The ForEVR project is focused on delivering a radically improved interaction with another user or virtual character in immersive Embodied Virtual Reality (EVR). EVR offers the possibility of interacting with another in a computer-generated world by using virtual humans, and the interaction can closely resemble real-life, physical interaction. Embodied virtual interaction creates a powerful illusion of presence with another and is a valuable candidate for the alternative to physical meetings. A strikingly overlooked problem of such interactive systems is the representation of humans in virtual environments. Current designs are driven by commercial models, which are frequently subjected to bias and are not appropriate for non-entertainment applications. On the other hand, characters which appear almost human can cause discomfort and negative evaluation from the users. Since virtual reality can induce realistic responses in people, inappropriate character representations can have psychologically damaging effects on the users. The ForEVR project proposes a radical approach to solving the problem of character design by focusing on the appeal of character motion to compensate for the issues created by the realistic appearance. It will employ rigorous methods to define, implement and evaluate motion processing techniques for realistic characters in order to improve their overall appeal, while being suitable for non-entertainment applications. Users’ response to the characters will be evaluated using standard measures from psychology and novel measures of EVR. The ForEVR project joins interdisciplinary (psychology/computer graphics) and involves one of the foremost research institutes with the research team specializing in creating behavior for autonomous virtual humans, while collaborating with an industry partner who is developing EVR for mental health and rehabilitation applications. This project will help me achieve academic independence needed for a tenure position.
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