Project News

Professor Mandy Rose in conversation on the ethics of VR documentary

Mandy Rose was recently hosted by MIT Open Documentary Lab where she delivered a talk about the VR Docs project's work on the ethics of VR documentary:

Documentarists engaging with VR encounter ethical issues common to traditional documentary practice. Additionally, VR documentary gives rise to specific ethical challenges relating to the psychological implications of immersion for users, to data extraction and privacy, and associated with the claim that immersion in real world content has unique prosocial potential. In this online lecture, Mandy Rose will unpack the domains in which VR provokes novel or specific issues for documentary practice, and discuss how a toolkit might support VR nonfiction practitioners in thinking through the ethics of their work. The lecture reflects research undertaken within the EPSRC Virtual Realities; Immersive Documentary Encounters project.

Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters Webinar

We were delighted to be invited by Bristol Vision Institute to deliver a talk for their BVI Seminar Series, entitled “Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters”, introduced by BVI Director, Professor Dave Bull. Our speakers, Professor Kirsten Cater, Principal Investigator University of Bristol, and Co-Investigators, Professor Danae Stanton Fraser (University of Bath) and Professor Mandy Rose (UWE Bristol) shared findings from the three year EPSRC Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters project.

Among the topics discussed:

  • What happened when a number of Bristol households were given VR headsets and invited to try VR documentaries? What can this tell us?
  • What VR documentaries have been created? How did we catalogue these and what does our online mediography tell us about the field?
  • What have we learned about the ethical challenges of VR documentary?
  • What have our psychological studies revealed about user’s response to encountering real-world scenarios in VR?
  • What have we learned from commissioning three path-finding VR documentary works?
  • What was our experience working together as an interdisciplinary team?

VR Documentary Encounters at FUTURES 2019: Insights from the general public on the ethics of virtual reality

On a rainy night In late September, members of the documentary encounters project team held a stand at FUTURES 2019 at Bristol’s 'We the Curious'. For the uninitiated, FUTURES is a free Europe-wide event dedicated to engaging the general public with cutting edge research through fun and interactive learning. This year, more than 300 cities across 30 European countries took part and - despite the horrendous weather - our event alone brought in well over 500 visitors.

© Bhagesh Sachania Photography

For our stand, the team presented some of our work spanning two complimentary projects (both funded by EPSRC): the IAA "Future Ethics in Quantum and VR", conducted in collaboration with local theatre company Kilter, and the ongoing work we are undertaking on the "Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters" project.

To probe how the public is thinking about the ethics of virtual reality, we provided several carefully chosen VR experiences for them to try out, including a journalistic piece, a historical re-enactment and a VR experience designed for children.

We asked the public to tell us their thoughts. They didn’t hold back. Many of our stand visitors were first time users of VR, so this was a brilliant opportunity to chat with them and record their thoughts about possible future applications and the ethical concerns this might raise. These responses were broad, nuanced and utterly invaluable. We thank everyone who visited us for sparing their time to talk to us.

All in all, it was an excellent opportunity for knowledge exchange on aspects of VR ethics with members of the public. We will be following up on what we have learned at a dedicated ethics workshop in November with a broad range of industry and academic stakeholders.

VR Docs project showcase event at Bristol Watershed

June 25th saw the opening of the Virtual Realities: Immersive Documentary Encounters Showcase at Bristol’s Watershed Cinema. This was the first opportunity for invited guests to get a sneak peek at the three VR pieces that were commissioned through the project, and to meet the creative teams behind them.

Showcased on the day were 'The Waiting Room: VR' (Victoria Mapplebeck), 'Love and Seawater' (Lisa Harewood and Ewan Cass-Kavanagh) and 'Transplant' (VRTOV’s Oscar Raby and Katy Morrison). Alongside live previews, guests were presented with imagery and materials developed during their production. Later in the evening, three panel discussions were held where our guest were given the opportunity to interact with the artists, the producers and the research team.

A ‘Work in Progress’ was held the following day, where the research team first reported the preliminary findings of several studies that were ongoing across the project. In the afternoon, Nonny de la Peña, CEO & Founder of Emblematic Group, demonstrated her new REACH platform ( which was well received by the audience. The event closed with a plenary from the heads of the project team Kirsten Cater, Mandy Rose and Danae Stanton Fraser.

VRTOV's Oscar Raby and Katy Morrison discuss the development of their piece 'Transplant'
Our keynote Nonny De La Pena presents Emblematic Group's 'Reach' platform.
Lisa Harewood and Ewan Cass-Cavanagh discuss the development of 'Love and Seawater'
Victoria Mapplebeck, director of 'The Waiting Room' VR with producer Shehani Fernando.

From Bristol to the big screens of Venice Film Festival

Several members of the VR Docs team were very excited to visit the Venice film festival last month for the premiere of Victoria Mapplebeck's "The Waiting Room: VR". This piece, commissioned by the VR documentary encounters project was shown alongside some of the most important works of the year, and was shortlisted in the linear competition.

With several seasoned VR film festival goers in the team it was nevertheless the first time that most of us would experience the delights of the Venice International Film Festival, [28 August to 7 September 2019] the oldest film festival in the world and one of the ‘big three’, alongside the Cannes Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival. We made the most of our time there.

Over two full days, we had a jam packed schedule of VR viewing on the dedicated VR Island, barely pausing to take in a cold drink at the onsite refreshment area or to wonder at which film stars occupied the helicopters flying above on the way to their own premieres.

We talked avidly to producers, artists, and colleagues. We took in panels (including one featuring Victoria herself), experienced live dance and painting. We threw ourselves into the VR festival with all the amazing sights, sounds and smells that it offered. We discussed at length our favourites and made plans for the next day's viewings, each of us keen to see the others recommendations.

Apart from the Waiting Room of course, our favourites included Porton Down, Gloomy Eyes and A Linha.

Changing your Mind – the Ethics of Virtual Reality nonfiction

On November 29th 2019, an interdisciplinary group of over thirty UK researchers, VR documentary producers, immersive media curators and immersive policy leads came together in the Council Chamber at BBC Broadcasting House, London for our final project workshop. Watched over by portraits of the BBC’s Director Generals, we spent the day thinking about the ethics of VR nonfiction.

The day began with a framing presentation by Virtual Realities Co-Investigator Mandy Rose. She discussed how looking at the triad of producer, subject and audience at the heart of social documentary can provide a way to tease open the ethical challenges and tensions that are implicit within those relationships. These include questions about how power is negotiated between producers and subjects – who gets to decide what story is told, for example, and what expectations subjects have in relation to appearing in the media; questions about producers’ responsibilities around content - the veracity of the image, for example; and issues bearing on audience experience regarding point-of-view and persuasion. The Virtual Reality platform then opens up another set of ethical questions relating to the nature (and power) of immersion, to the personal data that can be captured in virtual environments, to biases that might arise in designing VR experiences. Here, Michael Madary & Tomas Metzinger’s First Code of VR Ethics (2016) provides an unmatched resource.

The workshop was designed to inform the research team in devising a set of questions that VR nonfiction producers might look to in the development process, to alert them to ethical concerns at the design stage of VR nonfiction projects. In two workshop sessions, attendees drew on diverse research interests and experiences - from neuroscience, ethics, computer science, experimental psychology, media history, as well as policy and practitioner perspectives – to identify issues and areas of concern, and start to articulate those as questions. From the responsibilities of producers to commissioners, to expectations of VR documentary subjects, to duty of care for participants; the breakout groups mapped the territory that advice to producers in this area would need to cover. Next step – the research team will analyse that data and develop guidelines to share with creative industry. During that process we’ll go back to those who attended in November to sense check our proposals. It was extraordinary having such a range of knowledge and understandings in the room, and those diverse perspectives were crucial to this piece of work. We’re grateful to everyone who attended.

Using Design Fiction to Explore the Ethics of VR 'In the Wild': A Workshop at ACM TVX’19, Wednesday June 5th, Manchester

In this half-day workshop, we explored the ethics of Virtual Reality (VR) through conversations framed around design fictions.

The workshop explored how, while affordable head-mounted displays (HMDs) and accessible VR content are now within reach of large audiences, many of VR’s most urgent challenges remain under-explored. In addition to the many known unknowns (e.g. how do we manage sensory conflicts and spatial limitations in VR?), there are many more unknown unknowns (e.g. what kinds of psychological, social and cultural impact will VR provoke?). By bringing together diverse fictional scenarios from workshop participants, and four bespoke ‘design fictions’ created specifically to explore the ethics of VR (‘Azanaband’, ‘Bakhtin’s Carnival’, ‘XR Creche’ and ‘EmbodiedV’), we facilitated discussions that sought to explore the utility of design fictions in this domain. We identified issues such as the utility of fictional timelines in developing design fictions, the different form factors and cost/benefit ratios of producing and using design fictions, the complexity of moral relativity in the immersive technology space and issues relating to the limits of the law as ultimate moral arbiter. For more information, please see

VR Docs project at the EPSRC Digital Economies 10 Year Showcase

Chris, Harry and Danae took a trip to the iconic BT Tower in London this week to represent the VR Docs project at the EPSRC's Digital Economy 10 year showcase.

As one of 10 research projects chosen to exhibit their activities at the event, it was a great opportunity for us to feed back our work to our funder and catch up with other ESPRC-funded research teams from across the UK. The view was quite something too!

The Waiting Room VR wins 2019 IDFA Doclab award for Digital Storytelling

We’re excited to report that one of our three commissioned pieces, Victoria Mapplebeck’s “The Waiting Room VR” has just won the 2019 IDFA Doclab award for Digital Storytelling.

Here is what the judges had to say:

The project was able to, by placing us in a very rare and unexpected point of view, address the complexity and simplicity of one of the most dramatic human experiences. The project put us in a dry, impersonal place and contrasted it with very warm and heart-wrenching audio. The premise, the story, the tension and the location are all very simple, and yet the experience of all these simple and contradictory things - a phone call, familial conversations, a hospital bed, the sounds of machines - was haunting. It provoked us to breathe and feel, and left us with a sense that we just experienced something new and poignant and unforgettable”.

And from Victoria herself:

"I was delighted to win The DocLab award for Digital Storytelling at IDFA , we were really honoured to be in competition with such great artists . I really couldn’t have done it without my production team and in particular the feedback and support I received from Prof. Mandy Rose , Prof. Ki Carter and Prof. Danae Stanton Fraser, who had faith in me from the off".

Huge congratulations to Victoria and the team!

VR Docs team @ IDFA Doclab 2019

In November 2019, the VR Docs research team descended once again on IDFA’s Doclab in Amsterdam to take a look at what’s new and exciting in the world of VR nonfiction.

This year’s lab had a particularly healthy selection of VR nonfiction on display, with a VR cinema showing multiple works alongside a range of installation based pieces including Rozsypne, Bodyless and Ayahuasca. A particular highlight was Darren Emerson’s Common Ground - a skillful mix of CGI, 360 video and beautifully designed interactions that immerse the viewer in the history and people of London’s Aylesbury Estate. It’s a great demonstration of how well-considered VR can reach places traditional film cannot - do check it out if you can.

Huge congratulations also to Victoria Mapplebeck and team for another outing for our commissioned piece The Waiting Room VR. Fresh from its premiere at Venice earlier this year, it’s brilliant to see the piece doing so well!

Chris. Deep in the fields of a virtual Ukraine for Rozsypne
Ki visiting the Aylesbury Estate in Common Ground
Chris and Danae
Thanks again IDFA Amsterdam. Until next year!

Three immersive documentaries commissioned to research effects of Virtual Reality in nonfiction

We are delighted to announce the commissioning of three new bold and distinctive VR documentary works. The winning commissions were chosen from among over 150 applications based on their originality and innovation.

Selected from the Open Call, Transplant is a new work by producers Oscar Raby and Katy Morrison of the VRTOV studio, whose field-defining VR projects have been shown and celebrated from Sundance to Sheffield DocFest.

Transplant is set in Chile under the dictatorship of General Pinochet. Centring on the ideas of biologist and philosopher Francisco Varela, as he undergoes a liver transplant, it asks; how do we repair a damaged organism? how do we reorganise a damaged society? Transplant asks us to consider, through interactive VR, the relationship between body and mind.

The two other projects were selected from the New Voices Call, which invited applications from artists new to VR. We are delighted to be working with film-maker Lisa Harewood and creative technologist Ewan Cass-Kavanagh on their first collaboration: Love and Seawater which addresses the legacy of the separations between parents and children that have been a feature of Caribbean economic migration.

Love and Seawater will take a participatory approach to production, involving those affected by this theme in developing a VR treatment of this previously invisible aspect of global migrant culture.

Also new to VR is the award-winning writer, artist and director Victoria Mapplebeck, who has been experimenting with the frontiers of documentary and creative technology since the 1990s. Her project, The Waiting Room tells the story of her own breast cancer from diagnosis through treatment to recovery.

The VR project will explore the cultural myths and language of chronic illness, asking us to confront what we can and what we can’t control when our bodies fail us.

The official press release of this article can be read in full here:

Virtual Realities - Immersive Documentary Encounters Commissions

In partnership with Watershed, we are excited to invite bold and distinctive proposals to create nonfiction experiences in virtual reality. We are seeking to commission three original works, each receiving a £50k production budget and support from the commissioning and research teams.

We are open to ideas that engage deeply and creatively with the potential of VR for documentary or journalism. Proposals might ask questions of the relationship between participant and subject, reflect on the ethics of immersion, or give voice to underrepresented communities or individuals. This opportunity allows for ideas that push boundaries and challenge the orthodoxies that are emerging in immersive nonfiction.

We are looking for projects that explore the potential of the platform to convene urgent conversations about our shared world, rather than demonstrators of the latest technology innovation. We are interested in work that takes risks, and points to future directions for the field.

Who should apply?

We are excited to hear ideas from those with direct experience of this field who are keen to build on that experience and push boundaries. We are also keen to hear bold new ideas from creative practitioners from different disciplines, particularly those whose voices are currently underrepresented in VR and in the nonfiction sector. In order to create space for both, we are offering two distinct pathways for submissions: Open call and New voices.

How to apply?

The closing date for applications is 17:00, Friday, 28 September, 2018.

Virtual Realities at DIS'18

DIS is the annual conference on Designing Interactive Systems, organised by the ACM (Association of Computer Machinery) and SIGCHI (Special Interest Group in Computer Human Interaction). It brings together an international community of researchers, designers and developers (and more) for a programme of activities including workshops, panel discussions, paper presentations and demos.

A Growing Interest in VR at DIS?

For many years, the DIS community has been engaging with some of the same issues and challenges that we are interested in, from the functionality and usability of interactive and immersive technologies, to concepts like embodiment, presence and representation. Ideas around human-computer interaction and ‘technology as experience’, which are central to DIS, have a particular relevance to VR, and DIS publishes prototypes - both real and imaginary - that often suggest future directions for immersive technologies such as VR.

The topic of DIS’18 (June 9th-13th 2018) was ‘diversity’. It posed questions such as, "how is diversity reflected in models of user experience?", "What methods and processes does diversity call for?", "What are the ethical challenges in designing for diversity?". Diversity is a crucial issue for both VR and documentary. The newly-released Oculus Go – at £200 – is significantly cheaper than comparable VR headsets, but it is still a luxury item. Production tools for VR are expensive and/or complicated to use and distribution infrastructure (especially for VR nonfiction) is nascent and fragmented. Can VR extend its reach beyond early-adopters and those who are willing/able to overcome these barriers? Will it connect with a more diverse mainstream audience? DIS might be a good place to look for clues...

While VR has been relatively inconspicuous at DIS in recent years, 2018 has seen a steep increase in papers about VR (from 3 in 2017 to 7 in 2018). There were more papers about VR this year than there were about IoT, for example. Does this suggest a growing interest in VR at DIS?

Papers about VR at DIS’18

There were seven papers about virtual reality at DIS'18, representing a variety of approaches and perspectives, from novel applications of existing VR systems, to new developments in VR technology and more theoretically-informed work. Two papers proposed novel solutions to the key challenge of mobility in VR, using two different techniques - inattentional blindness (Sra et al) and rotational acceleration (Rietzler et al). Others presented examples of VR applications in a Viking-themed museum exhibit (Schofield et al), a co-design platform for ergonomic desks (Lee et al) and a guided meditation exercise (Prpa et al). There was only one paper about social VR: Misha Sra (MIT) presented work that sought to rationalise the different geometries of real-world locations when interactions take place within a co-located virtual space. Finally, combining the ‘experiential’ and the ‘speculative’, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz (University of Southern Califronia) presented work about VR as a context for innovative design fictions.

Some of this work suggests new avenues of technological potential for VR. It also calls for new literacies (beyond those inherited from earlier media) and there is still plenty that we do not understand about the social and cultural barriers to diversity in VR. Techniques such as rotational acceleration and inattentional blindness maintain the 'plausibility' and 'place' illusions, but to what extent do these illusions align with the aim of representing reality in VR? And can we rationalise such manipulations with ‘the ethical charge of the real’?

‘Manipulating Reality?...’ A Workshop about Developing and Deploying VR in Sensitive Settings

There was also a VR-themed workshop, organised and led by Jenny Waycott from the University of Melbourne (co-organised by researchers from Deakin University, Microsoft Research and KU Leuven). The workshop title was ‘Manipulating Reality? Designing and Deploying Virtual Reality in Sensitive Settings’. The workshop title seemed to evoke classic ‘documentary studies’ texts like “Representing Reality”, “Capturing Reality” and “Imagining Reality”. I was therefore interested to know whether issues like representation, narrative, audiences and authorship might emerge...

I attended the workshop and presented a position paper entitled, ‘Anticipating the Challenges of Co-Creating Virtual Reality Documentaries with Health Communities’, co-authored with Roisin McNaney (Bristol University). In this paper, we try to outline how work on participatory documentary and complementary work about patient autonomy might combine to inform a co-creative documentary project with people with Parkinson’s disease.

There were several others presenting thought-provoking work at the workshop: Romina Carrasco (University of Melbourne) [paper: The Technology Explorers in the Highway of Life]; Thuong Huang (Deakin Univeristy) [paper: EDIE: An Education Dementia Immersive Experience using Virtual Reality]; Eugenia Kim (City University of Hong Kong) [paper: Virtual Reality Dances About Adolescent Bipolar Disorder: Accommodating Patient and Audience Concerns] and Jenny Waycott (University of Melbourne) [paper: Active VR in Residential Aged Care: Opportunities and Challenges].

The workshop was attended by a diverse mix of researchers, many with interdisciplinary backgrounds, collectively representing HCI, design, documentary studies, gerontology, emergency relief, performing arts, education and gaming. The conversations revealed a rich set of shared considerations across the disciplines, which - encouragingly - did include several areas where some of the terminology and concepts from documentary studies perspectives proved to be valuable points of reference. Based on the collaborative affinity diagramming exercise, Jenny Waycott has distilled a number of common challenges that emerged from the workshop:

  • Privacy and ethics.
  • Participatory design of VR experiences.
  • Usability and accessibility (e.g., difficulty using hand controllers in ‘active VR’)
  • Who is the audience and who is the user?
  • Empathy – how can VR be used effectively to illustrate lived experiences?
  • Content & depiction/accuracy.
  • Research environment & translation into real-world settings.

There will undoubtedly be scope to develop upon these ideas as concrete examples of ethical issues grow as VR becomes more mainstream...

DIS18 papers about VR

Your Place and Mine: Designing a Shared VR Experience for Remotely Located Users

Misha Sra (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA) Aske Mottelson (University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark) Pattie Maes (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)

Virtual reality can help realize mediated social experiences where distance disappears and we interact as richly with those around the world as we do with those in the same room. The design of social virtual experiences presents a challenge for remotely located users with room-scale setups like those afforded by recent commodity virtual reality devices. Since users inhabit different physical spaces that may not be the same size, a mapping to a shared virtual space is needed for creating experiences that allow everyone to use real walking for locomotion. We designed three mapping techniques that enable users from diverse room-scale setups to interact together in virtual reality. Results from our user study (N = 26) show that our mapping techniques positively influence the perceived degree of togetherness and copresence while the size of each user's tracked space influences individual presence.

Misha Sra, Aske Mottelson, and Pattie Maes. 2018. Your Place and Mine: Designing a Shared VR Experience for Remotely Located Users. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 85-97. DOI:

Viking VR: Designing a Virtual Reality Experience for a Museum

Guy Schofield (University of York, York, United Kingdom) Gareth Beale (University of York, York, United Kingdom) Nicole Beale (University of York, York, United Kingdom) Martin Fell (Yorkshire Museums Trust, York, United Kingdom) Dawn Hadley (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom) Jonathan Hook (University of York, York, United Kingdom) Damian Murphy (University of York, York, United Kingdom) Julian Richards (University of York, York, United Kingdom) Lewis Thresh (University of York, York, United Kingdom)

Viking VR is a Virtual Reality exhibit through which viewers can experience the sights and sounds of a 9th Century Viking encampment. Created as part of a major museum exhibition, the experience was developed by an interdisciplinary team consisting of artists, archaeologists, curators and researchers. In this paper, approaches to the design of authentic, informative and compelling VR experiences for Cultural Heritage contexts are discussed. We also explore issues surrounding interaction design for the long-term deployment of VR experiences in museums and discuss the challenges of VR authoring workflows for interdisciplinary teams.

Guy Schofield, Gareth Beale, Nicole Beale, Martin Fell, Dawn Hadley, Jonathan Hook, Damian Murphy, Julian Richards, and Lewis Thresh. 2018. Viking VR: Designing a Virtual Reality Experience for a Museum. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 805-815. DOI:

VMotion: Designing a Seamless Walking Experience in VR

Misha Sra (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA) Xuhai Xu (Tsinghua University, Beijing, China) Aske Mottelson (University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark) Pattie Maes (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)

Physically walking in virtual reality can provide a satisfying sense of presence. However, natural locomotion in virtual worlds larger than the tracked space remains a practical challenge. Numerous redirected walking techniques have been proposed to overcome space limitations but they often require rapid head rotation, sometimes induced by distractors, to keep the scene rotation imperceptible. We propose a design methodology of seamlessly integrating redirection into the virtual experience that takes advantage of the perceptual phenomenon of inattentional blindness. Additionally, we present four novel visibility control techniques that work with our design methodology to minimize disruption to the user experience commonly found in existing redirection techniques. A user study (N = 16) shows that our techniques are imperceptible and users report significantly less dizziness when using our methods. The illusion of unconstrained walking in a large area (16 x 8m) is maintained even though users are limited to a smaller (3.5 x 3.5m) physical space.

Misha Sra, Xuhai Xu, Aske Mottelson, and Pattie Maes. 2018. VMotion: Designing a Seamless Walking Experience in VR. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 59-70. DOI:

Immersive Design Fiction: Using VR to Prototype Speculative Interfaces and Interaction Rituals within a Virtual Storyworld

Joshua McVeigh-Schultz (University of Southern California & University of California Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, CA, USA) Max Kreminski (University of California Santa Cruz & University of Southern California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA) Keshav Prasad (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA) Perry Hoberman (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA) Scott S. Fisher (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Immersive design fiction is a novel approach that embeds speculative interactions within a rich virtual reality (VR) storyworld. Immersive design fictions use VR to translate new design opportunities into story-driven, embodied experiences by positioning the participant as a character in a narrative world. This paper presents a case study of an immersive design fiction that depicts a fictionalized reimagining of an industry partner's work practices. This VR experience explores speculative interfaces for creative work and collaboration in the context of a fictional workplace environment. By placing design fictions within rich immersive contexts such as room-scale VR, researchers and practitioners can go beyond prototyping imagined interfaces to also speculate about the interaction rituals and surrounding social context within an experiential storyworld. This approach makes methodological and theoretical contributions to design fiction research by demonstrating a toolkit for exploring and reflecting upon the intersections between speculation, embodiment, and narrative context.

Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Max Kreminski, Keshav Prasad, Perry Hoberman, and Scott S. Fisher. 2018. Immersive Design Fiction: Using VR to Prototype Speculative Interfaces and Interaction Rituals within a Virtual Storyworld. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 817-829. DOI:

VRSpinning: Exploring the Design Space of a 1D Rotation Platform to Increase the Perception of Self-Motion in VR

Michael Rietzler (Ulm University, Ulm, Germany) Teresa Hirzle (Ulm University, Ulm, Germany) Jan Gugenheimer (Ulm University, Ulm, Germany) Julian Frommel (Ulm University, Ulm, Germany) Thomas Dreja (Ulm University, Ulm, Germany) Enrico Rukzio (Ulm University, Ulm, Germany)

Current approaches for locomotion in virtual reality are either creating a visual-vestibular conflict, which is assumed to cause simulator sickness, or use metaphors such as teleportation to travel longer distances, lacking the perception of self motion. We propose VRSpinning, a seated locomotion approach based around stimulating the user's vestibular system using a rotational impulse to induce the perception of linear self-motion. In a first study we explored the approach of oscillating the chair in different frequencies during visual forward motion and collected user preferences on applying these feedback types. In a second user study we used short bursts of rotational acceleration to match the visual forward acceleration. We found that this rotational stimulus significantly reduced simulator sickness and increased the perception of self-motion in comparison to no physical motion.

Michael Rietzler, Teresa Hirzle, Jan Gugenheimer, Julian Frommel, Thomas Dreja, and Enrico Rukzio. 2018. VRSpinning: Exploring the Design Space of a 1D Rotation Platform to Increase the Perception of Self-Motion in VR. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference(DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 99-108. DOI:

Interactive and Situated Guidelines to Help Users Design a Personal Desk that Fits Their Bodies

Bokyung Lee (Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Daejeon, Rebublic of Korea) Joongi Shin (Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Daejeon, Rebublic of Korea) Hyoshin Bae (Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Daejeon, Rebublic of Korea) Daniel Saakes (Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Daejeon, Rebublic of Korea)

In this paper, we explored the application of human factor guidelines in personal fabrication. This is useful for several Do-It-Yourself (DIY) scenarios, including users adjusting workstation configurations or designing a desk to fit a single person. We identified a dependency map between the user's anthropometrics, ergonomic pose recommendations, and design dimensions. Based on this, we developed situated and interactive guidelines to assist users in design applications. We applied these guidelines in a Virtual Reality (VR) system that lets users customize their desk and provides real-time feedback and feedforward on pose and design. We evaluated the system with six participants, had each one design a personal desk, fabricated their desks, and let them work on their desks for four hours. The design and evaluation contribute to fabrication tools as it helped users be aware of their pose and ergonomic knowledge, and design for their bodies and needs.

Bokyung Lee, Joongi Shin, Hyoshin Bae, and Daniel Saakes. 2018. Interactive and Situated Guidelines to Help Users Design a Personal Desk that Fits Their Bodies. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 637-650. DOI:

Attending to Breath: Exploring How the Cues in a Virtual Environment Guide the Attention to Breath and Shape the Quality of Experience to Support Mindfulness

Mirjana Prpa (Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada) Kıvanç Tatar (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada) Jules Françoise (Universite Paris-Sud, Universite Paris-Saclay, Paris, France) Bernhard Riecke (Simon Fraser University, Surrey, BC, Canada) Thecla Schiphorst (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada) Philippe Pasquier (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Busy daily lives and ongoing distractions often make people feel disconnected from their bodies and experiences. Guided attention to self can alleviate this disconnect as in focused-attention meditation, in which breathing often constitutes the primary object on which to focus attention. In this context, sustained breath awareness plays a crucial role in the emergence of the meditation experience. We designed an immersive virtual environment (iVE) with a generative soundtrack that supports sustained attention on breathing by employing the users' breathing in interaction. Both sounds and visuals are directly mapped to the user's breathing patterns, thus bringing the awareness researched. We conducted micro-phenomenology interviews to unfold the process in which breath awareness can be induced and sustained in this environment. The findings revealed the mechanisms by which audio and visual cues in VR can elicit and foster breath-awareness, and unfolded the nuances of this process through subjective experiences of the study participants. Finally, the results emphasize the important role that a sense of agency and control have in shaping the overall quality of the experience. This can in turn inform the design specifications of future mindfulness-based designs focused on breath awareness.

Mirjana Prpa, Kıvanç Tatar, Jules Françoise, Bernhard Riecke, Thecla Schiphorst, and Philippe Pasquier. 2018. Attending to Breath: Exploring How the Cues in a Virtual Environment Guide the Attention to Breath and Shape the Quality of Experience to Support Mindfulness. In Proceedings of the 2018 Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 71-84. DOI:

Alternate Realities at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2018

Chris Bevan visited the Alternative Realities exhibition at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2018 to catch up with the latest and greatest in non-fiction VR.

One of the challenges of studying the emergence of VR non-fiction is the fact that many of the bleeding-edge experimental pieces are shown first (and sometimes only ever shown) as installations in museums or film festivals. The Alternative Realities exhibition at Doc/Fest is therefore one of only a few opportunites where we get to see where the state of the art currently lies, particularly with regard to room scale experiences.

Sadly we were not able to catch them all, but some of the highlights included The Day the World Changed, Is Anna OK?, Vestige and Manic.

Stakeholder Survey Results

In Jan/Feb 2018 we conducted an opinion survey with 30 leading producers, curators and directors of VR non-fiction (VRNF) to identify key priorities for our audience studies (planned for Spring/Summer 2018). We asked eight open-ended questions about aspects of past, present and future audiences for VRNF.

The survey findings suggest a shared aim to connect VRNF with audiences beyond the ‘tech curious’ and the ‘educated minority’. Respondents identified inhibiting factors like affordability (of hardware) and accessibility (of content), as well as cultural factors relating to perceptions of who VR is ‘for’.

We asked respondents how we should refer to audiences of VRNF. This divided opinions. Terms such as ‘user’, ‘participant’, viewer’, and ‘visitor’ were suggested alongside newer terms such as ‘immersant’, ‘experiencer’ and ‘interactor’; some rejected the idea that a single term is desirable or necessary.

We asked participants to name three works that had made a specific contribution to the field. Notes on Blindness: Into Darkness was (by far) the most frequently acknowledged, followed by Clouds of Sidra and Assent in second and third place respectively.

We received various interpretations of the future potential for VRNF, from “the magic wearing off” to “everyone filming 360”. Some anticipate VR/AR/MR/XR convergence and others more “embodied”, “multisensory” experiences. Ideas for future research included: business models; information recall; persuasiveness; facilitating “human connections”; integration with other sensory stimuli; reaching audiences in other parts of the world, and creating social impact.

Our analysis of the survey findings suggests four areas of potential focus for our audience research:

  1. The way(s) audiences experience, understand and decode the combination of phenomenological and narratological elements within VR non-fiction.
  2. The differences and similarities in the ways audiences respond to communal/social and individual VR non-fiction experiences.
  3. The difference between audiences’ immediate/emotional and reflective/logical responses to VR non-fiction.
  4. The activities audiences engage in pre- and post- experience that frame and contextualise their experiences of VR non-fiction.

Technologies of Seeing and Technologies of Corporeality: currents in nonfiction virtual reality

In an article in the first edition of the online journal, World Records, edited by Jason Fox, Mandy Rose surveys the contemporary nonfiction work being developed within the framework of VR, and explores the opposition between the promise of VR as escape from materiality and a promise of corporeal engagement. She makes the case that VR nonfiction reflects divergent currents, engaging “technologies of seeing” with a lineage going back to the Renaissance while introducing novel “technologies of corporeality”, and asks what is at stake for documentary epistemology in these developments.

Project Workshop

Our first project workshop What do we need to know? will be held on Friday 19th January at the Watershed Cinema, Bristol.

What do we need to know? is the first of four workshops to be held over the course of the project, providing a framework through which partners and stakeholders can co-design the research.

The workshop will introduce the project and stage a dialogue about what immersive non-fiction VR content experiences mean to audiences. We will be sharing our objectives, research questions and initial findings, including an emergent mapping of the field to date, and workshopping areas for investigation. The findings of the workshop will inform the audience study and commissioning of three new pieces of VR work.

Over 50 delegates have signed up for the workshop - a mix of creative industry and academics - ensuring we have a balanced discussion from a range of voices, backgrounds and interests.

Guest speakers

We are delighted to announce four guest speakers for the workshop:

Dan Archer, Empathetic Media, New York USA

Dan Archer is a thought leader in the VR/AR/interactive storytelling space and founded Empathetic Media in 2015. He is a 2016 fellow at the Tow Center at Columbia University and was a Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow (University of Missouri, 2014) and a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University (2011).

Jane Gauntlett, Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol UK

Jane Gauntlett is a writer for film and theatre. In 2011, Jane founded the internationally recognised empathy project In My Shoes. In My Shoes is an ever-expanding collection of first-person documentary style interactive performances, which guide participants through the beautiful, the challenging, the mundane and the surreal aspects of being human.

Kate Nash, University of Leeds

Dr Kate Nash is Associate Professor of Media and Communication in the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on the intersections between documentary culture and emerging media platforms and practices.

Chris Anderson University of Leeds

Chris Anderson is Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. Chris studies journalism, politics, and how the production of public knowledge is being transformed in the digital age.