Archive for April, 2010

Digitalarti Magazine

Robots and Avatars features in a new and interactive edition of Digitalarti Magazine.

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Catwalk Robot

The Avatar Gaze

MulticolouredEyeDon’t know if your friend in the virtual world is lying to you or not? Well, now avatars that can mimic our real-world eye movements can make it easier to spot if someone is telling the truth online.

Most virtual worlds, such as Second Life, are full of avatars with static or pre-programmed gazes. One way to make interactions feel more realistic is to reproduce a person’s eye movement on their avatar, said William Steptoe of University College London and colleagues.

Now research has found that real-world eye movement could make it easier to spot whether an avatar is telling the truth or not. The researchers asked 11 volunteers personal questions, such as to name their favourite book, and told them to lie in some of their answers. During the interviews, the volunteers wore eye-tracking glasses that recorded their blink rate, direction and length of gaze, and pupil dilation. Then, a second group of 27 people watched a selection of clips of avatars as they delivered the first group’s answers.

Some avatars had eye movements that mirrored those of the original volunteers, while others had no eye movement at all. The volunteers were asked whether they believed the avatars were being truthful or lying. On average, the participants were able to identify 88 per cent of truths correctly when the avatars had eye movement, but only 70 per cent without.

Spotting lies was harder, but eye movement provided 48 per cent accuracy compared with 39 per cent without. It is unclear exactly how the eye movements help. However, the eye-tracking glasses did show that people tended to hold the gaze of the interviewer for longer when telling the truth than when lying.

“Perhaps they were overcompensating,” New Scientist quoted Steptoe as saying. What’s more, their pupils dilated more when lying – something previous studies have linked with the greater cognitive load required for deception. “This is one of a small handful of cues that you can’t control,” said Steptoe.

Enhancing expressive features such as eye movement could eventually make avatar-mediated communication feel more trustworthy than online video, because only relevant visual cues need to be displayed, said Steptoe. The technology could help in business meetings held in virtual environments, or to enhance communication between people with social phobias, where face-to-face interaction can seem daunting, he added.

The results of the study will be presented at the 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Atlanta, Georgia. (ANI)

Source: Science News

Everything is becoming more beautiful…

Jesse Schell, has taught Game Design and led research projects at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center since 2002 and rounded off the 2010 Games Based Learning Conference with a  live web-streamed keynote from the US. His provocation provided some fascinating insights about the future of an education based around gaming, online communication and virtual exploration.

Jesse suggested that ‘everything is becoming more beautiful’ and that we like it that way. Siting the cornerstone example of the iPhone he emphasized how collaboration (in particular between artists and engineers) is central, if not essential, to making technology ‘more beautiful’ and hence more usable. Recognizing specialization, Schell suggested, is vital and he offered the suggestion of working hard to engineer situations where there is no choice but to work together as a framework to export from gaming development into education and virtual collaboration. He also explained how young people in particular expect the ability to customize not only their virtual environments but their real lives too.

Emphasizing that ‘people love sharing things – photos, music, knowledge’, Schell affirmed the Open Source movement, asserting: “that [the fact] Wikipedia works at all, gives tremendous faith for the human race”. He also explained that we all want ‘real things’ and that young people want all of these things too. But how to translate this into the classroom? His provocation continued to suggest that educators often prefer standardized (e.g. text books) when perhaps they should be interested in customization and that as opposed to withholding (individual work) they should look towards sharing.

Questions of ‘beauty’, customization, sharing and reality are central to the conversation generated by Robots and Avatars, which seeks to explorethis discussion from a wide range of angles including education, creative industries, the arts and academia.

Seven species of robot – Dennis Hong

At TEDxNASA, Dennis Hong introduces seven award-winnning, all-terrain robots — like the humanoid, soccer-playing DARwIn and the cliff-gripping CLIMBeR — all built by his team at RoMeLa, Virginia Tech. Watch to the end to hear the five creative secrets to his lab’s incredible technical success.

Dennis Hong is the founder and director of RoMeLa — a Virginia Tech robotics lab that has pioneered several breakthroughs in robot design and engineering.