Immersive Stories - SOVA
School of Visual Arts, SOVA, Virginia Tech, Graphic Design, Studio Art, Art, Creative Technologies, Art History
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Immersive Stories

5th CHCI workshop on the future of human-computer interaction
April 15-16, 2021, VIRGINIA TECH


Stories are an effective way to make sense of our experiences in the world. We use them to explain our lived experiences and the reasons behind our actions. By sharing stories with others, we can entertain, educate, and transmit knowledge between generations and cultures. As we experience a story, we understand and see the world of the storyteller.

Advances in augmented and virtual reality are now enabling a new way to share and experience stories. Immersive environments can bring participants to the center of the action. This has prompted researchers and practitioners to ask, what does the future of storytelling look like?  At the forefront of this are questions about how interactivity, immersion, and artificial intelligence change the way we design and experience stories? Our research in this area over the next several years will no doubt answer these questions by drawing upon expertise from a wide variety of disciplines in the sciences and humanities.

Current research has suggested that VR can be used to elicit empathy, reduce implicit bias, and decrease prejudice. These findings open the possibility that well-designed immersive experiences can create a much stronger connection to a story than afforded by non-immersive media. But there are still questions that remain about who is most impacted by immersive stories and the degree to which they will be affected.

Furthermore, as immersive stories become widespread and are coupled with large databases and biometric data, we must consider how we can ensure that these experiences support positive outcomes. We must consider questions such as how we might ensure equity in discourse in VR, or  how can we design systems to support ethical standards, truth, and impartiality? Future research might also consider how we prevent dark patterns and psychological manipulation?

Image: Under the Net (08:28): Tanzania, March 2017- UN Foundation; sponsored by Samsung, Sumitomo Chemical, the Ariadne Getty Foundation, and Parachute Home, with support from Discovery VR and Google VR. Learn more in the  “Nothing But Nets” campaign website.


The workshop will be open to the entire Virginia Tech community. We expect to involve researchers and students from a variety of fields, including:

  • Psychology,
  • Computer Science,
  • Humanities,
  • Visual Arts,
  • Performing Arts,
  • Cinema,
  • Journalism.


The workshop will also have feature talks and discussions with award winning storytellers, that will share their unique insight on the production of compelling immersive experiences.


Celine Tricart

Celine Tricart is an acclaimed storyteller who has developed a unique and recognizable style involving highly emotional stories and strong visual artistry. Her work was showcased in numerous Academy Awards qualifying festivals including Sundance, Venice, Tribeca, SXSW, HotDocs and more. Celine was the recipient of a Lion for Best VR Immersive Work of the Venice Film Festival, a Storyscapes Award of Tribeca, two Lumiere Awards by the Advanced Imaging Society, two Telly Awards and a Platinum Aurora Award amongst many other accolades.

Celine co-directed and produced Maria Bello’s “Sun Ladies” VR documentary about the women Yazidi fighting ISIS in Iraq which premiered at Sundance. In 2019, Celine premiered “The Key”, an interactive experience mixing immersive theater and VR which won the Storyscapes Award at Tribeca. Shortly after, it won the prestigious Grand Jury Prize for Best VR Immersive Work at the Venice Film Festival.

Celine founded Lucid Dreams Productions, a production company specializing in new technologies and bold, empowered and unapologetic storytelling.

Ken Fountain

Ken Fountain is a talented animator, with experience that ranges from the smallest commercial houses, to the largest animation studios in the world. In 2007 he joined DreamWorks Animation crew in Glendale California, and given the privilege to contribute animated performances to many worldwide blockbusters, including “Monsters Vs. Aliens”, “Shrek 4”, “Kung Fu Panda 2”, “Megamind”, “Puss in Boots”, as well as parts of the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise.

Since leaving Dreamworks, Ken has continued working with major studios and directors as an independent artist. Most recently, he has had the pleasure of animating for “The Peanuts Movie” from Blue Sky Studios (2015); 2016ʼs critically acclaimed, and Oscar nominated, Google Spotlight Story “Pearl”, directed by Oscar-winning director, Patrick Osbourne (“Feast”); and Baobab Studios’ “The Legend of Crow” and “Bonfire”, the 2019 and 2020 Annie award winners (respectively) for “Best Virtual Reality Production”. He was previously the Animation Supervisor at Baobab Studios, and has been teaching advanced animation performance to students since 2010. For more information, visit:


Dr. Rebecca Rouse

Rebecca Rouse, PhD is a Senior Lecturer in Media Arts, Aesthetics and Narration in the School of Informatics at the University of Skövde, Sweden. Rouse’s research focuses on theoretical, critical, and design production work with storytelling for new technologies, such as augmented and mixed reality. Rouse designs and develops projects across museums, cultural heritage sites, interactive installations, and theatrical performance, all with the thread of investigating and inventing new modes of storytelling. This design work dovetails with Rouse’s research in design methods, media theory, and the history of technology. For more information visit

Dr. Jeremy Bailenson

Jeremy Bailenson is founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Thomas More Storke Professor in the Department of Communication, Professor (by courtesy) of Education, Professor (by courtesy) Program in Symbolic Systems, a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment, and a Faculty Leader at Stanford’s Center for Longevity. Bailenson studies the psychology of Virtual and Augmented Reality, in particular how virtual experiences lead to changes in perceptions of self and others. His lab builds and studies systems that allow people to meet in virtual space, and explores the changes in the nature of social interaction. His most recent research focuses on how virtual experiences can transform education, environmental conservation, empathy, and health.

Dr. Stephen Ware

Stephen G. Ware is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky where he directs the Narrative Intelligence Lab and teaches courses on artificial intelligence and game development. He studies computational interactive narrative techniques for virtual worlds like video games, training simulations, and tutoring systems. His work focuses on strong story challenges, on balancing the player’s agency when the designer has specific constraints on the narrative’s content which must be met. Most of his contributions have focused on narrative planing algorithms that can anticipate many possible futures for a story based on computational models of important features like character beliefs, character intentionality, and audience perception.

Here are papers and experiences we discussed in pre-workshop activities.


Papers from the keynote speakers:


February 7, 2020: Paper – Farrell, Rachelyn, Stephen G. Ware, and Lewis J. Baker. “Manipulating Narrative Salience in Interactive Stories Using Indexter’s Pairwise Event Salience Hypothesis.” IEEE Transactions on Games (2019). Discussion to be lead by Wallace Lages.


February 21, 2020: Paper Paper – Rouse, R.  “Someone Else’s Story: an Ethical Approach to Interactive Narrative Design for Cultural Heritage.” Interactive Storytelling: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer Press International. *Best Paper Award Nominee (2019). Discussion to be lead by Mike Horning.


March 6, 2020: Paper – Herrera, F., Bailenson, J.N., Weisz, E., Ogle, E. & Zaki J. “Building long-term empathy: A large-scale comparison of traditional and virtual reality perspective-taking.” PLoS ONE 13(10): e0204494. (2018) Discussion to be lead by Doug Bowman.


Discussion sessions on immersive storytelling experiences:


February 14, 2020:  Bonfire, by Baobab– Led by Wallace Lages.

February 28, 2020:  Celine Tricart’s “The Sun Ladies (2017). Led by Justin Perkinson

Start Time
PST (San Franc)
CET (Paris)
EST (Blacksburg)
APRIL 15th APRIL 16th
7:00 AM 4:00 PM 10:00 AM Opening remarks Opening
7:15 AM 4:15 PM 10:15 AM KEYNOTE – Rebecca Rouse KEYNOTE – Stephen Ware
9:00 AM 6:00 PM 12:00 PM Long Break (1 h)
10:00 AM 7:00 PM 1:00 PM ARTIST TALK – Ken Fountain ARTIST TALK – Celine Tricart
11:30 AM 8:30 PM 2:30 PM Short Break (15 min)
12:00 PM 9:00 PM 3:00 PM KEYNOTE – Jeremy Bailenson VT FACULTY TALKS
12:45 PM 9:45 PM 3:45 PM Q & A Closing remarks


A registration is required to attend the workshop. It will be available here soon. There is no cost to attend!

This is the fifth workshop organized by the  Center for Human-computer Interaction at Virginia Tech. Previous workshops are: Algorithms that Make you Think (2019), Designing Socio-Technical Systems of Truth (2018), Technology on the Trail (2017), and the inaugural workshop, What comes after HCI: people, systems and information (2016).


The Immersive Storytelling workshop is presented by the Virginia Tech, and co-sponsored by the Department of Computer Science, the Center for Humanities, and Creativity + Innovation.


Dr. Wallace Lages

Assistant Professor in the School of Visual Arts
Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, by courtesy
Member of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction.

Dr. Lages research is focused on Augmented and Virtual Reality, with intersections with computer graphics, robotics, digital games, interactive art, and design. His recent research investigates glanceable AR interfaces, machine agency, active haptics in VR, and the use of live-action techniques in immersive storytelling. Directs the Reality Design studio.

Dr. Michael Horning

Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication
Member of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction.

Interested in how technology innovations impact the news industry. His current work is focussed on studying how virtual and augmented reality can be used in news reporting and how storytelling changes in these media environments.


Dr. Doug Bowman

Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction
Frank J. Maher Professor of Computer Science

Principal investigator of the 3D Interaction Group, his research focuses on the topics of three-dimensional user interface design and the benefits of immersion in virtual environments. Dr. Bowman is one of the co-authors of 3D User Interfaces: Theory and Practice. He is an ACM Distinguished Scientist and received the Technical Achievement award from the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee in 2014

Dr. Andrea Kavanaugh

Associate Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction

Dr. Kavanaugh interests lie in the area of social computing, specifically communication behavior and effects, communication systems and institutions, urban informatics, and digital government.


Timothy Stelter

PhD student in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech.

His primarily interested in understanding the outdoor communities on trails, reducing the affect of digital technology has on the user experience outdoors, and designing systems utilizing citizen science methodologies.


Tabitha Hartman, Dept. of Computer Science

Teresa Hall, Dept. of Computer Science

Holly Williams, Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology

Melissa Wyers, Institute of Creativity, Arts, and Technology