ISPR Presence News

Category Archives: Presence in the News

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

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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Groundbreaking augmented reality museum exhibit honors D-Day

[A new exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio uses augmented reality to help visitors experience and better understand some of the events of D-Day. This story is from the Dayton Daily News; for more information see the Museum’s website, which links to a vivid brochure and a 1:47 minute video, and the website of The American Legion, which includes information about a similar exhibit at the Airborne Museum in Ste. Mere-Eglise, France. For a related story, see “D-Day joy, hell for civilians told anew with virtual reality” in The Daily Standard. -Matthew]

Groundbreaking augmented reality exhibit opens at museum, honors D-Day

May 17, 2019
By Amy Rollins, Skywrighter Staff

An interactive, augmented reality exhibit titled “D-Day: Freedom from Above” that commemorates D-Day’s 75th anniversary premiered May 13 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The 3,500-square-foot exhibit focuses on the D-Day missions of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions in Sainte-Mère-Église, the first French town to be liberated from the air on June 6, 1944.

Visitors use the technology of “HistoPads” – tablets laden with software, available for a $5 rental fee – that allow them to interact with animated maps, view parts of archival films, experience 3-D relics and immerse themselves in what it was like to be a paratrooper that day. Visitors should allow about 40 minutes to tour the exhibit as they customize their experience by selecting content from the exhibit’s 12 “chapters.” Read more on Groundbreaking augmented reality museum exhibit honors D-Day…

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A telepresence robot for police traffic stops

[Here’s a clever and potentially life-saving application of presence, as reported in The Washington Post. See the original story for a second picture and a 3:10 minute video (also available via YouTube) and see Built In for more on the use of robots in law enforcement. –Matthew]

[Image: Credit: SRI International]

One solution for keeping traffic stops from turning violent: A robot that separates police officers from drivers.

The machine is designed cut down on confrontations between police officers and motorists by reducing the impact of racial bias.

By Peter Holley
May 14, 2019

For years, Reuben Brewer had been reading tragic news reports about police officers and motorists being killed and injured during traffic stops gone awry.

The root of the problem, he eventually realized, was fear, the powerful, anticipatory anxiety that can overwhelm a hyper-vigilant officer or cause a motorist to behave in ways that arouse suspicion, leading to a violent encounter.

Brewer knew he couldn’t take guns from people who shouldn’t wield them or single-handedly remove poorly trained police officers from American streets, but he wondered if there was a way to lower the temperature of everyday encounters between jittery police officers and the large numbers of drivers who fear for their lives each time police lights flash in their rearview mirror.

After 16 months of research and development, Brewer –– a senior robotics researcher at the nonprofit SRI International in Menlo Park, California –– has unveiled his solution: a robot that allows police officers to conduct traffic stops without leaving the safety of their vehicle.

“The main advantage of a robot over a human is that physical danger no longer matters,” Brewer wrote after being reached by email. “The robot is purely defensive, so it can’t hurt the motorist. If the motorist damages the robot, it’s only money to replace it.”

“People are more dangerous when they’re scared, so the goal is to remove the possibility of being physically hurt so that they’re less scared and less dangerous,” he added. Read more on A telepresence robot for police traffic stops…

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IKEA’s Real Life Series helps you recreate homes of ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ and ‘Friends’

[The popular and widely-covered IKEA campaign described in this story from Decider is another example of our desire to feel connected to the characters of the mediated world, even when we only experience them through parasocial interaction and relationships. See the IKEA website for more information and an Adweek story for an interview with the advertising agency’s chief creative officer Eduardo Marques. –Matthew]

Read more on IKEA’s Real Life Series helps you recreate homes of ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ and ‘Friends’…

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NASA using telepresence for ocean exploration to prepare for using it to explore space

[A NASA-led team is exploring deep ocean environments via telepresence to prepare for exploring deep space the same way, as reported in this story from URI Today. Follow the link below for more information and to watch the project’s 24/7 live stream. –Matthew]

[Image: The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules is launched from E/V Nautilus. Credit: Erin Ranney/Ocean Exploration Trust)]

Ocean and space exploration blend at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography

Posted on May 29, 2019

KINGSTON, R.I., — May 29, 2019 — Scientists with a NASA-led expedition are operating from the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography as colleagues explore the deep Pacific Ocean to prepare to search for life in deep space.

The SUBSEA (Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog) research program is a partnership among NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Ocean Exploration Trust and various academic centers that blend ocean and space research to better understand if the watery worlds found on moons and planets in our solar system offer conditions that could support microbial life.

Last year, the SUBSEA shipboard team used remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) deployed from the Ocean Exploration Trust’s E/V Nautilus to explore Lō’ihi Seamount, an underwater volcano off the southeastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. The type of hydrothermal venting at the Lō`ihi Seamount is a good representation of conditions scientists believe exist on certain moons in the outer solar system. The onshore NASA team, stationed in Mission Control at the Inner Space Center, learned how scientists and engineers communicate science objectives via telepresence.

The NASA team returns to the Inner Space Center through June 8 to test specialized mission-planning software as part of NASA’s long-term strategy for achieving extended human presence in deep-space. Scientists will study the work practices, habits, communication and information flows necessary to conduct remote science and exploration by observing operations conducted by the SUBSEA teams on the E/V Nautilus and at the Inner Space Center. Read more on NASA using telepresence for ocean exploration to prepare for using it to explore space…

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I watched the NBA Playoffs in VR, and it’s going to change how you watch sports

[Here’s an update and first person report on the evolution of how fans experience sports, in this case basketball via VR. See the original version of the Fast Company story for three different images and a 1:01 minute video; see coverage in USA Today for an interview with Jay Jenyagram of Intel Sports; and see the Intel True VR (“Be There From Anywhere”) website for more information.–Matthew]

I watched the NBA Playoffs in VR, and it’s going to change how you watch sports

Intel’s push into VR sports has shifted from a tech-first approach to now being driven by making the fan experience as cool as possible.

By Jeff Beer
May 30, 2019

Jurassic Park was just filling up. Two hours before game four of the Eastern Conference finals between the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks, the line of Raptors fans snaked around Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, waiting to flood the designated fan area outside the arena that’s become one of the biggest party zones in the NBA.

Sitting just next to this raucous affair, one sure to be even more rollicking as Toronto hosts its first NBA Finals game Thursday night, was a nondescript truck trailer where the NBA, TNT, and Intel are trying to create the sports fan experience of the future.

The Intel Sports’ VR broadcasting headquarters, jam-packed with screens, servers, production personnel, and on-air talent, is where TNT’s 3D VR broadcast of the game is created. If you’re not among the thousands outside, or one of the lucky 20,237 folks with a ticket, the VR broadcast is quite literally the closest thing any other fan could get to being there.

As I watched the game–from the Intel trailer–on an Oculus Go headset, the “Director’s View” mode seamlessly and automatically shuffles me between camera angles as the play flows up and down the court. I have the option of picking my favorite camera angle and sticking with it as long as I want. If I look far right, there’s a real-time stats board with each player’s scoring stats, fouls, and so forth. Look far left and there’s a selection of highlights to check out. When I look down, I see my camera options. Peering way up, I view the scoreboard, just like in the arena. In my ears, the broadcast team of Stephanie Ready and former NBA star Rip Hamilton are calling the game, but making suggestions–look left, look right–that make it feel like we’re sitting at the game together.

Which is exactly what Intel wants.

Although there will not be an Intel virtual-reality NBA Finals experience to explore the Raptors and Golden State Warriors in 3D–Intel’s partnership is with Turner/TNT, and the NBA Finals air exclusively on ABC–if VR headset sales, and the innovation behind the viewing experience, continues apace, fans of all sports will soon be asking for this all game, every game. Read more on I watched the NBA Playoffs in VR, and it’s going to change how you watch sports…

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Volvo and Varjo team up for on-the-road high-presence mixed reality

[This VentureBeat story describes how Volvo is using Varjo’s high-resolution HMDs to let car designers test drive real cars with virtual features: “With this kind of technology it will eventually be difficult for you to tell if you are sitting in a faux car in an office or in a real car in a parking lot or really driving a mountain road in the woods.” See the original version for more pictures. –Matthew]

[Image: For safety, a passenger in the back seat can warn a driver in the front seat during Varjo’s testing. Credit: Varjo.]

Varjo teams up with Volvo to enable safe driving with AR headsets

Dean Takahashi
May 29, 2019

Varjo has announced a partnership with Volvo to enable safe driving with an augmented reality headset that you could eventually wear while operating a vehicle. It can give you visual alerts, using computer graphics to highlight hazards on the road.

Volvo is using Varjo’s XR-1 developer edition headset, which is like a VR headset but with pass-through video viewing so you can see what is going on in the outside world through cameras attached to the headset. Sweden-based Volvo is also investing in Varjo.

Wearing a headset on your face while you’re driving may sound nuts. But Volvo’s Casper Wikman, technical leader for R&D, said in an interview that the company has already done tests with people driving on roads in Scandinavia while wearing the headsets. The company is showing the tech at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California this week.

The developer edition is aimed at engineers, researchers, and designers who can use it to experiment with AR and mixed reality — the combination of digital headsets and physical locations. The goal is to create mixed reality applications that are indistinguishable from the real world so you can’t tell what is real and what is virtual. Read more on Volvo and Varjo team up for on-the-road high-presence mixed reality…

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Presence and the new long-distance relationship

[This long but very interesting story from The Atlantic doesn’t use the term presence but the concept and phenomenon is at its center – note some of the interesting ways people in long-distance relationships are said to use communication technologies to feel both physically together and psychologically connected over distance. See the last two sentences for a nicely put summary of some key points, and see the original version of the story for additional material not included here. –Matthew]

[Image: Credit: Alessandra De Cristofaro]

The New Long-Distance Relationship

The same technological and economic developments that are pulling couples apart are also making geographic separation less stressful and more enjoyable.

Joe Pinsker
May 14, 2019

The love life of Stanley Davidge, a 25-year-old network administrator for a national restaurant chain, is absolutely extraordinary.

Almost all day, Davidge, who lives in South Carolina, is in touch with his girlfriend, Angela Davila, who lives in Virginia and is job hunting. Despite being separated by a six-hour drive, they “shoot the bull and stuff” over FaceTime when Davidge has a break at work, they call each other in the car, and they watch TV together at the end of the day using a website that lets them share a screen. “It’s almost like being in the same room together,” he says of their tandem streaming.

The way Davidge and Davila maintain their relationship won’t impress anyone familiar with the internet and smartphones. But, considering the fullness of human history, it is astounding that two people in separate places can keep up such a rich relationship without much financial or logistical hassle—and think nothing of it.

It’s hard to say for sure whether long-distance relationships are more common than they were a generation or two ago, though some scholars suspect they are. “They’re there, and we think they’re on the increase,” says Laura Stafford, a communication scholar at Bowling Green State University who has studied long-distance relationships.

But the many forms that long-distance relationships take make them really hard to count: Couples (married or not) might live apart because they attend different colleges, they have jobs in different cities (or countries), one or both of them are in the military, one or both of them are in prison, or one or both of them have moved to take care of an aging parent. Further complicating matters, these arrangements can be relatively short in duration or last for years.

Still, there are two notable indications that more couples may be living apart these days. First, in a government survey, the number of married Americans 18 and older who reported that they live apart from their spouse rose from roughly 2.7 million in 2000 to roughly 3.9 million in 2017, though, frustratingly, the survey didn’t ask any of those millions why they weren’t living together. And second, according to the Pew Research Center, the share of “internet users with recent dating experience” who said they’d used the internet or email to keep up with a partner long distance jumped from 19 percent to 24 percent from 2005 to 2013. That’s a decent-size increase, though, a Pew researcher cautioned, it can’t be stated with any certainty how long or why those couples were apart. Some respondents could well have been thinking of the time they emailed their partner while away on a business trip.

Exact numbers aside, what’s certain is that long-distance relationships—a term I’ll use from now on to refer to couples living apart voluntarily—are different today than they were not just 500 or 50 years ago, but even 15. As economic and technological developments are prying more couples apart geographically, some of those same developments are making those couples’ love lives more closely resemble those of couples who live in the same place. The distance is still there, but it feels shorter and shorter. Read more on Presence and the new long-distance relationship…

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Googly eyes on robots: Evolution, social cues and medium-as-social-actor presence

[The role of evolution in how we perceive and respond to subtle social cues, and the implications for the design of technologies that evoke medium-as-social-actor presence, are explored in this story from Engadget. See the original for four different images. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: MyRecordJournal]

Why putting googly eyes on robots makes them inherently less threatening

We can exploit our social nature to be nicer to AIs.

Andrew Tarantola
May 22, 2019

At the start of 2019, supermarket chain Giant Food Stores announced it would begin operating customer-assisting robots — collectively dubbed Marty — in 172 East Coast locations. These autonomous machines may navigate their respective store using a laser-based detection system, but they’re also outfitted with a pair of oversize googly eyes. This is to, “[make] it a bit more fun,” Giant President Nick Bertram told Adweek in January, and “celebrate the fact that there’s a robot.”

“As we approach the completion of the rollout, we continue to be pleased by the addition of Marty in our stores,” a Giant Food rep told Engadget via email. “Our associates are appreciative of the assistance Marty provides them, freeing them up to do other tasks and interact more with customers. Speaking of our customers, they, too, are big fans of Marty, with kids and adults alike looking for Marty in store and taking selfies.”

But Marty’s googly eyes don’t just give customers something to chuckle at as they pass one another in the cereal aisle. Research shows that slapping peepers on inanimate objects puts the humans around them at ease and encourages them to be more generous and pro-social (as opposed to anti-social) than they normally would.

“People pay attention to the presence of eyes,” Dr. Amrisha Vaish, assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s department of psychology, told Engadget. “Humans are very sensitive to the presence of other people, and we behave more socially in the presence of other people.” It’s called the “watching-eye paradigm” and exploits the deep-seated human trait of needing to be valued within society: managing our reputations and being seen by those around us as team players.

“In the course of our evolution, it’s been really important for us to be [able] to cooperate with others,” Vaish points out. Interpersonal cooperation has proved “so important to the evolution of the human species that we’ve become really sensitive to even sort of minimal cues of eyes,” she continued. Read more on Googly eyes on robots: Evolution, social cues and medium-as-social-actor presence…

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