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Queen Mary researchers awarded at world-leading ACM Computer-Human Interaction Conference

28 May 2021

Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov
Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov

A group of researchers from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science of Queen Mary University of London have been awarded an Honourable Mention for their paper.

Led by PhD students and lead authors Jack Ratcliffe and Francesco Soave, the paper examined the potential of conducting remote research via extended reality (XR). Submitted at the 2021 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, a world-leading human computer interaction conference, only 5% of the 5,844 submissions received were presented this prestigious award.

Jack and Francesco's research focuses on the field of XR technology, referring to virtual, mixed and augmented reality, and is also often referred to as immersive or spatial computing. It has most recently become popular through consumer virtual reality headsets, such as the Oculus Quest or HTC Vive, and also through smartphone filters such as face-augmentation in Instagram or Snapchat.

The majority of research studies into XR technologies take place in lab environments. However, with the increasing availability of public access to the hardware required to access XR experiences, there has been a growing appetite to understand how researchers might be able to conduct research with participants remotely using their own hardware, which is particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the award-winning paper, the authors surveyed 46 XR researchers from both academia and industry to understand the research community's current practice around XR studies, their experience with remote XR studies, and the potentials and drawbacks of using a remote approach. The research found that remote XR research has the potential to be a useful research approach, although currently suffers from numerous limitations regarding data collection, system development and a lack of clarity around participant recruitment.

Analysis of the survey results and literature around remote and remote XR research suggests that, to better understand the boundaries of remote XR experimentation, XR researchers need answers to the following questions:

(1) Who are the potential remote XR participants, and are they representative?
(2) How can we access a large pool of remote XR participants?
(3) To what extent do remote XR studies affect results compared with in-lab?
(4) What are the built-in XR data collection affordances of XR hardware, and what can they help us study?
(5) How can we lower the barriers to creating encapsulated experiment software, in which data collection is fully built into the XR environment, to maximise the potential of remote XR research?

The paper also suggests that we could reconceptualise the home as a natural research location for XR-based interventions, and move away from the laboratory as the default location for user studies. This is a potentially unique opportunity for XR compared with non-XR studies as, for many investigations, the XR experiment takes the environment with it.

The group now look to systematically investigate the remote practices undertaken by XR researchers in the last year since the pandemic took hold and outline a framework for conducting remote XR experimentation.

Francesco Soave's and Jack Ratcliffe's research is supported by the EPSRC-AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Media and Arts Technology, and they are supervised by Professor Nick Brynn-Kinns (Centre for Digital Music), Dr Ildar Farkhatdinov (Centre for Advanced Robotics) and Dr Laurissa Tokarchuk (Cognitive Science Research Group).

The full paper can be found at ACM Digital Library and Arxiv.org:

Ratcliffe J, Soave F, Bryan-Kinns N, Tokarchuk L, Farkhatdinov I. Extended Reality (XR) Remote Research: a Survey of Drawbacks and Opportunities. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2021 May 6 (pp. 1-13).

Link: https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3411764.3445170