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Highlights key research currently being undertaken within the field of telepresence, providing the most detailed account of the field to date, advancing our understanding of a fundamental property of all media - the illusion of presence; the sense of “being there” inside a virtual environment, with actual or virtual others. This collection has been put together by leading international scholars from America, Europe, and Asia. Together, they describe the state-of-the-art in presence theory, research and technology design for an advanced academic audience.

Immersed in Media provides research that can help designers optimize presence for users of advanced media technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, collaborative social media, robotics, and artificial intelligence and lead us to better understand human cognition, emotion and behaviour.



Chapter 1. Lighting a Path While Immersed in Presence: A Wayward Introduction

The sense of presence in simulated environments, be it fragile and fleeting or sometimes deep and traumatizing, is the construct used to describe, measure, and sometimes evaluate and design and optimize systems that provide that ability. We spend more and more time in simulated realities provided by the systems that occupy our walls as screens or projections, fill our hands with messages from other places, or increasingly attach to our bodies and senses augmenting our physical reality with virtual objects, places, and beings.

Within the work on presence there is an interdisciplinary community of researchers, who bring different theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of presence. The community of presence researchers include: psychology, philosophy, medicine, engineering, communication, and various other areas.

This book represents some of the work from experienced researchers on presence with a weight on definitional and psychological issues and less on the engineering and technical aspects of specific interfaces.

Frank Biocca

Telepresence Concepts and Theories


Chapter 2. Defining Presence

The concept of presence has become the focus of an increasing amount of attention in both academic and public forums, but scholars have developed divergent and overlapping definitions of the concept, which threatens to inhibit our progress in understanding presence phenomena. In this chapter we present a framework for untangling the conceptualizations and promote a standardized terminology for discussing and defining presence. A brief consideration of the benefits and dangers of the endeavor is followed by an overview of the origins and evolution of presence terminology, presentation of the definitional framework, and recommendations for its use.

Matthew Lombard, Matthew T. Jones

Chapter 3. Presence: Form, Content and Consciousness

In this chapter we present a rather wide-ranging perspective on presence as a central, characterizing feature of conscious mental life. After clarifying what we mean by presence in the first section, Sect. 3.2 discusses the implications of this for measurement. In Sect. 3.3, we consider the importance of media form for the sense of presence, before moving on in Sect. 3.4 to the relationship between presence and the sense of self considered in evolutionary terms. Section 3.5 deals specifically with attention, viewing presence as a reflection of attentional focus. Our aim is to convey the big picture about presence: what it is, what it’s for, how it evolved, what it is determined by and the effects it can have.

John A. Waterworth, Eva Lindh Waterworth, Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizia Mantovani

Chapter 4. Affect, Availability and Presence

This chapter is intended to be both theoretical and a little speculative. It draws upon psychological, neuro-dynamic and philosophical sources to create an account of what happens when we experience presence, that is, when we become aware that we are present. This chapter also offers an alternate treatment of the work of Riva and his colleagues with respect to their bio-cultural approach to presence.

Rather than appealing to evolution, biology or technology, this account starts like this: affect precedes cognition. We feel before we think. These feelings (or affective responses) are primarily evaluative and effectively prime our cognition for the world (real or digital) we find ourselves in. All of the apparatus of sense making, reasoning and so forth follow fairly quickly but they are not the first responders. Our affective response is very fast – much faster than our cognition.

In answering the question, how do we find the world, that is, just what is this affective response in response to, we must switch from psychology to philosophy.

Heidegger tells us that we encounter the world as available. Psychology and sense making follow this. We connect with this available world by what Merleau-Ponty calls an intentional arc or intentional threads which “anchor us” to it. This is not simply philosophical discourse as Freeman is able to explain the neuro-dynamics of this arc by invoking the operation of the limbic system – that is, those parts of the brain responsible for our emotional response to the world.

Phil Turner

Chapter 5. Intention, Action, Self and Other: An Evolutionary Model of Presence

The term “presence” entered in the wide scientific debate in 1992 when Sheridan and Furness used it in the title of a new journal dedicated to the study of virtual reality systems and teleoperations: Presence, Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. Following this approach, the term “presence” has been used to describe a widely re-ported sensation experienced during the use of virtual reality. The main limitation of this vision is what is not said. What is presence for? Is it a specific cognitive process? To answer to these questions, a second group of researchers considers presence as a broad psychological phenomenon, not necessarily linked to the experience of a medium, whose goal is the control of the individual and social activity. In this chapter we support this second vision, starting from the following broad statements: (a) the psychology of presence is related to human action and its organization in the environment; (b) the psychology of presence is related to the body and to the embodiment process; (c) presence is an evolved process related to the understanding and management of the causal texture of both the physical and social worlds. In the following paragraphs we will justify these claims and underline their relevance for the design and usage of interactive technologies.

Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizia Mantovani, Eva Lindh Waterworth, John A. Waterworth

Chapter 6. An Action-Based Approach to Presence: Foundations and Methods

This chapter presents an action-based approach to presence. It starts by briefly describing the theoretical and empirical foundations of this approach, formalized into three key notions of place/space, action and mediation. In the light of these notions, some common assumptions about presence are then questioned: assuming a neat distinction between virtual and real environments, taking for granted the contours of the mediated environment and considering presence as a purely personal state. Some possible research topics opened up by adopting action as a unit of analysis are illustrated. Finally, a case study on driving as a form of mediated presence is discussed, to provocatively illustrate the flexibility of this approach as a unified framework for presence in digital and physical environments.

Luciano Gamberini, Anna Spagnolli

Chapter 7. Spatial Presence Theory: State of the Art and Challenges Ahead

Throughout the last decades, research has generated a substantial body of theory about Spatial Presence experiences. This chapter reviews some of the most important existing theoretical explications. First, building on notions offered in literature, the core of the construct will be explicated: what exactly is meant by the term “Spatial Presence”? Second, theoretical views on the “feeling of being there” provided by different Presence researchers are introduced. Important aspects and determinants of Spatial Presence have been highlighted in the past, such as attentional processes and embodied cognition. However, coherent theoretical frameworks are rare and more empirical research seems necessary to advance the theoretical understanding of Spatial Presence. The chapter concludes with an overview about recent controversies and future trends in Spatial Presence research.

Tilo Hartmann, Werner Wirth, Peter Vorderer, Christoph Klimmt, Holger Schramm, Saskia Böcking

Telepresence Research and Design


Chapter 8. Ways to Measure Spatial Presence: Review and Future Directions

The chapter focuses on the measurement of spatial presence. Our aim is review existing measures of spatial presence and provide evaluative classifications of the quality and appropriateness of these measurement methods. In addition to existing methods, we also shortly discuss the appropriateness of measures that have not been extensively used so far, such as “think aloud”-method, dual-task measures, eye-related measures and psychophysiological measures.

We discuss the pros and cons of the different measures of spatial presence by using a range of indicators that are typically used to evaluate empirical methods. Both subjective and objective measures are evaluated in detail according to seven criteria, reliability, validity, sensitivity, applicability, diagnosticity, obtrusiveness and implementation requirements. A special emphasis is put on assessing whether a particular measurement method measures what it is aimed to measure (validity); to what degree it is able to discriminate different levels of effects (sensitivity); to what degree it provides information of the causes of differences (diagnosticity); and what its possible application domains are (applicability).

Our central conclusion is that we need both objective and subjective indicators of spatial presence, and they should be combined in a single study in a way that makes sense for the specific research question. We also need more comprehensive and better-validated questionnaires that are theoretically derived and tap the multi-dimensional nature of the phenomenon. Also, objective indicators of spatial presence should be selected on the basis of the specific dimensions of presence being assessed.

Jari Laarni, Niklas Ravaja, Timo Saari, Saskia Böcking, Tilo Hartmann, Holger Schramm

Chapter 9. An Integrative Approach to Presence and Self-Motion Perception Research

This chapter is concerned with the perception and simulation of self-motion in virtual environments, and how spatial presence and other higher cognitive and top-down factors can contribute to improve the illusion of self-motion (“vection”) in virtual reality (VR). In the real world, we are used to being able to move around freely and interact with our environment in a natural and effortless manner. Current VR technology does, however, hardly allow for natural, life-like interaction between the user and the virtual environment. One crucial shortcoming is the insufficient and often unconvincing simulation of self-motion, which frequently causes disorientation, unease, and motion sickness. The specific focus of this chapter is the investigation of potential relations between higher-level factors like presence on the one hand and self-motion perception in VR on the other hand. Even though both presence and self-motion illusions have been extensively studied in the past, the question whether/how they might be linked to one another has received relatively little attention by researchers so far. After reviewing relevant literature on vection and presence, we present data from two experiments, which explicitly investigated potential relations between vection and presence and indicate that there might indeed be a direct link between these two phenomena. We discuss theoretical and practical implications from these findings and conclude by sketching a tentative theoretical framework that discusses how a broadened view that incorporates both presence and vection research might lead to a better understanding of both phenomena, and might ultimately be employed to improve not only the perceptual effectiveness of a given VR simulation, but also its behavioural and goal/application-specific effectiveness.

Bernhard E. Riecke, Jörg Schulte-Pelkum

Chapter 10. Patterns of Place: An Integrated Approach for the Design and Evaluation of Real and Virtual Environments

This chapter describes an approach to the development of virtual representations of real places. The work was funded under the European Union’s €20 m Future and Emerging Technologies theme of the 5th Framework Programme, “Presence”. The aim of the project, called BENOGO, was to develop a novel technology based on real-time image-based rendering (IBR) for representing places in virtual environments. The specific focus of the work presented here concerned how to capture the essential features of real places, and how to represent that knowledge, so that the team developing the IBR-based virtual environments could produce an environment that was as realistic as possible. This involved the development and evaluation of a number of virtual environments and the evolution of two complementary techniques; the Place Probe and Patterns of place.

Michael Smyth, David Benyon, Rod McCall, Shaleph O’Neill, Fiona Carroll

Telepresence Applications


Chapter 11. Collaboration in Immersive and Non-immersive Virtual Environments

There is a huge variety of tools for synchronous collaboration including instant messaging, audio conferencing, videoconferencing and other shared spaces. One type of tool, collaborative virtual environments (CVEs), allows users to share a 3D space as if they are there together. Today, most experiences of virtual environments (VEs), including games and social spaces, are constrained by the form of non-immersive interfaces that they use. In this chapter we review findings about how people interact in immersive technologies, that is large-screen displays such as CAVE-like displays, and how they provide a number of advantages over non-immersive systems. We argue that modern immersive systems can already support effective co-presence in constrained situations and that we should focus on understanding of what is needed for effective and engaging collaboration in a broader range of applications. We frame this discussion by looking at the topics of co-presence, representations of users and modalities of interacting with the VE. Different types of immersive technologies offer quite distinct advantages, and we discuss the importance of these differences for the future of CVE development.

Anthony Steed, Ralph Schroeder

Chapter 12. Presence-Inducing Media for Mental Health Applications

Presence inducing media have recently emerged as a potentially effective way to provide general and specialty mental health services, and they appear poised to enter mainstream clinical delivery. However, to ensure appropriate development and use of these technologies, clinicians must have a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges they will provide to professional practice.

This chapter attempts to outline the current state of clinical research related to the use of presence-inducing technologies, virtual reality in particular. Through presence, virtual reality helps the patient both to confront his/her problems in a meaningful yet controlled and safe setting. Further, it opens the possibility of experiencing his/her life in another, more satisfactory, way. In fact, virtual reality therapists are using presence to provide meaningful experiences which are capable of inducing deep and permanent changes in their patients. Finally, the chapter discusses the possible evolution of presence-inducing media from virtual reality to augmented reality, to interreality.

Giuseppe Riva, Cristina Botella, Rosa Baños, Fabrizia Mantovani, Azucena García-Palacios, Soledad Quero, Silvia Serino, Stefano Triberti, Claudia Repetto, Antonios Dakanalis, Daniela Villani, Andrea Gaggioli
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