The 2nd Symposium on Virtual Worlds Research (SVWR 2024)

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The 2nd Virtual World Symposium aims at providing a collective update on the current state of Virtual Technologies across multiple disciplines.

  • Date:
  • Time: 9.30am – 5pm
  • Location: The Gallery, The Catalyst, Staffordshire University, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 2DF
  • Category:
  • Conference

The 2nd Virtual World Symposium aims at providing a collective update on the current state of Virtual Technologies across multiple disciplines. This is ranging from Games and Entertainment to Digital Heritage and Product Visualization, but not limited to. The Symposium’s goal is to provide an opportunity for knowledge sharing between these communities, discussing the Emerging Media and Transformation of the Creative Industries.

Join this event for creative talks and knowledge sharing opportunities. The Symposium speakers are invited from various fields and will provide you with the current state and upcoming updates in their respective fields.

Schedule

9:30 – 10:00  Coffee and Tea  
10:00 – 10:30 OPENING REMARKS Prof Christopher Headleand (Staffordshire University)
10:30 – 11:15

KEYNOTE

Evolving Landscapes: Large-Scale Virtual World Representation for Computer Games

Alex Perkins (Avalanche Studios Group)
11:15 – 11:30 Tea/Coffee Break  
11:30 – 12:00 TYG: A Couch Co-Op Musical Instrument in UE5 Dr Chris Payne & Dr Mat Dalgleish (Staffordshire University)
12:00 – 12:30 Enhancing Medical Communication Training through Virtual Reality Tara Collingwoode-Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London)
12:30 – 13:00 Perceptions of Opportunity Drives Sports Decisions Dr Pooya Soltani (Staffordshire University)
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch Break  
14:00 – 14:30 Virtual Museum Collections: Challenges and Opportunities Joseph Perry (The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery)
14:30 – 15:00 And Then It Turned Inside-Out: A Connected History of Spatial Audio Dr Mat Dalgleish (Staffordshire University)
15:00 – 15:30 Digital Empathy: (re)Discovering Human Connections Amongst Our Digital Twins Dr Owen Brierley (Kingston University)
15:30 – 15:45 Tea/Coffee Break  
15:45 – 16:15 The Effect of Believable Anatomy of Virtual Characters on Audience Experience, Narrative, and Characterisation Jared Holden (Staffordshire University)
16:15 – 16:45 Psychological Effects of Fear and Tension in Virtual Tabletop Roleplaying Games Ben Rimmer (Staffordshire University)
16:45 – 17:00 Closing Remarks Dr Human Esmaeili (Staffordshire University)

 

Talks/Speakers

Keynote: Evolving Landscapes: Large-Scale Virtual World Representation for Computer Games

Alex Perkins, Technical Art Director, Avalanche Studios Group

With over 25 years of experience in the gaming industry, I've held various art and design roles in numerous AAA and independent studios across the UK, culminating as both an Art and Technical Art Director.

I've released a diverse range of games, specializing in creating large-scale environments for racing, platforming, experiential and action games. These games have been published on both console and PC platforms, with some benefiting from VR support. Recently, I joined the Avalanche Studio Group as a founding member of a UK Liverpool Studio.

Summary of the talk:

Covering the significance and consequences of large-scale virtual worlds in computer games, specifically focusing on striking a balance between technological infrastructure and creative content production for these expansive digital terrains.

This involves refining rendering methods and developing production strategies that seamlessly combine automatic processes with detailed, hand-crafted elements in the creation of compelling gaming environments. The presentation also underlines how decisions in world-building impact the player's interaction and inform the mechanics of a game. Looking towards the future, it explores the evolution of large-scale virtual worlds and their increasing sophistication in the rapidly evolving medium of computer games.

TYG: A Couch Co-Op Musical Instrument in UE5

Dr Chris Payne and Dr Mat Dalgleish, Lecturer/Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire University Games Institute

Dr. Chris Payne has had a lifelong interest in games, programming, and music, and initially worked as a music producer. He is currently a Lecturer in Games Design at Staffordshire University.

Dr. Mat Dalgleish has designed audio-related systems for the last fifteen years, with interests in accessibility and synthesis. He is a Senior Lecturer in Game Sound and Technical Design at Staffordshire University.

Summary of the talk:

Although there are numerous musical instruments that can be played by more than one player, a far smaller number of musical instruments have been specifically designed for multiple players, most notably the music-focussed multi-touch tables presented at the NIME conferences. While multi-player video game spaces have expanded more dramatically, we note the continued, parallel existence of local multiplayer titles. TYG, a virtual instrument for three players in a shared physical space, draws together ideas from both fields, as well as feminist theorist Donna Haraway (1985). Challenging the conceptualisation of musical instruments as extensions of human capabilities, what emerges is neither strictly collaborative nor competitive, but more akin to David Tudor’s live electronics instruments of the 1960s, where influence and exploration are enjoyed without control.

Enhancing Medical Communication Training through Virtual Reality

Tara Collingwoode-Williams, Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London

Tara Collingwoode-Williams is an esteemed speaker, educator, innovator, researcher and community champion in Extended Reality. She serves as a lecturer at Goldsmiths University, teaching a Masters’s Program in Virtual and Augmented Reality, and is nearing the completion of her PhD in Games. Her work focuses on Embodiment, virtual avatars and VR training in medical communication. Tara collaborates globally with institutions like the Virginia Serious Games Institute, UCL, and Meta. She is also an advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI), leading EDI initiatives at Goldsmiths and the founder of the ‘Black XR Network’ to support people of colour in the creative tech space. Tara is a public speaker who has spoken at an array of international conferences, been featured in 'The Voice,' and had her expertise recognised at events such as the Gatherverse Super Hero Engine (S.H.E) summit, the Metaverse APPG at Parliament and the Develop Games Conference. Her passions extend beyond her professional endeavours into tech innovation, fashion, and fitness.

Summary of the talk:

This presentation explores the innovative application of Virtual Reality (VR) technology in medical communication training, highlighting its potential to revolutionize traditional methodologies. With VR, medical professionals can engage in immersive, realistic simulations that replicate a wide range of patient interactions under various clinical scenarios. This technology offers a safe environment for learners to practice and hone their communication skills and aims to provide a platform for self-evaluation. We will delve into current research findings, examine case studies and discuss the benefits

and challenges associated with its implementation. Attendees will gain insights into how VR can aid in improving empathetic communication in medical consultations.

Perceptions of opportunity drives sports decisions

Dr Pooya Soltani, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire University Games Institute

With a holistic approach to physiology, biomechanics, and psychology, Pooya Soltani and Antoine Morice's research and teaching center on immersive technologies and gamification to improve sports performance and human behaviour.

Summary of the talk:

Affordance theory suggests that athletes make decisions based on what the environment allows them to do. Virtual reality (VR) allows us study how this perception of opportunity, or affordance shapes decision in sports, namely in one-on-one situations against virtual opponents. We used VR to see if players would attempt throws based on whether a virtual defender could block them. We recruited experienced and novice players and divided them into tall and short groups based on their height. In VR, participants decided whether they could throw the ball into a basket without a virtual defender blocking it. We changed the distance between the player and the defender and allowed jumping in some trials but not in others. Unsurprisingly, both experienced and novice players were more likely to shoot as the defender got farther away. When jumping was allowed, all players shot more often compared to when jumping wasn't allowed. This suggests that the ability to jump increased the perceived opportunity to shoot successfully. Interestingly, experienced players of both heights made similar shooting decisions. However, among novice players, taller players shot more frequently than shorter players. These results suggest that players consider both their own physical capabilities (body-scaled affordances) and the situation (action-scaled affordances) when deciding to shoot. Experience seems to allow players to prioritise the action (shooting) even if their body size might be a disadvantage. This could be helpful for coaches who want to train players for one-on-one situations.

Virtual Museum Collections: Challenges and Opportunities

Joseph Perry, Curator (Local History), The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

Joe is Curator (Local History) at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. His role looks after both the social history and archaeology collections at the Museum, including the Staffordshire Hoard and Spitfire RW388. Joe studied archaeology at the University of Manchester then went on to obtain a Masters in Heritage Management through the University of Birmingham. He has worked for Stoke-on-Trent museums in various roles for more than 13 years, as well as at Buxton Museum & Art Gallery and the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester. Recently, he also began working as a Collections Consultant for System Simulation Ltd, who make collections management systems for museums and archives.

Summary of the talk:

My talk explores how museum collections can benefit from the ‘Virtual World’ and what the benefits are for museums considering digitisation projects and the reproduction of artefacts in virtual settings. The opportunities of this technology seem endless – but there are challenges to be overcome, not least the practical considerations of risk to artefacts, and the ever present pressures of time and money!

And Then It Turned Inside-Out: A Connected History of Spatial Audio

Dr Mat Dalgleish, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire University Games Institute

Dr. Mat Dalgleish has designed audio-related systems for the last fifteen years, with interests in accessibility and synthesis. He is a Senior Lecturer in Game Sound and Technical Design at Staffordshire University.

Summary of the talk:

While synthesizers and selected other electronic instruments have been very extensively discussed, related advancements in electronic processing have been less widely celebrated. In one direction, Théberge (1997) has noted how increasingly inventive effects processors fundamentally changed existing playing practices; reaching a sonic peak with the transformation of Kevin Shields’ idiosyncratic ‘glide guitar’ technique into walls of sound simultaneously pummelling and beautiful. In another, less discussed direction, Gordon Mumma’s Stressed Space Palindromes (1977-82) proposed a shift in focus that deposed recorded sounds as the primary compositional material in favour of the parameters of an artificial reverb simulation, changing smoothly and randomly from one sound to the next.

Drawing on Harris’s (2008) notion of “a turning inside-out of the traditional body-instrument-space”, this paper draws on the neglected histories above to make new links between popular music technology and the development of spatial sound. Arguing against the application of instrument models, it culminates in the contemporary video game context with examples of where sound content is not “the message” (in the McLuhan-esque sense) but instead recast as a means by which foregrounded spatial audio topologies are activated and their parameters made palpable.

Digital Empathy: (re)Discovering Human Connections Amongst Our Digital Twins

Dr Owen Brierley, Course Pathway Leader & Senior Lecturer, Kingston School of Art

Dr Owen Brierley works in digital arts and computational technology. He holds a Ph.D. in Computational Media Design from the University of Calgary and has extensively used game engines for research, exploring the interplay between technology and humanity. His educational approach emphasizes risk-taking and dignity within inclusive environments, significantly influencing digital arts curricula and mentorship. Dr Brierley has held several leadership roles, including Executive Director of Edmonton Digital Arts College, where he led significant growth and curriculum innovation. His research spans machine learning, game design, and human-computer interaction, with numerous publications and presentations worldwide. Additionally, Owen has served as President of Digital Alberta and held various board positions in arts organizations. He is also a practicing artist with works displayed in notable venues across North America.

Starting in July 2023, Owen joined the Kingston School of Art Creative Industries department as Senior Lecturer in Events & Experience Design. His current research focus is to improve the suspension of disbelief in the acting behaviours of non-player characters in games which contributes to what he refers to as "digital empathy."

Summary of the talk:

We will delve into the evolving concept of "digital empathy" within virtual and augmented realities. As digital landscapes become increasingly integral to our social fabric, understanding and fostering empathy through these mediums is crucial. This talk will explore how immersive technologies can enhance empathetic connections among users, highlighting the potential for deeper emotional engagements in digital interactions. We will discuss the psychological underpinnings of empathy in digital contexts and examine case studies where technology has successfully bridged emotional distances between individuals. Join us to uncover the future of human connection in digital realms.

The Effect of Believable Anatomy of Virtual Characters on Audience Experience, Narrative, and Characterisation

Jared Holden, Associate Lecturer, Staffordshire University Games Institute

Jared is an associate lecturer in concept art for games and film within at Staffordshire University Games Institute. Jared has taught at Staffordshire University over the last three years between roles as a part-time lecturer and associate, with his main area of study being in character design and observational study. He is currently developing his PhD on creature design theory with a focus on the use of realistic anatomy being used by designers to inform the narrative experience of the audience. Jared is specifically interested in this area of design as a means of providing students and aspiring artists with a written study that can inspire their own work.

Psychological Effects of Fear and Tension in Virtual Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Benjamin Rimmer, Lecturer and Course Leader, Staffordshire University Games Institute

I am Ben Rimmer, course leader for Games Design and Animation. I am currently doing my PhD on fear psychology, specifically tension and anxiety driven emotions and the ludic impacts. I’ve been a Game Master for over seven years and aim to investigate the psychological effects of fear and tension when playing Tabletop roleplaying games. A brief look into the causes, triggers and impact on ludo-narrative including how this could be caused around the table.

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