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Research in VR, health, haptics and data nets UBC Computer Science multiple accepted papers and projects at CHI’23

The UBC Computer Science department has an impressive showing of accepted papers and projects at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2023.

Among them are a study on how VR affects sleep, the design of a digital health information management system for caregivers of health-challenged children, an analysis of affective haptic system design, and an exploration of data preparation in journalism versus data science. One earned an Honourable Mention. Many of the researchers are attending the CHI conference in Hamburg, Germany, April 23-28.

One of these papers, Drifting Off in Paradise: Why People Sleep in Virtual Reality, authored by grad student Michael Yin and Dr. Robert Xiao, aims to fill a gap in existing research on virtual reality and sleep by exploring how VR technology may affect the experiential and practical aspects of sleep. The researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with participants who voluntarily slept in VR, and found that the motives for doing so can be categorized into experiential or social affordances. The study also identifies unique customs of sleeping in VR and proposes design directions for VR sleep technology.

Another paper accepted for publication is titled Beyond the Bulging Binder: Family-Centered Design of a Digital Health Information Management System for Caregivers of Children Living with Health Complexity. The research focuses on the challenges faced by parent caregivers of children with complex health conditions, who must navigate a fragmented healthcare system and manage an overwhelming amount of documentation. The researchers engaged with families through a 3-phase co-design process to develop a medium-fidelity prototype user interface for a digital health information management system that prioritizes caregiver-centered data integration and humanization of the child and family. It’s co-authored by MSc graduate Kattie Sepehri, Dr. Liisa Holsti (UBC Occupational Science & Occupational Health), undergrad students Sara Niasati (UBC COGS) and Vita Chan (CS & Psychology), and CS professor Dr. Karon E. MacLean

Yet another paper from Dr. MacLean’s group is titled A Descriptive Analysis of a Formative Decade of Research in Affective Haptic System Design; it is led by PhD student Preeti Vyas with other co-authors MSc grad Unma Desai and Karin Yamakawa (an undergrad supervised by Vyas). The paper reviews research on affective haptic system design (AHSD) over the last decade, which has explored the use of haptic technologies for sensing or displaying social touch and influencing affective state for wellness, social communication, emotion regulation, and affect therapy. The researchers identify 38 dimensions within the facets of demography, theoretical grounding, impact, system specification, usage specification, ethical consideration, technology, and evaluation. The paper visualizes trends, and highlights major advances and gaps that can be addressed in the future.

There is also an accepted paper co-authored by CS Assistant Professor Dr. Dongwook Yoon, Thitaree (Mint) Tanprasert (PhD student), Sidney Fels, (UBC Electrical and Computer Engineering professor), and Luanne Sinnamon (associate professor at UBC’s School of Information). It’s titled Scripted Vicarious Dialogues: Educational Video Augmentation Method for Increasing Isolated Students’ Engagement. They propose a novel method for increasing the engagement of isolated video-based students. While videos are convenient, they lack the interpersonal interactions found in synchronous classrooms, which can lead to lower levels of emotional, behavioral, and cognitive engagement. The authors introduce "Scripted Vicarious Dialogues" (SVD), which provides students with a pseudo-social experience through scripted dialogues between virtual characters (teaching assistants and students) around a video. After implementing a prototype, SVD was evaluated against a non-social, direct-learning baseline. SVD was preferred by the majority of participants, who also reported significantly higher emotional and behavioral engagement. 

Another accepted paper from the department is co-authored by Dr. Tamara Munzner, and titled Dirty Data in the Newsroom: Comparing Data Preparation in Journalism and Data Science. It has earned an Honourable Mention from CHI’23, and sheds light on the unique challenges and approaches to data preparation within the context of data journalism.Under the supervision of Munzner, co-authors Stephen Kasica (PhD student) and former postdoc Charles Berret note that while data preparation is a well-researched topic in data science, there has been little research on how it is approached in data journalism. To address the gap, they conducted a thematic analysis that combined existing accounts of data science workflows with an interview study of professional data journalists. The study identifies 60 ‘dirty data’ issues and presents a novel taxonomy to characterize these issues as discrepancies between mental models. Additionally, the paper identifies four main categories of challenges faced by journalists when dealing with data: diachronic, regional, fragmented, and disparate data sources. 

Interactivity Demo and Doctoral Consortium

At the conference, a group of researchers are presenting a fun demo version at the CHI Interactivity track of their study protocol, titled Demonstrating Virtual Teamwork with Synchrobots: A Robot-Mediated Approach to Improving Connectedness. The project aims to address the negative effects of online collaborative work on satisfaction, creativity, and energy, by developing a robot-mediated approach to improving connectedness. The demo is based on a study they ran the previous summer, and is intended as a crowdsourced collection exercise with an improved protocol. The project is led by Yuna Watanabe (undergrad from the University of Tokyo's Rekimoto Lab), and Xi Laura Cang, a CS PhD student working under Dr. Karon E. MacLean. 

Also, PhD student Sang-Wha Sien was accepted as a participant in the CHI Doctoral Consortium, where she will present her work on Designing for Inclusivity and Accessibility of Mental Health Technologies. The research addresses today’s pressing issue of mental health concerns among university students, with a focus on the perspectives of minority and international students. Sien explores the accessibility and inclusivity of mental health technologies and identifies cultural and communication barriers that hinder the use of such technologies by diverse student populations. Through a co-design process with campus mental health experts and international students, the author identifies the need and a plan to build prototypes of a storytelling and peer support platform in mental health technologies. Overall, the paper highlights the importance of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity in the design of mental health technologies for diverse populations.

The department’s impressive presence at CHI this year speaks to the creative and collaborative work being done by the Designing for People (DFP), Sensory Perception & Interaction (SPIN), and Information Visualization (InfoVis) groups within the department.