Seed Grant Projects

The Reality of Social Virtual Reality: Towards an Understanding of the Design and Use of Social VR

Dr. Eugene Kukshinov (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business), Dr. Daniel Harley (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business), Jonathan Baltrusaitis (English Language and Literature), and Dr. Lennart Nacke (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business).

Although social virtual reality (SVR) is often presented as something that will revolutionize online communication, we know very little about who is using these platforms, how, or why. This presentation provides an overview of some of our preliminary efforts to understand this space. We begin by outlining some of the challenges in understanding the design and use of SVR platforms (Harley), followed by early insights based on data we collected from people who use SVR (Kukshinov), and concluding with preliminary considerations for future work that strives to understand what is unique about these online spaces (Baltrusaitis).

Dementia Friendly Edu-action for Indigenous First Responders

Dr. Hector Perez (School of Public Health Sciences), Dr. Lili Liu (School of Public Health Sciences) Dr. Antonio Miguel-Cruz (University of Alberta), Dr. Noelannah Neubauer (School of Public Health Sciences), Isabella Rose Chawrun (School of Public Health Sciences), and Cathy Conway (Project Manager)

The prevalence of dementia is 3-5 times higher in First Nations, increasing at a faster rate with onset ten years younger on average. As dementia is associated with risks of going missing, culturally appropriate training for Indigenous first responders would enhance their capacity to mitigate these risks in Indigenous communities. Training videos could be an effective way to increase awareness and knowledge. In this case, training could utilize real-life scenarios. We co-developed three traditional videos and one 360 videos for Indigenous first responders to support the search and rescue (SAR) of persons living with dementia in their communities. We partnered with two Indigenous Nations: Kahnawà:ke SAR and Peacekeepers in Quebec and Fire and Fisher River Ambulance from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. In collaboration with a SAR expert, we co-designed evidence-based search scenarios specific to Indigenous contexts to ensure content was relatable and specific to their communities. The four videos cover basic and advanced concepts of SAR for missing persons living with dementia, specifically for Indigenous first responders. The training will be available in English and French, and selected videos will be translated into Mohawk and Ojibwe. Community-based approaches and engagement with multiple stakeholders are crucial to establishing partnerships and creating context-specific training that meets Indigenous first responders' needs. Thus, by co-developing actionable interactive training materials, we generate “edu-action”. Indigenous first responders can use these videos to equip themselves with the knowledge to mitigate and manage missing incidents. The next step is disseminating these videos to other Indigenous communities and evaluating their usefulness in enhancing awareness and knowledge.

Marillac Place - Gamifying the “Praise with a Raise” Program

Dr. Cayley MacArthur (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business), Dr. James Wallace (Public Health Sciences), and Veen Wong (Public Health Sciences).

Marillac Place is a community-based organization that provides residential support to mothers and mothers-to-be facing homelessness. During their stay, Marillac Place residents participate in the “Praise with a Raise” Program (PWAR) which helps them build essential life, parenting, and social skills for independent living. The team adapted the existing analog PWAR program into an interactive app to facilitate self-determination and improve motivation for residents.

By participating in the PWAR program the mothers and mothers-to-be facing homelessness can reclaim their agency, and control over their data, actions, and accomplishments. Marillac Place and the research team plan to release the app as an open-source resource so that it can be adapted and adopted by other similar community organizations and can have a greater community impact and support many individuals who face homelessness in the Waterloo Region and beyond.

“Let Me Say That Again”: Exploring the Psychological Factors Involved in Voice Assistant Interaction Studies

Emily Shiu (Psychology), Leo Qi (Computer Engineering), and Dr. Katherine White (Psychology)

People who use Google Assistant, Alexa, or other voice assistants may run into times when the device doesn't understand their voice commands. When this happens, what do people think are the source of these miscommunications? Does this vary based on the cultural or knowledge background of the user? When trying to clarify the command to the voice assistant, what techniques do different people use, and what kinds of feedback are the most useful for the user? These are important questions to investigate because they inform how voice assistants should be designed to give feedback, contributing to the overall user experience. In particular, second language speakers and multilingual households are very common, but research and design of voice assistant technology often only considers standard English speakers, which excludes a large part of the world’s population.

To examine voice assistant interactions in a way that considers the socio-cognitive factors of users, many psychological factors must be accounted for to design and execute valid user studies. In our series of projects, we examine whether language background may influence users’ behaviours and perceptions while interacting with voice assistants, and also design an application to run voice assistant user experience experiments more effectively

Privacy in Immersive Extended Reality: Exploring User Perceptions, Concerns, and Coping Strategies

Hilda Hadan (Systems Design Engineering), Dr. Lennart Nacke (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business), and Dr. Leah Zhang-Kennedy (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business).

Extended Reality (XR) is transforming our daily experiences, but its advanced sensors also raise intriguing privacy concerns. However, many individuals are unaware of the threat XR poses to their data privacy. To explore participants' understanding, concerns, and coping methods about XR data practices, we conducted a scenario-based survey with 464 participants. We found the lack of understanding of how XR devices work echoes the findings of previous user-centred Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, and web privacy research. However, XR sensors can capture more granular user data than other devices, including involuntary body signals of emotional responses, making it more privacy-invasive than IoT or mobile devices. XR users' comfort with data collection depends on many elements, including data type and sensitivity. Our results suggest that understanding and improving users' mental models of data privacy threats in XR is vital. However, XR technology is immersive; thus, privacy-choice interfaces must minimize user disruption.

Free-range game sourcing a rhetorical figure database

Dr. Randy Allen Harris (English Language and Literature), and Dr. Olga Vechtomova (Management Sciences)

Rhetorical figures, particularly as realized in grammatical constructions, are highly promising but highly neglected patterns of language for Natural Language Processing (NLP). Machine Learning (ML) is the most promising approach to NLP. The crucial bottleneck for incorporating rhetorical figures in ML-NLP is the lack of “annotated data to use for training” (Dubremetz & Nivre 2017:38). Our project seeks to eliminate that bottleneck by gamesourcing the creation of annotated rhetorical figure data.This presentation will sketch the importance of rhetorical figures for NLP, the necessity for reliable annotated data, and our plans for harvesting such data through gamesourcing.

Exploring Digital Feminist Futures: Creating Media Tools and Interventions for the Resistance

Dr. Brianna I. Wiens (English Language & Literature), Dr. Shana MacDonald (Communication Arts), Dr. Cayley MacArthur (Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business), Sid Heeg (Environment, Enterprise, and Development), Kate Bradley (History), and Thuvaraka Mahenthiran (Psychology).

Over the last two decades, both feminist and antifeminist sentiments––including racist, imperialist, queerphobic, transphobic, and ableist sentiments––have been on the rise, with the daily technologies we use responsible for circulating these media toxicities by their very design. Despite repeated calls for regulation and protections, few exist. As such, there remains a need for everyday people to harness the potentialities of the internet to learn not only how to protect themselves but how to fight back. This talk will reflect on Feminist Think Tank's recent workshops, which uses an explicit research-creation approach to studying and designing public digital toolkits for resistance via programming, archiving, and designing tactics informed by data feminist principles. Overall, this project has sought to contribute to the Feminist Think Tank’s development of a feminist blueprint for how to best use different media platforms, practices, and artifacts for advancing digital feminist activism. The toolkit produced through the project aims to extend the equity and diversity work currently taking place at the GI and will contribute to efforts for accessibility and inclusivity in digital activist work both at the GI and university-wide.

Interactive Training Tool for Injury Assessment of a Human Joint

Dr. Oliver Schneider (Management Science and Engineering), Dr. Mark Hancock (Management Sciences and Engineering), Rob Burns (Kinesiology), Marco Moran-Ledesma (Systems Design Engineering), and Emily Shiu (Psychology).

Manual musculoskeletal assessments allow rehabilitation practitioners to identify soft tissue injuries (e.g., knee ligament sprains) through visual and haptic cues. However, becoming proficient at assessing patients’ joint integrity through manual physical exams is difficult due to 1) the wide range of joint conditions and 2) the limited practice opportunities on injured clients both clinically and in an academic setting. Novice students find themselves limited to practicing on their peers’ healthy joints or relying on non-tactile learning materials, such as lectures, videos, or demonstrations. We built a knee model to provide students with exposure to various joint conditions and injury grades.