Research & Development

Posted by Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy on , last updated

IMX (formerly known as TVX) is an annual ACM international conference for the presentation of research into interactive media experiences. The conference brings together researchers and practitioners from a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from human-computer interaction, multimedia systems and design to media studies, media psychology and sociology. BBC Research & Development has maintained an active interest in the proceedings of TVX/IMX for many years. In 2020, we are keenly focused on celebrating diversity and injecting new communities (and thinking) into IMX.

Celebrating Diversity

It is my honour to be elected Vice President of Conferences for ACM IMX this year. Having worked in the tech industry as an engineer and scientist for nearly two decades, I am keen to ensure that the very veins of IMX reflect the principles of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Over the summer, my colleagues announced our new policy for speaking in public forums. It’s well-known that the makeup of speakers and attendees in tech conferences is not very diverse. In a bid to improve diversity at IMX 2020, Asreen Rostami (Stockholm University) and I were appointed as IMX’s first diversity co-chairs.

As diversity chair, I have been involved in several schemes to help potential attendees from different backgrounds to participate in IMX 2020 in various ways. The aim is to ensure that D&I is considered seriously through all parts of the conference using a number of small and large actions, some of which include:

  • Actively seeking out a pool of diverse keynotes for consideration
  • Working with the organising committee to nudge the composition of attendees in all tracks - demos, workshops, industry, creative challenge – towards a more diverse one
  • Making the diversity & inclusion panel a part of the main conference, not an optional special niche side activity
  • Ensuring support grants and/or information about the application process is available for those who need them, including under-represented students, childcare support, special needs, students in developing countries, amongst others
  • Working with the technical program chair to incorporate an author mentorship program within the paper track

In addition, to encouraging a diverse participation through support grants and awareness building, we are also continuously working to bring new communities to IMX. We worked with the general chairs of IMX 2020 and colleagues in Latin America to obtain funding through the SIGCHI Development Fund. This will result in a specialised workshop focused on Latin America.

The Creative Challenge: Reimaging the Future of Storytelling with AR

Screenshot of the Civilisations AR app

Another way in which we are introducing new communities into IMX is through the running of the first Creative Challenge with a focus on Augment Reality (AR). In collaboration with Andrés Monroy-Hernández (Snap Inc.) and Mar González-Franco (Microsoft), we are reaching out to faculty and their students, from all around the world, to join us in reimagining the future of storytelling using. AR opens opportunities to augment our reality in different ways from bringing virtual artefacts into our living room to providing a window into another time on location. What role will AR play in the telling of engaging stories in the future?

Snap Inc. is funding up to ten teams to propose projects which will push AR storytelling in new directions and press audiences to think about AR in new ways. Accepted teams will get regular mentorship from the organisers of the challenge, a select program committee and our two key experts in the field: Nonny de la Peña and Anthony Steed.

Toys and the TV: Serious Play

People watching Doctor Who on TV with a toy Dalek on the floor in front of the screen

We have also been successful in our bid to get IMX 2020 to co-host a workshop! We will be joining up with IRT and ZDF to organise a workshop focusing on how children might use connected toys and tangibles as part of the big screen (TV) experience of the future. This is a part of our work on companion screens and connected devices. Increasingly, the availability of lower power and cheap computing devices (e.g. Raspberry Pi variants) makes it practical to build connected things or augment existing toys. This unlocks opportunities to explore a lot of questions we have had surrounding human-computer interaction with our younger audiences where the computer is a big screen.

What happens if the toy 'knows' the story on-screen? What happens when the toy 'knows' there is a call-to-action by the presenter of ‘Blue Peter’ on the TV? Today's technology can allow toys to do just that.

Can we inject digital muses into a child's imagination and enable retrospective reinforced learning?

Can we use playful interactions to trigger a personalised way to allow children to see the same broadcast (or media) but still consume it at their own pace?

How can toys help children with special needs learn?

How can we explore the relationship between the physicality of toys and the child's feeling towards the brand (TV programme)?

How can we design toys that help children better understand complex topics presented in a programme?

How can we foster inclusion, co-playing and co-viewing (with siblings or friends) in a Toys+TV experience?

How can we use toys to affect the narrative on the TV?

Can we attach pieces of content to the toys, so that the story's narrative is complete when paired together - like a puzzle?

What are the ethical issues affecting this space?”

We have collated a preliminary list of challenges at the workshop website to foster further conversations that might lead to exciting novel interaction paradigms and innovative forms of user experiences with children.

Why is IMX important to us?

The conference, and the community it fosters, allows us to discuss the direction of future research with peers. We can test our thoughts through a critical review process, demonstrate novel ideas, extend our professional network on an international platform and funnel fresh thinking back into the organisation.

Over the years, we have participated in IMX conferences through the presentation of peer-reviewed citable papers discussing experiments we have conducted, and we have reported on the architecture of systems we have built. We have supported our affiliated students to take part in the doctoral consortium, demonstrated novel prototypes and co-hosted workshops in a bid to convene colleagues with similar interests to discuss challenges and issues on a specific topic.

As well as participating in the conferences, we have also served as associate chairs in the peer-review process, we have been a part of the organising committee, and we have served on the steering committee amongst other things. More recently, in 2019, we organised and hosted the conference. In 2020, IMX will take place in Barcelona, Spain, and we are involved in organising several exciting activities.

Hopefully, our activities play a role in shaping the future of research activities in a positive, diverse and sustainable manner not just for IMX 2020 but beyond as well.