language. Credit: Ellen Wagner/Dispatch]

Virtual reality patients give Ohio State medical residents hands-on experience

By Ellen Wagner, The Columbus Dispatch
June 19, 2019

Mr. Martinez is a patient at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center who is Hispanic, speaks little English and is suffering from back pain.

He also is not real.

Mr. Martinez is one of 13 virtual reality patients that residents use in training when learning how to take the history of a patient who has limited English proficiency.

The virtual patients are controlled by artificial intelligence and understand most of what the residents ask them as long as it is a reasonable question in a doctor-patient interaction, said Douglas Danforth, Ph.D, academic program director at Ohio State’s College of Medicine.

“It’s kind of like Siri or Alexa, but rather than just getting directions or getting your lights turned on, you can carry on a nuanced conversation,” he said.

On Tuesday, Danforth showed residents what the software looks like on a television screen featuring an animated man in an exam room. The residents then practiced speaking to the virtual patients through a virtual reality headset and an app on an iPad or web browser.

Residents started using the headsets for training about a month ago, and the university is looking to purchase more headsets, Danforth said.

Ohio State applied for funding and is sharing with five other medical schools in Ohio a $5.5 million grant from the Ohio Department of Medicaid, which wants to see virtual reality simulations created to enhance cultural competency in Medicaid providers.

The grant will be used to pay for four virtual training programs: the resident training as well as ones for building empathy for dementia patients, access to dental care for immigrant families and to help providers learn more about unconscious biases such as race, gender or other areas of which they are unaware but can affect their treatment of patients. Read more on OSU using VR to train medical residents to take history of patients with limited English proficiency…

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David Chalmers on VR and AI

[Below are excerpts from a really interesting New York Times interview with Philosopher David Chalmers, first on the difference between intelligence and consciousness and how we can assess the status of an artificial intelligence, and then on the definition and nature of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ reality. The full version of the interview includes additional intriguing insights. –Matthew]

[Image: David Chalmers is a leading thinker on consciousness. Credit: Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times]

‘There’s Just No Doubt That It Will Change the World’: David Chalmers on V.R. and A.I.

We will develop new worlds and beings with powers greater than our own. How do we maximize them for good?

By Prashanth Ramakrishna, a student at New York University in applied mathematics and computer science. His work has been published, most recently, in The Believer magazine.
June 18, 2019

Over the past two decades, the philosopher David Chalmers has established himself as a leading thinker on consciousness. He began his academic career in mathematics but slowly migrated toward cognitive science and philosophy of mind. He eventually landed at Indiana University working under the guidance of Douglas Hofstadter, whose influential book “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” had earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Chalmers’s dissertation, “Toward a Theory of Consciousness,” grew into his first book, “The Conscious Mind” (1996), which helped revive the philosophical conversation on consciousness. Perhaps his best-known contribution to philosophy is “the hard problem of consciousness” — the problem of explaining subjective experience, the inner movie playing in every human mind, which in Chalmers’s words will “persist even when the performance of all the relevant functions is explained.”

Chalmers is now writing a book on the problems of a technological future we are fast approaching: virtual reality, digitally uploaded consciousness, artificial intelligence and more. I met with David Chalmers in his office at New York University to discuss this future and how we might relate to it. Read more on David Chalmers on VR and AI…

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American Well, Cisco partner on TV-centered telehealth platform for seniors

[Note the vivid descriptions of presence experiences in this story from MobileHealthNews about a new effort to bring telehealth to television sets. A press release is also available from PR Newswire.–Matthew]

AmWell, Cisco partner on TV-centered telehealth platform for seniors

The companies pitched the upcoming service as a convenient in-home option for Medicare Advantage patients overwhelmed by digital apps.

By Dave Muoio
June 14, 2019

Seeking to better reach aging patients in their homes, telehealth company American Well has partnered with Cisco Systems on an upcoming effort to deliver virtual care through home television sets, the companies announced today at American Well’s annual Client Forum in Boston.

“This is a very, very different exercise than any of the tech health that we’ve done in the past, because this isn’t about people using an app to get a service,” Dr. Roy Schoenberg, president and CEO of American Well, said on stage during the event. “This is about the ability for us as healthcare to walk into granny’s bedroom, as if granny was under our jurisdiction, in our hospital or in our office. … [It’s] the ability for us in the healthcare world to knock, knock, knock on the other side of the glass of the television and say ‘Hey Sally, Dr. Jordan is here to see you. Can he come in?’ That is a fundamental change to the way we operate our healthcare system.”

The companies did not share any specifics on supplemental hardware for the in-home platform, whether it would include any major features outside of video-based doctor’s visits, or a potential launch date. However, they did note that privacy and patient consent considerations will play a role in its design.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT Read more on American Well, Cisco partner on TV-centered telehealth platform for seniors…

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Presence for good: ‘Emotional’ installations depicting children in cages pop up across NYC to bring attention to humanitarian crisis

[A multi-site art installation in New York this week shows how non-digital technologies can evoke strong and impactful presence experiences. This story is from CBS News where the original includes more pictures and video. West Side Rag reports that “A cage with what looked like a child inside was placed on the sidewalk on Central Park West and 81st Street on Wednesday morning — one of several such cages placed throughout the city. It was part of an installation by the nonprofit organization RAICES. And it surprised a lot of people who did not realize the bodies inside the cages were mannequins.” The Washington Post‘s story includes this: “The audio was so ‘haunting’ and ’disturbing,’ a local TV station said, a camera crew kept its distance from one installation to prevent capturing the audio on their broadcast.” That station, WPIX 11, reports the organizers intended it to be “an emotional, provocative, multi-sensory experience that represents the conditions that children are being subjected to at the border due to the Department of Justice’s Zero Tolerance Immigration Enforcement Policy.” For more on the origins of the project see Adweek, for links to more coverage see the Badger & Winters website, and for more details, pictures, videos and links, see the #NoKidsInCages website. –Matthew]

[Image: Ad agency Badger & Winters, along with immigrant rights nonprofit RAICES, scattered art installations across New York City featuring figures representing immigrant children in cages. Credit: Badger & Winters]

Art installations depicting crying children in cages pop up across New York City

By Caitlin O’Kane
June 12, 2019

Scattered across New York City on Wednesday were around 20 cages with what appeared to be a child inside, sobbing. They were reminiscent of the images coming out of U.S. border facilities, where migrants who tried to cross without legal documentation now sleep in cramped, fenced-in areas under foil blankets.

The children inside these New York City cages aren’t real — but they are intended to evoke the same emotions as the children held in detention facilities.

The cages are art installations, an idea launched by ad agency Badger & Winters for a nonprofit advocacy group, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

Their #NoKidsInCages campaign immediately drew attention with the chain-link cages, which were placed in front of various landmarks around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Not only did each cage have a model of a child inside, they also emitted an eerie audio recording of a crying child that was actually smuggled out of a detention center, according to Badger & Winters’ press release.

The #NoKidsInCages art installations were strategically placed outside of media companies, city landmarks and tourist destinations. New Yorkers who spotted the cages across the concrete jungle shared images on social media. Often times, witnesses snapped photos as the cages were being removed by police officers and in some instances, construction workers. Read more on Presence for good: ‘Emotional’ installations depicting children in cages pop up across NYC to bring attention to humanitarian crisis…

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‘We are outgunned’: Top AI researchers race to detect ‘deepfake’ videos

[As with many presence-evoking creations, deepfake videos “often, particularly now, don’t have to be that compelling to still have an impact”; this story from The Washington Post is a comprehensive status report on the dangers of, and fight against, deepfakes. See the original version for different images and a 3:51 minute video. –Matthew]

[Image: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in a new deepfake video; see The Washington Post for details.]

Top AI researchers race to detect ‘deepfake’ videos: ‘We are outgunned’

By Drew Harwell
June 12, 2019

Top artificial-intelligence researchers across the country are racing to defuse an extraordinary political weapon: computer-generated fake videos that could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign.

And they have a message: We’re not ready.

The researchers have designed automatic systems that can analyze videos for the telltale indicators of a fake, assessing light, shadows, blinking patterns — and, in one potentially groundbreaking method, even how a candidate’s real-world facial movements — such as the angle they tilt their head when they smile — relate to one another.

But for all that progress, the researchers say they remain vastly overwhelmed by a technology they fear could herald a damaging new wave of disinformation campaigns, much in the same way fake news stories and deceptive Facebook groups were deployed to influence public opinion during the 2016 election.

Powerful new AI software has effectively democratized the creation of convincing “deepfake” videos, making it easier than ever to fabricate someone appearing to say or do something they didn’t really do, from harmless satires and film tweaks to targeted harassment and deepfake porn.

And researchers fear it’s only a matter of time before the videos are deployed for maximum damage — to sow confusion, fuel doubt or undermine an opponent, potentially on the eve of a White House vote.

“We are outgunned,” said Hany Farid, a computer-science professor and digital-forensics expert at the University of California at Berkeley. “The number of people working on the video-synthesis side, as opposed to the detector side, is 100 to 1.” Read more on ‘We are outgunned’: Top AI researchers race to detect ‘deepfake’ videos…

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Presence environments: East London’s OTHERWORLD virtual reality arcade

[This Design Milk report on a new “VR arcade” in East London emphasizes the importance of the environment in which people experience presence. See the original story for a 17-image photo gallery, and for more information see the websites of OTHERWORLD and specialist investor Imbiba. –Matthew]

Read more on Presence environments: East London’s OTHERWORLD virtual reality arcade…

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Embodied AI in psychiatry: New technologies pose ethical questions

[A new paper by researchers at the Technical University of Munich examines the use of embodied AI in Psychiatry, Psychology, and Psychotherapy and highlights both the potential and the need for ethical guidelines and more research. Follow the link near the end for the full paper. –Matthew]

[Image: Alena M. Buyx, Professor of Ethics in Medicine and Health Technologies at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in her office.]

Robot therapists need rules

Embodied AI in psychiatry: new technologies pose ethical questions

May 15, 2019

Interactions with artificial intelligence (AI) will become an increasingly common aspect of our lives. A team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now completed the first study of how “embodied AI” can help treat mental illness. Their conclusion: Important ethical questions of this technology remain unanswered. There is urgent need for action on the part of governments, professional associations and researchers. Read more on Embodied AI in psychiatry: New technologies pose ethical questions…

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Virtual reality comes to Broadway in a big way

[This story from Forbes describes new uses of VR and presence in the presentation and experience of Broadway plays; follow the link at the end for both VR and 360 degree video versions of the At The Tonys Be More Chill VR Experience. For more on Sunday night’s Tony Awards see coverage from CBS News. –Matthew]

[Image: The At The Tonys Be More Chill VR Experience is released in conjunction with the CBS special, At the Tonys.]

Virtual Reality Comes To Broadway In A Big Way

Jeryl Brunner, Contributor
June 7, 2019

When one thinks of Broadway, chances are the words “virtual reality” probably do not come to mind. But much has changed since the days of manually operated curtains and gas footlights.

Consider the astonishing onstage illusions in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, last year’s Tony-award-winning Best Play. (How did they create that convincingly real time travel effect?) And this season’s 2,400 pound beast, King Kong, is an animatronic marvel. The show takes projection mapping and puppetry to new heights. Kong is so three dimensional, it’s hard to remember he is not living and breathing.

The Tony-nominated musical Be More Chill, which debuted on Broadway this season, even has a high-tech plot line. It centers around a futuristic supercomputer pill (called “a SQUIP” or “Super Quantum Unit Intel Processor”) that can access a “better” version of yourself.

And now VR is coming to Broadway in an unprecedented way. Two titans of live theater, John Gore and MelodyVR are joining forces to present Broadway shows in virtual reality. John Gore is a producing force behind the Tony-winning triumphs The Band’s Visit, Dear Evan Hansen and Hello, Dolly! MelodyVR is a virtual reality platform known for its exclusive live concert experiences with Kelly Clarkson, Imagine Dragons and Wiz Khalifa.

Soon viewers around the globe will be able to experience entire Broadway shows using VR technology. They will have the option to choose from a selection of vantage points, (or, in VR lingo, “jump spots”), from stage to orchestra pit to front row and beyond. For people who do not have access to Broadway shows, this platform could be a game changer. What’s more, for VR lovers who have never experienced Broadway or live theater, it’s an alluring shiny new toy. Read more on Virtual reality comes to Broadway in a big way…

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Circus replaces animals with life-size holograms

[The company OPTOMA reports on the very positive use of its presence-evoking technology to replace real animals in Circus Roncalli; see the original story (or YouTube) for a 1:40 minute video. The BBC adds this background: “The idea came to the founder of Circus Roncalli, Bernhard Paul, when he was watching the NFL Super Bowl half-time show in 2018. During the performance, Justin Timberlake was seen singing alongside a hologram of the music legend Prince, who had passed away two years earlier. After the show, Bernhard Paul was determined to find a way to make the technique work within his circus.” Coverage in BGR notes that “The images being projected appear to be three dimensional but are actually hitting a flat surface surrounding the center ring, though you’d never know it from your spot in the audience.” The Daily Mail has more images and social media reactions. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: BGR]


Challenge: The Roncalli circus, founded in Germany in 1976 wanted to develop the traditional circus experience in an imaginative, creative way.

Solution: Roncalli’s agency TAG/TRAUM in cooperation with Bluebox selected Optoma as the best solution for this project and installed 11 ZU850 laser projectors for a mesmerising holographic experience.

Résultats: Optoma’s ZU850 projectors bring the Roncalli circus to life, thrilling audiences all over Germany and Austria with entertaining holographic footage. Read more on Circus replaces animals with life-size holograms…

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