Q&A: Dr Benjamin Weiss and A/Prof Andrew Johnston
In October 2017 Dr. Benjamin Weiss, from TUB Faculty for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science visited UTS to collaborate with Associate Professor Andrew Johnston from UTS’s Animal Logic Academy. The two academics are working on user experience of interactive games and sports in augmented environments.
What was the purpose of your visit to UTS? What is your collaboration and what are you focusing on?
Weiss: The major objective of my visit was to identify concrete topics of co-operation in the field of virtual and augmented interaction and their evaluation in terms of quality user experience. Both universities support the exchange of PhD students for joint supervision and joint degrees, so this is one relevant format of collaborative activity.
I arrived with a focus on user motivation. During my stay, however, the UTS colleagues showed me the relevance of the aspects of sports and health for my/our field, this now represents the basis for new collaborations.
What is the benefit of this collaboration between the two universities?
Weiss: There are multiple benefits which arise from collaborations such as this. At a high level, we are able to share new approaches to research in our area, draw on the expertise of our colleagues at TUB, and spread the word about our work.
Johnston: At a more concrete level, Benjamin's visit has enabled us to arrange a joint PhD program for UTS PhD candidate Matthew Hughes, who is working on new kinds of creative interactions using virtual and augmented reality. Matthew will spend 12 months at TU Berlin from September 2018.
Weiss: Scientific work requires discussion and complementation of skills and backgrounds, especially in the diverse field of human-computer interaction. While Sydney is really far away, UTS bears many resemblances to TUB, which promises fruitful results from co-operating. For example, we ran a user experiment in the UTS data arena, which allowed us to compare different technologies for virtual environments. Also, discussions with UTS colleagues with expertise in sports and health is going to result in joint research proposals.
What is the benefit of meeting at UTS in person, rather than working together remotely?
Weiss: The main reason was to actually meet the real people from UTS we have only known as excellent scientist from their experts’ profiles, publications, and activities. I wanted to see what their daily work actually looks like, and how the groups work, in order to get inspired and, of course, to identify concrete topics for joint activities, such as joint-PhDs. While video-calls etc are well suited to organise work and prepare co-operation, understanding the people and their work requires personal visits, as does engaging in creative exchange.
What is the impact of your research, how do you think it benefits society?
Johnston: Our research is concerned with exploring creative and effective applications of new technologies. The project that we collaborated on during Benjamin's visit examined how immersive virtual environments can be used to help motivate people to do physical exercise. We do this by creating prototypes and carefully evaluating and refining them based on studies of the users' experiences using them.
Research such as this benefits society by exploring the potential of new technologies, and identifying design strategies that help ensure that this potential is realised.
What outcomes have you achieved since your visit in 2017?
Johnston: We have conducted a study in the UTS Data Arena to get preliminary feedback from users on an exercise game which couples a rowing machine with 360 degree projections and virtual reality. The data we have gathered is being currently analysed.