Media X researchers to explore fusion between the virtual and real worlds

Grants support research projects that show how people use and share information, collaborate in cyberspace

Seven multidisciplinary teams of researchers have been awarded Media X grants to explore "the fusion of virtual and physical worlds for advanced human communications."

The yearlong grants, ranging from $10,000 to $35,000, support research projects that show how people use and share information and collaborate in virtual worlds. "The fusion of virtual and physical worlds for advanced communications represents a new field of interdisciplinary inquiry," said communication Professor Byron Reeves, co-founder of Media X and H-STAR (Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute).

According to Keith Devlin, co-founder of Media X and H-STAR, digitized virtual worlds have blossomed in recent years, enticing a wide variety of users via games, shared digital media and participatory social networks. Stanford's Media X brings together academic researchers and industry partners to study interactive communications and technology by integrating the fields of communication, engineering, humanities, law, medicine, business and design.

Media X Awards

Exploring the Virtual in the Physical and the Physical in the Virtual

Researchers: Diane Bailey, assistant professor of management science and engineering, and doctoral candidate Ingrid Erickson.

Objective: To explore the virtual-physical-social interplay by investigating how social experiences and interactions in physical places are augmented with layers of digital information and how those in virtual places are augmented with layers of physical information.

Virtual Sensor Networks

Researchers: Pat Hanrahan, professor of computer science and of electrical engineering; Vladlen Koltun, assistant professor of computer science; and Philip Levis, assistant professor of computer science and of electrical engineering.

Objective: To develop virtual sensornets, which will allow scientists to construct instruments for measuring what is happening in virtual worlds, allow users to control and monitor what is being recorded, and provide an elegant and simple privacy mechanism.

ShowMeTellMe: Multimodal Learning Experience Mediated by the Future Interactive Paper TextBook

Researchers: Kincho H. Law, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Renate Fruchter, research associate, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and founding director of the Project-Based Learning Laboratory.

Objective: Using a scenario-based approach, the project will study the continuum between learners' dialogue and paper and pencil sketching to help develop a model of the future interactive paper textbook. For example, it will capture questions and thoughts of the textbook's users and communicate between the learner and instructor, expert or author.

Virtual Jurisdictions—A Joint Project of Stanford Law School and Second Life

Researchers: Lawrence Lessig, professor of law; Lauren Gelman, associate director of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society; and Dan Siciliano, executive director of Stanford Law School's Program in Law, Economics and Business.

Objective: To learn how the use of the virtual world technology medium influences individual communication and interaction and how it influences the development of legal regimes to govern virtual communities.

The Pragmatics of Computer-Assisted Communication and Communication About Virtual Worlds

Researcher: John Perry, professor of philosophy.

Objective: To apply the reflexive/referential theory of meaning to address the differences that new modes of linguistic communication present and to understand the coordination between virtual worlds and objects in the actual world that they may be taken to represent.

SPEED Limits

Researchers: Jeffrey T. Schnapp, professor of French and Italian, and director of the Stanford Humanities Laboratory (SHL); Jeff Aldrich, technology director of SHL; and Henrik Bennetsen, research director of SHL.

Objective: To develop a digital 3-D world that will host a reconstruction of an international exhibition of art, architecture or design to create and examine the fusion of virtual and real exhibits and the role that speed plays in modern life.

Learning in the Digital World: The Impact of Social Belief on the Neurophysiology of Memory

Researchers: Anthony Wagner, associate professor of psychology, and Byron Reeves, professor of communication.

Objective: To use the acquired equivalence paradigm to measure the extent to which learners are able to use the concept of memory-dependent logical inference as a basis for generalization, to study whether virtual contexts are optimal for learning and the expression of flexibly addressable knowledge.