Sense of Self, Presence & Embodiment

Development of new pipelines to improve body tracking techniques to animate Avatars and Virtual Characters, in order to improve the realism of the experience.

1) During the abroad period at the EventLab (University of Barcelona) I developed a set up to demonstrate that body ownership over a singing performance could lead to improvements in pitch matching, breath timing and length of note production. Those qualities are crucial in a singing performance. Investigating the possibility of an induced training could be extremely interesting for training purposes, musical production and could possibly be applied in vocal impairments treatments.

2) In collaboration with NPSY-Lab.VR (University of Verona) I developed an environment dedicated to the study of the reaction to vicarious stimulation in people with spine injuries. The objective of the study is to analyze if vicarious stimulation could activate the insula, a crucial area in body representation, and to manage the self body representation of spinal cord injured. The target is complete paraplegic that are embodied in an Avatar stimulated with a precise sequence of touches on arms (where they have normal sensibility) and legs (where they have none).

Human-Avatar Interaction

Evaluation of interactions between humans and virtual humans through development and state of art analysis of virtual environments. Improvements of motion capture and character animation techniques. 

I explored the Human-Avatar Interaction with different perspectives and experiment:

1) A study was made that involved the recording with motion capture techniques of universal basic emotions codified by Ekman. The experiment showed how that mentioned emotions could be elicited and clearly perceived by users when transferred on a Virtual Agent in a Immersive Virtual Environment.

2) Another study regards the relationship with a virtual agent in a shared environment in children with certain degree of autism. The aim of the project it’s the analysis of the interactions between an emotional virtual agent and a person with social disorders, that could be a good aid in therapy and study of the mentioned kind of disorders.

Context-Avatar Interaction

Implementation and Evaluation of Immersive Environments with Emotional Content 

Part of my complementary work was made on the emotional content of Immersive Virtual environment. An experiment was carried out on 36 healthy subjects to confirm the congruence between the emotional content of virtual environments animated with social narratives and emotional perception elicited in the user experience. This study was also preliminary to develop environments to study and treat persons with social disorders.

Visual fidelity and expressiveness

Improvement of visual photo realism in virtual environments and smoothness and naturalness of virtual humans behaviors.

I tested the different techniques of avatar creation and animation. I explored both manual and automatic procedures as photogrammetry, optical scanner, automatic skinning and riggings tools, inertial and optical sensors and cinematic implementations. I tested the integration of avatars and virtual agents in different frameworks working on interactions and visual photorealism. I focalized in particular on different animation techniques inertial and optical tracking system alone or combined (as IMU suits with IK solutions, passive markers suits, 3d depth scans).

I also gained a steady experience on Unreal Engine 4 framework. I focused on lighting, material creations and c++ – blueprint integration’s to develop Virtual Environments highly realistic but also dynamic and well optimized for Immersive Virtual Reality experiences