MDS Student Shines at Global VR Conference
Kerry Pellet, recent graduate of the Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming), attended the ACM 25th Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (VRST 2019) in Sydney. We asked him all about the paper, his experience at the conference, and where he plans to take his research next.
What was the conference all about? What sort of research topics were discussed?
The conference was a collection of international academics researching or developing for virtual and augmented reality. There was a considerable breadth of topics, from conceptual ideas such as simulation sickness, to practical applications, such as a medical training environment.
Can you give us a quick summary on what the paper is about?
Our paper was a condensed version of the research project that I did in my final year. For that, I created a prototype VR environment to be used a public speaking training tool. It allows users to present their speech in a virtual environment, with digital cue cards as a reference. A speech-to-text solution compares what the user says to the contents of their speech, generating a User Performance Metric (UPM). If the UPM is above a certain threshold, then the subsequent run through of their speech will remove a fraction of the words from their cue cards. In that way, the user has to become more reliant on their memory, and less reliant on reading their speech. We also covered the ways that this prototype could incorporate prior research to become expanded.
How did you enjoy the conference? What aspects of it left an impression?
The conference was a lot of fun, if tiring (as all conferences are). I got to meet people from all over the world, and see a lot of impressive ideas in areas of XR that I wasn't very familiar with. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the NZ contingent was quite strong, with representatives from the HIT lab at the University of Canterbury, and also from AUT. The conference reported an acceptance rate of only 20% of submissions received, so it goes to show that despite our size we're quite capable of contributing to the global XR stage.
The keynote given by Aleissia Laidacker (current Director of Developer Experience at Magic Leap) left quite an impression. In part because it was given on a flash boat in the middle of Sydney harbour under challenging technical conditions, but also because she was able to convey the incredible future potential of XR.
How did MDS help you with your research? What was it like working alongside Fawad (Academic Coordinator of Creative Technology & Senior Lecturer) to develop your paper?
Fawad has been incredible support. My previous experience in research was very different to what was required for my final year in that it was much less open, so I struggled initially to decide what I wanted to do. Fawad gave me guidance very early on to help me figure out a course of action. After the paper was complete, he was instrumental in helping me prepare it to be 'conference ready', always keeping in touch, doing everything he could. He was the epitome of the supportive mentor, providing guidance and goals whilst also letting me thrive in my own way. I am forever grateful for his faith in me.
How did your presentation go?
Exceptionally well! I was presenting a poster, so it was fairly informal, but that gave me the benefit of being able to talk to small groups of people at a time. There was a lot of interest in what I had done, and several people said they would like to use the prototype themselves if it was ever finished. Attendees were voting for their favourite posters by leaving stickers beside them and, at a glance, mine was one of the most popular - something I definitely was not expecting.
Where to from here? Will you continue to further explore the studies discussed in your paper?
The current plan is to join a game studio as a programmer or designer. However, if that doesn't work out I've received about three offers from people I met at the conference to do post-graduate study (in NZ and overseas), something that I probably wouldn't have even considered if I hadn't attended VRST.