Is Virtual Reality the future of education?

Dr Marco Gillies, Reader in Computing at Goldsmiths, gave a talk at the Virtual and Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Conference, that explained how virtual reality, and particularly interactive virtual characters, could enable us to learn the kinds of social skills that we need for work. These are the kinds of skills that are so hard to learn in a traditional way, anything from a doctor breaking bad news to a patient to a police officer interviewing a suspect. Professional social skills of this type are very different from our ordinary social lives, and handling them well can only be learned through experience.

Together with Dr Sylvia Pan, Lecturer in Computing at Goldsmiths, Marco has over 20 years experience of developing animated interactive characters that have realistic body language. Encountering a life-sized virtual human in immersive VR is a really powerful experience because body language cues like eye contact or personal space feel very realistic in VR. Making eye contact on a traditional computer just means looking out of the screen, but in VR it feels like eye contact in real life. That means that a VR conversation feels real. We can use this type of realistic social interaction to help train people to be better at their professional social skills.

The conference as a whole included many examples of how VR could be used to teach skills that you can only learn by experience. VR is much cheaper and safer than doing things for real, but much closer to real life than a book or video. In the next few years we will probably see a revolution in immersive media for education, and no where is this going to be more beneficial than in one of the most important skills we need in life: how to interact with other people.

You can see Marco’s write up of the talk here:
Purposeful Practice for learning social skills in VR

And this is a write up of the whole conference:
Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education Conference

If you are interested in Virtual Reality you might be interested in our new Masters in Virtual and Augmented Realityor our MOOC on Virtual Reality

Simon Katan’s ‘Clamour’ at the Roundhouse

Head of Creative Computing, Simon Katan writes about the premier of his work ‘Clamour’ at the Roundhouse in Camden

Last Thursday my work Clamour premiered at the Roundhouse Camden’s Sackler Space. The work is an interactive mixed media theatre performance for live coder which is experienced simultaneously through audience smartphones, projection and sound. The aim is to wryly and reflexively interrogate how technology and social media mediate and influence our knowledge, relationships, and identities. 

 

The piece tells the story of Sealand – a lone outpost surrounded by vast swathes of ocean – the sole surviving nation of global catastrophe. Now faced with an existential fight for its future, its people must forge the tools they require. New rules must be written, paving the way for a new state of being. With their resourcefulness and through working together what could go wrong? Throughout the performance, an inscrutable figure on stage (that’s me) controls all from their laptop – shaping divergent audience experiences with heuristic games that charm, frustrate and deceive. Yet it is the audience themselves, through gameplay with image, sound, and text, who determine the shape of the final performance.

 

I’ve been working on elements of the piece through various commissions over the last five years, and for this final stage I collaborated with digital artist Luke Fraser to bring everything together. Our development process involved numerous user testing sessions with Goldsmiths computing students to fine tune our interaction.

 

After a nerve wracking 15 minutes of dealing with the usual Wifi difficulties, the performance got underway. In such a performance it’s difficult to gauge reactions but a sprinkling of chuckles throughout gave me a good indication that things were progressing to plan. Read a review here http://www.savageonline.co.uk/our-journal/clamour/

 

A programme of regional touring is planned for Spring and Summer of 2019. You can find out more at clamour.org.uk.

Welcome! Goldsmiths Computing Induction Week 2018

Welcome to Computing

The new academic year starts on Monday 24 September with a week of welcome activities before teaching starts on Monday 1 October 2018.

If you’re wondering which events you should go to, the answer is all of them!

The week includes a six-hour creative hackathon, undergraduate social events and induction sessions for all new students.

DoC Hack, our welcome week hackathon is organised by student tech society Hacksmiths. For six hours, you’ll design and build tech projects – and meet students & staff from across the department in a relaxed, informal environment. No special skills needed – just bring a laptop.


 

Download your schedule (PDF)


 

Contact computing@gold.ac.uk for any Computing-related enquiries.
Contact admissions@gold.ac.uk for enquiries about joining the university.

Generation 2018! Undergraduate Computing degree show

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Thursday 7 June sees our annual celebration of achievement by undergraduate students from across the department.

A mash-up of exhibition, show-and-tell, performance and academic conference, GENERATION is a showcase of outstanding computing projects realised by undergraduates in 2017-18. It’s an exhibition for anyone who’s interested in how digital technology and computer science is impacting on health, education, business and entertainment.

This year we have a lots of computer games, as well as virtual reality experiences, augmented reality apps, interactive thingamajigs and technologies for art, music, education, business and healthcare.

generation2018

Opens: 1pm-5pm Thursday 7 June
Bar & performances: 5pm-9pm Thursday 7 June

Goldsmiths Student Union Bar
Dixon Road, Goldsmiths, University of London

GENERATION website

BSc Digital Arts Computing degree show

Exit Strategy from Goldsmiths Computing on Vimeo.

The degree show for BSc Digital Arts Computing launches on Thursday 3 May.

Titled EXIT STRATEGY, the exhibition features over 30 computational artists, using digital technologies to create works on surveillance, artificial intelligence, art theory and the end of humanity.

Artworks include cliquey robots, a VR gallery, life stories from the Soviet era, haptic devices simulating human touch, sonified data, and a toddler exposed to the internet.

The exhibition launches with the ever-popular opening night party, 5.30pm-9.30pm Thursday 3 May 2018, with guests from across the world of art, curating and digital practice. Get free tickets for the party

EXIT STRATEGY continues from Friday 4 until Monday 7 May, 12noon – 5pm each day.


EVENT: Digital Art’s Exit Strategies
3pm – 4.30pm Saturday 5 May
We invite artists, theorists and curators Suhail Malik, Ami Clarke and Bob Bicknell-Knight to respond to the exhibition and propose art and curatorial strategies for exits. Open to all.


Beyond sex robots: the real sex tech revolution

sextechchat

Goldsmiths press office Pete Wilton interviewed Dr Kate Devlin ahead of Sex Tech Hack II, where experts gather at Goldsmiths to discuss and make new kinds of intimate technology.


Sex robots are all over the news but is the technology as advanced as some suggest or could the real sex tech revolution look very different? This Friday (24 November 2017) Sex Tech Hack II will see experts gather at Goldsmiths, University of London to discuss and make new kinds of intimate technology.

Ahead of the event I talked to Dr Kate Devlin, Senior Lecturer in Computing at Goldsmiths, who is researching a new book about sex robots and was recently named on the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 list, about how to separate scientific reality from electric wet dreams…

Pete Wilton: What myths about ‘sex robots’ need debunking?

Kate Devlin: That they exist. They don’t really, despite the flurry of media stories. There are mechanised sex dolls with some chatbot AI, but that’s about it. But they are being developed, and they currently extend the sex doll market, rather than looking at new or innovative forms. Like much technology, it’s very hetereonormative: these tend to be dolls made by men, for men. The hypersexualised female form is presented as the default.

PW: Which sex tech developments should we be most concerned or hopeful about?

KD: Sex tech has great potential to bring people happiness, whether it’s by enhancing pleasure and fun or providing a sex life for someone who – for psychological or physiological reasons – might face difficulties otherwise. It’s an industry estimated at around $30 billion worldwide and climbing.

New technologies can forge new forms of intimacy. Smart toys can be connected via the Internet, helping long distance relationships, for example, or changing the landscape of sex work, such as the cam industry. That said, there are areas that need close attention: security and privacy issues are key. The past year has seen at least three security and privacy vulnerabilities in smart sex toys.

PW: What are the major challenges to advancing this area of technology?

KD: Funding is problematic: in industry, venture capitalists don’t tend to fund sex tech as they have vice clauses that prohibit them from investing in adult ventures. Start-ups are reliant on angel investors.

Academia doesn’t fare much better: it seems that the best way of funding research into sex is to spin it from a health point of view. There’s also an attitude that research into sex and intimacy is trivial, which seems odd as for many people it’s such an intrinsic part of being human.

PW: How can initiatives like ADA-AI help to change the Artificial Intelligence agenda?

KD: ADA-AI is a new international non-profit organisation focused on evaluating, developing and lobbying around AI policy and regulation. I am one of 25 advisors and we look at how to ensure AI can contribute positively to society, especially for marginalised and underrepresented groups.

The current threat of AI is not superintelligence and a robot takeover; instead, it’s the unconscious bias in datasets and the lack of diversity being perpetuated and reinforced by systems that are now integrated into our lives.

PW: What do you hope will result from Sex Tech Hack II?

KD: Last year’s Sex Tech Hack was a great success and 50 people made 14 wonderful new examples of intimate technology. This year we have more people attending, plus a discussion day on Friday 24 November, with industry and academic experts giving talks and leading break-out sessions.

Hacksmiths, the SU tech society, have done an amazing job bringing it all together. We’ve ended up with an incredibly diverse group of attendees all set to make accessible, fair, fun prototypes. This year’s challenges are: “intimacy”, “accessibility”, and “personalisation”.

PW: How is work on your upcoming book going? What topics will it cover?

KD: The book (Turned On: The Science of the Sex Robot) continues and the deadline approaches – I wish I could say I’m as close to finishing as I should be! It’s a popular science book about sex robots – the origins of the narratives, which go right back to Greek myth, through to the sci-fi portrayals in films today. I’m writing about artificial intelligence, robotics, attachment, love, ethics and law. Send me your bad puns.


First published in Goldsmiths News, 21 November 2017

What do @goldcomputing academics do when they’re not teaching?

topicsincomputerscience

When they are not teaching or marking, it’s easy to imagine that our academics just sit quietly in low-power mode, like the A.I. child in Stephen Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence.

But apparently they do something called research.

To investigate this phenomena, we invite you to join us every Wednesday afternoon, when one Goldsmiths Computing academic will talk about the stuff they are researching.


3pm-4pm Wednesday 11 October / LG02, Professor Stuart Hall Building
Dr Sarah Wiseman: The world’s tiniest, most important design problem
Sarah is a lecturer whose research focuses on Human Computer Interaction. Her research interests include: medical interfaces, citizen science recruitment and haptic technologies for users with visual impairments. She is also involved in public engagement and science communication work, which includes performing stand-up comedy about her research, as well as giving talks at the Royal Institution and Science Museum. swiseman.co.uk


3pm-4pm Wednesday 18 October / LG02, Professor Stuart Hall Building
Dr Kate Devlin: NSFW: HCI, AI and sex tech
Kate Devlin is a senior lecturer who works in the fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), investigating how people interact with and react to technology, to understand how emerging and future technologies will affect us and the society in which we live. She is currently focusing on cognition, sex, gender and sexuality and how these might be incorporated into cognitive systems such as sexual companion robots. http://doc.gold.ac.uk/~mas01kd


3pm-4pm Wednesday 25 October / Room 342, 2nd floor, Richard Hoggart Building
Saskia Freeke: Creating artwork every day
Saskia Freeke is lecturer in Physical Computing. as well as an artist, creative coder, interaction designer, visual designer and educator. A big part of her artistic practice is her ongoing daily art project that she started January 2015, in which she explores and experiments with generative patterns and animations. www.sasj.nl


3pm-4pm Wednesday 1 November / LG02, Professor Stuart Hall Building
Dr Sorrel Harriet: Using data to improve the learning and teaching of coding
Sorrel teaches on topics related to databases, data programming and web application development. Over the past ten years, Sorrel has been involved in professional web development, both inside and out of academia. Most recently she worked alongside Matthew Yee-King at Goldsmiths helping to develop the Music Circle platform. gold.ac.uk/computing/people/harriet-sorrel