Pia Tikka and Victor Pardinho (video) presenting the latest state of Enactive Avatar pipeline at the meeting of Estonian VR community in Tartu University, Oct 6, 2018.
A video conference presentation at the 1st “Virtual Reality as a Transformative Technology to Develop Empathy” Conference, organised by the “empathic Reactive MediaLab Coalition” (eRMLab Coalition) and EmpaticaXR research group.
Lynda Joy Gerry: Envisioning Future Technology for Compassion Cultivation
Experiments in cognitive neuroscience have recently dissociated neural pathways underpinning the experience of empathy from that of compassion. Namely, whereas the experience of empathy involves neural activations regarding an affective pain resonance with the distress or suffering of the target, compassion is correlated to reward centers and positive affect regions of the brain. The import of this finding is that empathy may in some instances lead to a withdrawal reflex if there is excessive sharing of distress with the target, whereas compassion appears to involve a care for the welfare of another and an approach motivation. Within the last five years, virtual environments (VEs) have been increasingly researched and developed towards the goal of enhancing users’ social intelligence, self-compassion, positive attitudes towards out-groups, and empathy. However, most of these VEs do not help the user to become more aware of his or her own emotional and psychological states in response to another person or persons, arguably a crucial step in the recovery from empathic distress or over-arousal. Biofeedback training has also been used for improving social cognition skills, but only a few projects have incorporated biofeedback into empathy-enhancing virtual environments. Recovery from empathic distress as a skill trained through biofeedback VEs could enhance interpersonal connectedness, quality of life, and social cohesion.
As part of the Frontiers du Vivant, Lynda Joy Gerry presented and defended her project “Compassion Cultivation Training in Bio-Adaptive Virtual Environments” at the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) in Paris. This project involves using perspective-taking in virtual environments using biofeedback relating to emotion regulation (heart rate variability) to manage the recovery from empathic distress. Empathic distress is conceived as a step in the empathic process towards the understanding of another person’s affective, bodily, and psychological state, but one that can lead to withdrawal and personal distress for the empathizer. Thus, this project implements instruction techniques adopted from Compassion Cultivation Training guided meditation practices cued by biofeedback to entrain better self-other boundaries and distinctions, as well as emotion regulation.
Lynda also participated in a workshop on VR and Empathy led by Philippe Bertrand from BeAnother Lab (BAL, The Machine to Be Another). See Philippe Bertrand TEDx talk “Standing in the shoes of the others with VR”
Hybrid Labs Symposium
The Third Renewable Futures Conference
May 30 – June 1, 2018, Aalto University, Otaniemi Campus
June 31 NeurocinemAtics on narrative experience
Hybrid Labs is the third edition of Renewable Futures conference that aims to challenge the future of knowledge creation through art and science. The HYBRID LABS took place from May 30 to June 1, 2018 at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland, in the context of Aalto Festival. Celebrating 50 years of Leonardo journal and community, the HYBRID LABS conference looked back into the history of art and science collaboration, with an intent to reconsider and envision the future of hybrid laboratories – where scientific research and artistic practice meet and interact.
Pia Tikka and Mauri Kaipainen:
Triadic epistemology of narrative experience
We consider the narrative experience as a triangular system of relations between narrative structure , narrative perspective , and physiological manifestations associated with both. The proposal builds on the fundamentally pragmatist idea that no two of these elements are enough to explain each other, but a third is always required to explicate the interpretative angle. Phenomenological accounts altogether reject the idea of objective descriptions of experience. At the same time, a holistic understanding must assume that a narrative is shared on some level, an assumption narratology must make, and that even individual experiences are also embodied, as is evident to neuroscientists observing brain activity evoked by narrative experience. It cannot be that these accounts are incompatible forever. Using these elements, we discuss a triadic epistemology, a mutually complementary knowledge construction system combining phenomenological, narratological and physiological angles in order to generate integrated knowledge about how different people experience particular narratives.
Our approach assumes a holistic, or even deeper, an enactive perspective to experiencing, that is, assuming systemic engagement in the embodied, social, and situational environmental processes. Consequently, we propose understanding narrative content needs to be analyzed not only based on subjective reports of theexperiencer, but they also need to be related to neurophysiological manifestations of the experience. Or, describing the associated neural activity during the viewing of a film is not enough to relate it to subjective reports of the viewers, but the observations also need to be interpreted to conventions of storytelling. A selection of cases are described to clarify the proposed triadic method.
Κeywords: neurophenomenology, narrative experience, narrative perspective, enactive theory of mind, epistemology
eFilm: Hyperfilms for basic and clinical research presented by
my aivoAALTO collaborator professor Mikko Sams showed highlights of neuroscience findings related to viewing films in fMRI and introduced the concept of eFilm, a novel computational platform for producing and easily modifying films to be used in basic and clinical research.
June 1 VR TALKS at Aalto Studios
VR Research Talks organised with Virtual Cinema Lab and FiVR Track dedicated on research in and around VR, with a focus on artistic praxes around sound, alternative narrations and the self.
Daniel Landau: Meeting Yourself in Virtual Reality and Self-Compassion
Self-reflection is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose, and essence. Between the internal process of Self-reflection to the external observation of one’s reflection – runs a thin line marking the relationship between the private-self and the public-self. From Narcissus’s pond, through reflective surfaces and mirrors, to current day selfies, the concepts of self, body-image and self-awareness have been strongly influenced by the human interaction with physical reflections. In fact, one can say that the evolution of technologies reproducing images of ourselves has played a major role in the evolution of the Self as a construct. With the current wave of Virtual-Reality (VR) technology making its early steps as a consumer product, we set out to explore the new ways in which VR technology may impact our concept of self and self-awareness. ‘Self Study’ aims to critically explore VR as a significant and novel component in the history and tradition of the complex relationship between technology and the Self (—).
See more on Daniel’s work here)
In collaboration with BeAnotherLab (The Machine to Be Another), Lynda Joy Gerry taught a workshop, “Embodying Creative Expertise in Virtual Reality” to Masters in Interaction Design students at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZhDK), as part of a course, “Ecological perception, embodiment, and behavioral change in immersive design” led by BAL members.
Image: Poster for the students’ final project presentation and exhibition.
Lynda specifically taught students design approaches using a semi-transparent video overlay of another person’s first-person, embodied experience, as in First-Person Squared. The focus of the workshop was on Leap Motion data tracking and measurements, specifically how to calculate compatibility and interpersonal motor coordination through a match score between the two participants, and how to send this data over a network. The system provides motor feedback regarding imitative gestures that are similar in form and position, and also for gestures that occur synchronously (at the same time), ideally trying to support both types of interpersonal motor coordination. Lynda taught students the equations used and data input necessary to calculate this algorithm for the different match scores, and also how to add interaction effects to this data. Lynda showed students how to implement Leap motion hand tracking on top of stereoscopic point-of-view video and how to record user hand movements. On the 31st, students premiered their final projects at an event entitled “Scattered Senses.”
On March 30th, Lynda Joy Gerry visited the Innovation Lab at Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZhDK) for a workshop entitled “Mimic Yourself.”
This workshop involved collaborations between psychologists, motion-tracking and capture experts, and theater performers. The performers wore the Perception Neuron motion capture suit within an opti-track system. The data from the performer’s motion was tracked onto virtual avatars in real-time. Specifically, the team had used the Structure Sensor depth-field camera to create photogrammetry scans of members of the lab. These scans were then used as the avatar “characters” put into the virtual environment to have the mocap actors’ movements tracked onto. A screen was also programmed into the Unity environment, such that the screen could move around the real world in different angles and three-dimensional planes and show different views and perspectives of the virtual avatar being tracked relative to the human actor’s movements. Two actors playfully danced and moved about while impacting virtual effects with their tracked motion – specifically, animating virtual avatars but also cueing different sound effects and experiences.
Image above: Motion capture body suit worn by human actor and tracked onto a virtual avatar. Multiple avatar “snap shots” can be taken to create visual effects and pictures. Images below: Creating a many-arm shakti pose with avatar screen captures created through mocap.
Image above shows examples of photogrammetry scans taken with the Structure Sensor.
Our Enactive Avatar team Victor Pardinho, Lynda Joy Gerry, Eeva R Tikka, Tanja Bastamow, and Maija Paavola planning the volumetric video capture of a screen character with a collaborator in Berlin. The team’s work is supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Huhtamäki Fund, and Virtual Cinema Lab (VCL), School of Film, Television and Scenography, Aalto University, and by Pia Tikka’s EU Mobilitas Top Researcher Grant.
Testing facial expressions of the viewer driving the behavior of a screen character with the Louise’s Digital Double (under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 4.0 license). see Eisko.com
In the image Lynda Joy Gerry, Dr. Ilkka Kosunen and Turcu Gabriel, Erasmus exchange student from the University of Craiova @Digital Technology Institute, TLU) examining facial expressions of a screen character driven by an AI.