Mar 16, 2006
From Charles T. Tart
The program for Toward a Science of Consciousness 2006, April 4-8, 2006, Tucson, Arizona has gone to press.
As usual, The Journal of Consciousness Studies will publish the indexed conference Program/Abstract book which will be available at the conference.
However the 310 accepted abstracts are now available online
Full conference program information is available at the conference website
Mar 14, 2006
Commedia Virtuale: from theatre to avatars
Digital Creativity Journal, Volume 16, Number 3 / 2005
We are investigating face, hand and body expressions to be applied to avatars of a virtual environment to improve their communication capabilities and enrich and facilitate their perception by users of the environment. We report on our work based on obtaining inspiration from the world of theatre. In this perspective Commedia dell'Arte and Noh theatre have been the focus of our attention. We explore key features of Commedia dell'Arte, namely improvisation, exaggerated gestures and expressive postures, and investigate how their adoption in the design of avatars can be useful for collaborative virtual environments. With the same objectives we look at another theatre style, the Noh theatre. We investigate the variety of masks and the choreography. The outcome is a visual language for avatars made up of postures, gestures and appearances. We have concluded this investigation with the production of an experimental theatre play involving real and virtual actors.
Feb 26, 2006
Cyberpsychol Behav. 2006 Feb;9(1):30-45
Authors: Baumgartner T, Valko L, Esslen M, Jäncke L
Using electroencephalography (EEG), psychophysiology, and psychometric measures, this is the first study which investigated the neurophysiological underpinnings of spatial presence. Spatial presence is considered a sense of being physically situated within a spatial environment portrayed by a medium (e.g., television, virtual reality). Twelve healthy children and 11 healthy adolescents were watching different virtual roller coaster scenarios. During a control session, the roller coaster cab drove through a horizontal roundabout track. The following realistic roller coaster rides consisted of spectacular ups, downs, and loops. Low-resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) and event-related desynchronization (ERD) were used to analyze the EEG data. As expected, we found that, compared to the control condition, experiencing a virtual roller coaster ride evoked in both groups strong SP experiences, increased electrodermal reactions, and activations in parietal brain areas known to be involved in spatial navigation. In addition, brain areas that receive homeostatic afferents from somatic and visceral sensations of the body were strongly activated. Most interesting, children (as compared to adolescents) reported higher spatial presence experiences and demonstrated a different frontal activation pattern. While adolescents showed increased activation in prefrontal areas known to be involved in the control of executive functions, children demonstrated a decreased activity in these brain regions. Interestingly, recent neuroanatomical and neurophysiological studies have shown that the frontal brain continues to develop to adult status well into adolescence. Thus, the result of our study implies that the increased spatial presence experience in children may result from the not fully developed control functions of the frontal cortex.
Feb 22, 2006
Via Smart Mobs
read full article here
Feb 14, 2006
Via the LLuna2 website
LLuna2 is designed to enable virtual presence on Web sites with animated avatars, video, bubble chat, private chat, and personal profiles through the Jabber[tm] protocol, integrated with Jabber based Instant Messaging and operable without additional server components.
Jan 30, 2006
Sousveillance and Cyborglogs: A 30-Year Empirical Voyage through Ethical, Legal, and Policy Issues
Buddy Bots: How Turing's Fast Friends are Undermining Consumer Privacy
Ian R. Kerr and Marcus Bornfreund
The Philosophy of Presence: From Epistemic Failure to Successful Observation
Some Practical Considerations of Ethical Issues in VR Research
Katharina-Maria Behr, Andreas Nosper, Christoph Klimmt and Tilo Hartmann
Evaluation of a Haptic Mixed Reality System for Interactions with a Virtual Control Panel
Christoph W. Borst and Richard A. Volz
Leaving the World Behind: Supporting Group Collaboration Patterns in a Shared Virtual Environment for Product
Design John M. Linebarger, Christopher D. Janneck and G. Drew Kessler
Feedback Strategies for Telemanipulation with Shared Control of Object Handling Forces
Weston B. Griffin, William R. Provancher and Mark R. Cutkosky
Virtual Environment Training Therapy for Arm Motor Rehabilitation
Lamberto Piron, Paolo Tonin, Francesco Piccione, Vincenzo Iaia, Elena Trivello and Mauro Dam
Forum Issues of Law for Software Agents Within Virtual Environments
Jan 28, 2006
A study by Daniel Moran and coll. has focused on studying perception and playing visual tricks on macaque monkeys and some human subjects. These scholars have created a virtual reality video game to trick the monkeys into thinking that they were tracing ellipses with their hands, though they actually were moving their hands in a circle.
Then researchers monitored nerve cells in the monkeys enabling them to see what areas of the brain represented the circle and which areas represented the ellipse. They found that the primary motor cortex represented the actual movement while the signals from cells in a neighboring area, called the ventral premotor cortex, were generating elliptical shapes. The research shows how the mind creates its sense of order in the world and then adjusts on the fly to eliminate distortions.
For instance, the first time you don a new pair of bifocals, there is a difference in what you perceive visually and what your hand does when you go to reach for something. With time, though, the brain adjusts so that vision and action become one. The ventral premotor complex plays a major role in that process. Knowing how the brain works to distinguish between action and perception will enhance efforts to build biomedical devices that can control artificial limbs, some day enabling the disabled to move a prosthetic arm or leg by thinking about it.
Results were published in the Jan. 16, 2004 issue of Science.
Jan 27, 2006
From the conference's website
Academics and practitioners with an interest in the concept of (tele)presence are invited to submit their work for presentation at PRESENCE 2006 at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio, August 24-26, 2006.
The ninth in a series of highly successful international workshops, PRESENCE 2006 will provide an open discussion forum to share ideas regarding concepts and theories, measurement techniques, technology, and applications related to presence, the psychological state or subjective perception in which a person fails to accurately and completely acknowledge the role of technology in an experience, including the sense of 'being there' experienced by users of advanced media such as virtual reality.
The concept of presence has been the focus of increasing scholarly attention since at least Minsky's "Telepresence" in 1980. Recently there has been a burst of funded research activity in this area with the European FET Presence Research initiative. What do we really know about presence and its determinants? How can presence be successfully delivered with today's technology? This conference invites papers that are based on empirical results from studies of presence and related issues and/or that make substantial advances in theoretical understanding of presence and/or that contribute to the technology for the delivery of presence. High quality papers which make substantial contributions to the field are sought; submissions will be rigorously evaluated by peer reviewers.
Work accepted for presentation will be included in the official conference proceedings and posted on the ISPR web site. Some of the presented papers will be selected for publication in one or more special issues of CyberPsychology & Behavior or Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments.
PRESENCE 2006 takes place in Cleveland and is hosted by Cleveland State University. The conference is organized by ISPR, the International Society for Presence Research.
Jan 23, 2006
Via the Presence L-Listserve
This newspaper article from ContractorUK reports on results of a study by Steve Pace, who has found a link between flow state and the sense of "being there" that gamers experience when immersed in a virtual world.
The study is very interesting, though the idea that flow and presence share a common ground is not new. For example Draper and coll. (1996) have speculated that presence could be a specific kind of flow experience occurring during teleoperations. Jacobson (2002) has argued that when a virtual world is viewed as a locus of activity, flow explains presence. I have expressed a similar idea in this book chapter.
Draper, J. V., & Blair, L. M. (1996). Workload, flow, and telepresence during teleoperation. Paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Minneapolis, MN.
Gamers 'flow' into the zone
Square-eyed computer gamers occupy the same mental ‘zone’ as athletes preparing to run a race, new research reveals. Regardless of format, gamers lose track of time and temporarily forget about their physical surroundings and usual concerns, such as eating and going to the toilet. In this state – technically known as ‘flow,’ they occupy the same mental zone as athletes or others whose, “attention is intently focused on an activity that is challenging yet enjoyable.” Such is the verdict of Dr Steve Pace of the Central Queensland University, who has been awarded a $10,000 grant to probe into the minds of computer game players. His seminal study has uncovered not just ‘flow,’ but also that gamers experience a sense of ‘telepresence’ - serving to cocoon PC or console enthusiasts in a virtual world. According to the study, telepresence is the technical term for when players feel present in an environment by means of a communication medium. The environment may be a real place such as a distant space viewed through a video camera, or an artificial place such as an animated world as in World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto Vice City.
Jan 04, 2006
Many relevant articles on social cognitive neuroscience were published in the December 2005 special issue of NeuroImage
Jan 03, 2006
Via Smart mobs
Here's an idea that many academics may find unsettling and dangerous: God exists. And here's another idea that many religious people may find unsettling and dangerous: God is not supernatural, but rather part of the natural order. Simply stating these ideas in the same breath invites them to scrape against each other, and sparks begin to fly. To avoid such conflict, Stephen Jay Gould famously argued that we should separate religion and science, treating them as distinct "magisteria." But science leads many of us to try to understand all that we encounter with a single, grand and glorious overarching framework. In this spirit, let me try to suggest one way in which the idea of a "supreme being" can fit into a scientific worldview.
I offer the following not to advocate the ideas, but rather simply to illustrate one (certainly not the only) way that the concept of God can be approached scientifically.
1.0. First, here's the specific conception of God I want to explore: God is a "supreme being" that transcends space and time, permeates our world but also stands outside of it, and can intervene in our daily lives (partly in response to prayer).
2.0. A way to begin to think about this conception of the divine rests on three ideas:
2.1. Emergent properties. There are many examples in science where aggregates produce an entity that has properties that cannot be predicted entirely from the elements themselves. For example, neurons in large numbers produce minds; moreover, minds in large numbers produce economic, political, and social systems.
2.2. Downward causality. Events at "higher levels" (where emergent properties become evident) can in turn feed back and affect events at lower levels. For example, chronic stress (a mental event) can cause parts of the brain to become smaller. Similarly, an economic depression or the results of an election affect the lives of the individuals who live in that society.
2.3. The Ultimate Superset. The Ultimate Superset (superordinate set) of all living things may have an equivalent status to an economy or culture. It has properties that emerge from the interactions of living things and groups of living things, and in turn can feed back to affect those things and groups.
3.0. Can we conceive of God as an emergent property of all living things that can in turn affect its constituents? Here are some ways in which this idea is consistent with the nature of God, as outlined at the outset.
3.1. This emergent entity is "transcendent" in the sense that it exists in no specific place or time. Like a culture or an economy, God is nowhere, although the constituent elements occupy specific places. As for transcending time, consider this analogy: Imagine that 1/100th of the neurons in your brain were replaced every hour, and each old neuron programmed a new one so that the old one's functionality was preserved. After 100 hours your brain would be an entirely new organ — but your mind would continue to exist as it had been before. Similarly, as each citizen dies and is replaced by a child, the culture continues to exist (and can grow and develop, with a "life of its own"). So too with God. For example, in the story of Jacob's ladder, Jacob realizes "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." (Genesis 28: 16) I interpret this story as illustrating that God is everywhere but nowhere. The Ultimate Superset permeates our world but also stands outside of (or, more specifically, "above") it.
3.2. The Ultimate Superset can affect our individual lives. Another analogy: Say that geese flying south for the winter have rather unreliable magnetic field detectors in their brains. However, there's a rule built into their brains that leads them to try to stay near their fellows as they fly. The flock as a whole would navigate far better than any individual bird, because the noise in the individual bird brain navigation systems would cancel out. The emergent entity — the flock — in turn would affect the individual geese, helping them to navigate better than they could on their own.
3.3. When people pray to the Lord, they beseech intervention on their or others' behalf. The view that I've been outlining invites us to think of the effects of prayer as akin to becoming more sensitive to the need to stay close to the other birds in the flock: By praying, one can become more sensitive to the emergent "supreme being." Such increased sensitivity may imply that one can contribute more strongly to this emergent entity.
By analogy, it's as if one of those geese became aware of the "keep near" rule, and decided to nudge the other birds in a particular direction — which thereby allows it to influence the flock's effect on itself. To the extent that prayer puts one closer to God, one's plea for intervention will have a larger impact on the way that The Ultimate Superset exerts downward causality. But note that, according to this view, God works rather slowly. Think of dropping rocks in a pond: it takes time for the ripples to propagate and eventually be reflected back from the edge, forming interference patterns in the center of the pond.
4.0. A crucial idea in monotheistic religions is that God is the Creator. The present approach may help us begin to grapple with this idea, as follows.
4.1. First, consider each individual person. The environment plays a key role in creating who and what we are because there are far too few genes to program every aspect of our brains. For example, when you were born, your genes programmed many connections in your visual areas, but did not specify the precise circuits necessary to determine how far away objects are. As an infant, the act of reaching for an object tuned the brain circuits that estimate how far away the object was from you.
Similarly, your genes graced you with the ability to acquire language, but not with a specific language. The act of acquiring a language shapes your brain (which in turn may make it difficult to acquire another language, with different sounds and grammar, later in life). Moreover, cultural practices configure the brains of members of the culture. A case in point: the Japanese have many forms of bowing, which are difficult for a Westerner to master relatively late in life; when we try to bow, we "bow with an accent."
4.2. And the environment not only played an essential role in how we developed as children, but also plays a continuing role in how we develop over the course of our lives as adults. The act of learning literally changes who and what we are.
4.3. According to this perspective, it's not just negotiating the physical world and sociocultural experience that shape the brain: The Ultimate Superset — the emergent property of all living things — affects all of the influences that "make us who and what we are," both as we develop during childhood and continue to learn and develop as adults.
4.4. Next, consider our species. One could try to push this perspective into a historical context, and note that evolution by natural selection reflects the effects of interactions among living things. If so, then the emergent properties of such interactions could feed back to affect the course of evolution itself.
In short, it is possible to begin to view the divine through the lens of science. But such reasoning does no more than set the stage; to be a truly dangerous idea, this sort of proposal must be buttressed by the results of empirical test. At present, my point is not to convince, but rather to intrigue. As much as I admired Stephen Jay Gould (and I did, very much), perhaps he missed the mark on this one. Perhaps there is a grand project waiting to be launched, to integrate the two great sources of knowledge and belief in the world today — science and religion.
Dec 19, 2005
- Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, UK.
Dec 06, 2005
Understanding emotions in others: mirror neuron dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders
Nov 17, 2005
via the Presence Listserv
Oki Electric Industry Co. Ltd. has developed technology that can add animated faces to instant messaging, networked gaming, and other real-time communications used on mobile phones and PCs. Oki's "FaceCommunicator" software leverages technology similar to the company's face recognition software that recognizes handhelds' owners. The technology supports Linux-based mobile phones.
FaceCommunicator is touted as useful for maintaining privacy and security during first time "face-to-face" communications over video phones, mobile phones, or in IM or chat-room chats on the Internet. In addition, the facial animations let users express emotions that might be hard to express in words, Oki says.
The technology can take advantage of four sources of user input to generate and control its transmitted animated faces - video images from PC or mobile phone cameras; voice; text; and mouse/keyboard commands.
Both the animated face and a background image can be selected by the user to suit the need of the moment. Additionally, certain of the animated faces can move their eyebrows and mouths as though talking, which adds a virtual reality dimension to communications, according to Oki.
Read full article
Nov 08, 2005
eMoto is a mobile messaging service for sending and receiving affective messages. The application extends on both the input and output channels when sending text messages between mobile phones. The aim is to convey more of the emotional content through the very narrow channel that a text message otherwise provides. Emotional communication between people meeting physically in the "real world" make use of many different channels, such as facial expression, body posture, gestures, or tone of voice, little of this physicality of emotions is used in a similar digital context. In eMoto users therefore use affective gestures to convey the emotional content of their messages which are then translated and communicated in colors, shapes and animations.
Nov 01, 2005
Until the mid of 20th century, most people thought of sleep as a passive part of our daily lives. Now the body of evidence suggests that the brain is very active during sleep. Moreover, neuroscience is beginning to understand the importance of sleep on our daily function and health.
The current issue of Nature Insight, a supplement of the journal Nature, sheds fascinating light on cognitive neuroscience of sleep.
The supplement is freely available online
Oct 25, 2005
Via Brain Blog
The November 2005 issue of Scientific American publishes an article by Carl Zimmer entitled "The Neurobiology of the Self". This is the abstract:
The most obvious thing about yourself is your self. "You look down at your body and know it's yours," says Todd Heatherton, a psychologist at Dartmouth University. "You know it's your hand you're controlling when you reach out. When you have memories, you know that they are yours and not someone else's. When you wake up in the morning, you don't have to interrogate yourself for a long time about who you are." The self may be obvious, but it is also an enigma. Heatherton himself shied away from direct study of it for years, even though he had been exploring self-control, self-esteem and other related issues since graduate school. "My interests were all around the self but not around the philosophical issue of what is the self," he explains. "I avoided speculations about what it means. Or I tried to, anyway."
Oct 21, 2005
Deviceforge.com today reports that a company has just started marketing a technology that inexpensively adds face recognition to camera-equipped cellphones. Oki's "Face Sensing Engine" (FSE) "middleware" decodes facial images within 280mS on a 100MHz ARM9 processor, and can restrict access to mobile devices by recognizing their owners.
Besides security applications, this new technology could have interesting applications in the field of neurorehabilitation. For example, the implementation of face recognition may help brain-injured patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases to recognize their relatives and friends
Oki lists the following key features of its FSE technology:
- Compact system footprint -- requires approximately 260KB on an ARM9 processor
- Fast image processing -- requires approximately 280mS on a 100MHz ARM9 processor
- Face recognition algorithm automatically adjusts to ambient lighting conditions
- Supported processor architectures -- ARM9, SH Mobile, and others
- Supported software platforms -- Symbian, uITRON, Linux, BREW, WIPI, Windows, Solaris, and others
Oct 11, 2005
An interesting review article* on the neural basis of moral cognition has been published on October 2005 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience by Jorge Moll, Roland Zahn, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza, Frank Krueger and Jordan Grafman.
Apr 06, 2005
By Geoff McMaster, ExpressNews Staff - The closest many of us have come to imagining virtual reality is the holodeck, a fantasy playground featured on the television series Star Trek.
Such flights of fancy are no longer the stuff of science fiction, however. Computer scientists at the U of A have already created technology allowing people to sit across from three-dimensional recreations of each other, even though in reality they may be thousands of miles apart.
It's only the beginning of a revolution in virtual reality technology expected to take us by storm in the next decade or so, says Dr. Pierre Boulanger, a U of A computer scientist who just received an iCORE/TRLabs Industrial Research Chair worth a total of $1.7 million to develop his groundbreaking work in collaborative virtual environments.
Imagine a world, for example, where professors of surgery transmit hand and scalpel movements, as well as what they see while operating, thousands of miles across a computer network, where it is recreated in an operating room.
"The student will actually look at that and actually feel what the doctor is doing," said Boulanger. "On the other hand, the doctor can feel what the students are doing and give them a nudge in the right direction--It's like being in virtual residence with doctors."
Families separated by travel will spend meals together through what is called "telepresence," said Boulanger. "You would wear special goggles--and we're working on that--which would allow you to see your wife sitting in front of you, having a day-to-day conversation. In the future you will have virtual encounters like this, people you want to be part of a meeting sitting beside you virtually and having a conversation."
At a press conference on campus Tuesday to celebrate his chair, and that of Dr. Christoph Sensen at the University of Calgary, Boulanger explained how scientists are now able to create and manipulate a model of the earth's core by feeding computers highly sophisticated mathematical equations. Once recreated in 3D, the average person is fully capable of understanding such complex physical phenomena, he said. "People can actually interact with it, and say, "What happens if we have that instead of this?'"
"A three-dimensional visual model will allow you to explain complex systems, and understand how the world runs. People understand complex systems because daily life is actually very complex--the new technology is truly human-centred. Computers are smart enough today to adapt to people, and that's really a recent shift in computing."
The two chairs held by Boulanger and Sensen will focus on a variety of pursuits that will benefit from virtual reality technology, including engineering prototypes, testing medical procedures and conducting scientific research. Sensen, who has received $1 million for his research, is developing new tools to virtually work in the human body.
Boulanger was recruited to the University of Alberta's computing science department in 2001 from the National Research Council of Canada, where he spent 18 years as a senior research officer. He is also an adjunct scientist and principal investigator for new media at TRLabs, Canada's largest not-for-profit information and communications technology research consortium , and at the Banff Centre.
His new chair includes an iCORE Industrial Chair Establishment grant of $50,000 per year for five years, in addition to further grants from TRLabs, the University of Alberta, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research in Industry and Education and other industry partners.
"From my perspective, an absolutely essential part of Pierre's work on the collaborative virtual environment is described by the word collaborative," said dean of science Gregory Taylor. "It's at the very forefront of what I like to call the new science, interdisciplinary science where the collaborative team becomes the vehicle for discovery."
iCORE was established six years ago by the provincial government to support university research that supports information and communications technology. There are now 20 chairs focused on emerging areas such as wireless communications, artificial intelligence and quantum nanocomputing