Samantha Chan and collaborators win Distinguished Paper Award at UbiComp 2023


Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash

Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash

Samantha Chan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Fluid Interfaces research group, and collaborators won a Distinguished Paper Award at UbiComp 2023. Out of over 200 papers published in the Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies (IMWUT) Vol. 6, only eight received this distinction.  

The paper titled "Total VREcall: Using Biosignals to Recognize Emotional Autobiographical Memory in Virtual Reality” was co-authored by Samantha Chan and collaborators from the University of Auckland, Keio University Graduate School of Media Design, Nottingham Trent University, and the National University of Singapore.

What the research team discovered:

  • Emotion + Memory in VR: Whether positive or negative, recalled personal past experiences in VR distinctly influence emotional experiences.
  • Impact on Physiological Signals: Autobiographical memory (personal past experiences) recall notably affects skin conductance, heart-rate variability, and pupil responses in VR.
  • Detecting Memories in VR: We've developed a technique using skin conductance to determine when someone recalls personal memories in VR and the emotion tied to them.

Why this work matters:

  • Emotion-Driven VR Content: Understanding the link between memory recall and emotional experience allows VR developers to craft content that resonates deeply with users. By triggering specific autobiographical memories, creators can elicit desired emotional responses, making VR experiences profoundly personal and impactful.
  • Therapeutic + Training Applications: Recognizing when someone recalls a personal memory in VR can be invaluable in therapeutic settings, especially for those dealing with traumatic memories or requiring cognitive rehabilitation. Beyond therapy, this capability has potential in training simulations, where recalling past experiences can aid learning.
  • Adaptive VR Interactions: By tapping into the physiological signals associated with memory recall, we can create VR interfaces that adapt to users' emotional states and memories in real-time. This paves the way for truly adaptive and responsive VR environments that can enhance user engagement and immersion.

The ACM conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp) is a premier interdisciplinary venue in which leading international researchers, designers, developers, and practitioners in the field present and discuss novel results in all aspects of ubiquitous, pervasive, and wearable computing. This includes the design, development, and deployment of ubiquitous, pervasive, and wearable computing technologies and the understanding of human experiences and social impacts that these technologies facilitate.


Photo courtesy of Samantha Chan

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