CWI’s DIS Group Organized the ACM CHI2020 Social VR Workshop on VR Platform during COVID-19

Jie Li and Pablo Cesar, from the Distributed Interactive Systems group (DIS) at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), have successfully organized the ACM CHI2020 Social VR Workshop on a social VR platform called Mozilla Hubs.

Publication date: 15-05-2020

Jie Li and Pablo Cesar, from the Distributed Interactive Systems group (DIS) at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), have successfully organized the ACM CHI2020 Social VR Workshop on a social VR platform called Mozilla Hubs. This workshop was co-organized together with David A. Shamma (FXPAL Laboratory), Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy (BBC R&D), Raz Schwartz (Facebook AR/VR), and Wijnand IJsselsteijn (Eindhoven University of Technology). Due to the COVID-19, the event, scheduled on April 25 at the Hawaii Convention Center, was cancelled. However, the co-organizers decided to make use of the quarantine as a unique opportunity to explore how a social VR platform could be used to run the workshop. The workshop, “Social VR: A New Medium for Remote Communication & Collaboration”, was sponsored by the EU H2020 VRTogether project, and received technical support from Mozilla and FXPAL laboratory. 

The workshop attracted mass attention in the ACM SIGCHI community, and on social media. For example, one of the twitter posts received over 13,000 impressions and 1200 engagements. The organizers also received hundreds of requests about participating in the workshop. In the end, the organizers reviewed and selected 20 participants worldwide based on their submitted high-quality position papers (position papers are available here). The time zones of the participants ranged from GMT-7 (e.g., Califorlia, US) to GMT+9 (Tokyo, Japan), but they all managed to meet in this virtual workshop.

The 5-hour virtual workshop was intense, fun and engaging. The organizers designed an interactive and engaging workshop program, which started with a keynote talk from Professor Blair MacIntyre about his experience of organizing the IEEEVR 2020 conference in Mozilla Hubs. Then, the participants could introduce themselves and their position paper with a 2-minute pitch. Next, they were divided into three discussion groups based on their preferences for the three pre-defined social VR topics by the organizers: user representation & ethics, evaluation methods, and interaction techniques. Finally, the organizers brought all the participants back to the main hall to present the discussion results.

The workshop ended with fruitful discussions about the future of social VR technology. The participants and the organizers foresee the full potential of social VR as a new medium to connect people across the world, and engage them to communicate and collaborate in a virtual space for hours. Many participants shared their engaging and meaningful virtual conferencing experience on social media, and expressed their appreciation towards the organizers through emails. A full report on how well socialVR platforms may support remote scientific events will follow.

Figure 1. One of the Many Social Media Posts.                                  

Figure 2. (a) Professor Blair MacIntyre was giving a keynote talk about his experience organizing IEEEVR 2020 conference in Mozilla Hubs; (b) One of the discussion groups of the workshop; (c) Participants were exploring the virtual environment during the breaks; (d) The final group photo after the workshop ended.

About DIS
CWI’s Distributed and Interactive Systems research group focuses on facilitating and improving the way people use interactive systems and how people communicate with each other. We combine data science with a strong human-centric, empirical approach to understand the experience of users. This enables us to design and develop next generation intelligent and empathic systems. We base our results on realistic testing grounds and data sets, and embrace areas such as ubiquitous computing, human-centered multimedia systems, and languages.

Do you want to know more about the work of CWI's DIS group? Watch their YouTube video online.