Virtual Futures: Where is VR taking us?


VR World Congress is delighted to host 'Virtual Futures: Where is VR taking us?', a special keynote talk track sponsored by the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol's Digital Cultures Research Centre. Each keynote talk delivered by internationally renowned thinkers in VR, from a range of famed institutions and companies.

Uni of Bristol logo            UWE Top Process       DCRC

Virtual Reality and the related technologies of Augmented and Mixed Reality have come of age, brought about by significant advances in key technical challenges. This is leading to new applications and methods of interaction and communication that will impact on all areas of society, from entertainment to health and education.

Virtual Futures will explore the future direction of these technologies from a wide perspective, not only in terms of technical directions but also wider applications, content generation and ethical issues. In a special track at the VR World Congress 2017, it brings together four internationally renowned thinkers in VR to give four keynote talks, with the aim of questioning where these technologies are taking us and encouraging debate on how we can influence their development.

Organisers: Andrew Calway (UOB) Chair; Kirsten Cater (UOB); David May (UOB); Mandy Rose (UWE); and Jen Stein (UWE).


12th April - Watershed Cinema 1

11:15 - Mel Slater, University of Barcelona, Virtually be Someone Else and Change Yourself. Chair: Andrew Calway, University of Bristol.

12:00 - William Uricchio, MIT, VR non-fiction - things to come from a historical perspective. Chair: Prof Jen Stein, UWE Bristol.

15:05 - Hrvoje Benko, Microsoft Research, Perception = Reality: Exploiting Perceptual Illusions for Design of Compelling AR & VR Interfaces. Chair: Andrew Calway, University of Bristol.

15:50 - Michael Madary, University of Mainz, The Ethics of Virtual Reality: Risks and Recommendations. Chair: Mandy Rose UWE Bristol.


Mel Slater University of Barcelona

Mel Slater is an ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona and Professor of Virtual Environments at University College London. He has been involved in research in VR since the early 1990s. In 2005 he was awarded the Virtual Reality Career Award by IEEE ‘In Recognition of Seminal achievements in Engineering Virtual Reality.’ He is a Founder of the company Virtual Bodyworks S.L. and is currently Immersive Fellow at Digital Catapult London.

Virtual Futures Track: Virtually Be Someone Else and Change Yourself

April 12th, 11:15, Watershed - Cinema 1

Using immersive virtual reality it is possible to visually substitute the body of a person by a virtual body that is spatially coincident with their real body seen from first person perspective and that moves synchronously with their own movements. This typically leads to a perceptual illusion of ownership over that virtual body. Over the past few years we have studied how the form of the body influences aspects of their physiology, attitudes, behaviours and cognition. Here we will introduce the topic of virtual body ownership, and discuss examples of how this has been used both for personal enhancement and for changing attitudes and behaviours, helping to diminish racial bias, and gender harassment in social situations.

William Uricchio MIT

William Uricchio is Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT and Professor of Comparative Media History at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.  He is Principal Investigator of the MIT Open Documentary Lab.

Virtual Futures Track: VR non-fiction - things to come from a historical perspective

April 12th, 12:00, Watershed - Cinema 1

From Barker’s 1787 panorama to Heilig’s 1960s Sensorama…from claims to ‘being really on the spot’ to the promise of Star Trek’s holodeck, the desires bound up in the term ‘virtual reality’ have a rich history of claims, technologies, and public deployments.  And oddly, despite widely varying circumstances, many of these precedents have experienced similar fates.  Taking a long view, we can see that the ‘reality’ implicit in ‘virtual reality’ seems  to cut two ways, and therein lies a story.  It can refer to the reality of things seen … perfect for non-fiction; or it can refer to the reality of a way of seeing … a claim with wider latitude.  Both senses have deep and instructive histories that blossomed and bore fruit as recently as the early 1990s, before fading into yet another nearly forgotten chapter of our fascination with ‘being there’.

But we haven’t quite seen it all before.  Even if the basic desires underlying VR seem to be persistent, conditions have changed, and with them, technological capacities.  Responsive eye-tracking systems and the accelerating power of predictive algorithms offer two examples.  History offers a useful way not only to see what is the same, but to demarcate what is different, and in so doing, to understand the dialogue between the two.  This talk will draw from history in order to chart forgotten lessons, tease out long term continuities, and map sites of difference as we continue our elusive pursuit of redefining reality.

Hrvoje Benko Microsoft Research

Hrvoje Benko is a senior researcher at Microsoft Research. He has coauthored more than 60 scientific papers and journal articles and has served as General (2014) and Program Chair (2012) of the ACM User Interface Systems and Technology conference. His work has been featured in the mainstream media including The New York Times, BBC News, and Forbes.

Virtual Futures Track: Perception = Reality: Exploiting Perceptual Illusions for Design of Compelling AR & VR Interfaces

April 12th, 15:05, Watershed - Cinema 1

One of the best ways to design compelling AR and VR interfaces is to think about them not as simulations of reality, but as perceptual illusions, designed primarily to fool us or surprise us in (hopefully) fun ways. To highlight how one can create fundamentally novel experiences by exploiting the human perceptual system, Hrvoje presents a progression of research prototypes in AR/VR, each exploring a different use scenario, including interactive projection mapping, wide-periphery head-mounted displays and VR haptic simulations. In discussing the challenges of authoring such experiences and what makes them effective, he will showcase how recent advances in sensing and display technologies make it possible to manipulate user’s perception in surprising ways.

Michael Madary University of Mainz

Michael Madary is a co-author of The First Code of Conduct for Research and Consumer Use of Virtual Reality (2016).  He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Tulane University and has also published widely on the philosophy of perception.

Virtual Futures Track: The Ethics of Virtual Reality: Risks and Recommendations

April 12th, 15:50, Watershed - Cinema 1

After many years of anticipation, virtual reality is now commercially available. There is much optimism about the technology, but little discussion of the new risks that it might bring. In this talk, Michael will first cover some of the most important scientific results relating to the psychological effects of virtual reality. Then he will use those results as a basis for identifying possible risks. Finally, he will offer some concrete recommendations for minimising those risks in order to take full advantage of the substantial opportunities that virtual reality has to offer.