Researchers to study protest behaviour employing innovative XR technologies as part of GuestXR Open Call

  • A group of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the UiT The Arctic University of Norway have been selected amongst all applicants as winners of the GuestXR Open Call.
  • The awarded use case will explore contemporary protests and social dynamics, ranging from women’s strikes to climate demonstrations in the context of GuestXR supported multi-person shared extended reality.
  • The Open Call aimed at finding innovative approaches to innovative XR technologies developed within the European-funded GuestXR project for addressing particular societal issues and promoting progress towards a more sustainable, just, and equitable society.

GuestXR project innovative technologies, including Social Virtual Reality applications, along with various developed tools for AR and VR technologies regarding remote collaboration and embodiment, will be used to produce extended reality (XR) simulations of historical protests.

Through the virtual recreation of three contemporary protests to be developed by GuestXR partners, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the UiT The Arctic University of Norway will investigate individual and group responses during protests, and analyse the events from different perspectives, touching upon pedagogical and artistic perspectives.

“We seek to investigate protests as social goods, as well as social issues to understand which features lead to peaceful and effective protests, and which trigger crowds into violence,” says Ana Luisa Sanchez Laws, Full Professor at the Centre for Peace Studies at the UiT Artic University of Norway.

The protests selected as relevant for the use case development include the women’s strikes against Poland’s conservative abortion law, the Be Water protests in Hong Kong as an response to the Chinese extradition law and the #FridaysforFuture Climate protests.

The Open Call winners will bring in their expertise in immersive journalism, following ethical considerations of factual storytelling within this genre, for the development of the research study. Moreover, “through the development of this use case, GuestXR partners will explore the potential that extended reality, artificial intelligence, brain imaging techniques and haptics technologies have on analysing conflict situations and understanding better crowd and individual dynamics in protest scenarios,” explains Mel Slater, GuestXR Scientific Leader and Investigator and Co-director of the Event Lab of the University of Barcelona.

The GuestXR European project embraces artificial intelligence, together with neuroscience and social psychology research to increase harmony and improve the participants’ experience in shared 3D virtual or augmented reality spaces.

The project Open Call for developing a use case addressing societal issues was closed on September 30, 2023. Proposals received were assessed and the winner was announced on 17 of November 2023. Activities for the development of the selected use case will start next January and last until December 2024.

During the execution period, the Open Call beneficiary will be able to count on support from GuestXR partners for developing the selected project in the form of specific technical advice, and training.

The GuestXR consortium is coordinated by the Eurecat Technology Centre together with the University of Barcelona and it is made up of eight organisations from six countries featuring a multidisciplinary team with backgrounds in extended reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, social psychology, neuroscience, multisensory integration, research ethics and technology transfer.

Alongside Eurecat, four universities (the University of Maastricht, the University of Warsaw, the University of Barcelona and the Reichman University), a research institute (Inria) and two companies (Virtual Bodyworks and g.tec medical engineering GMBH) are also taking part in the project.

About the Open Call Winner

Center for Peace Studies (UiT The Arctic University of Norway):

The Centre for Peace Studies (CPS) is part of UiT, The Arctic University of Norway. Founded in 2002, CPS still is the only university-based peace centre in Norway. The centre teaches, conducts, and promotes critical and multi-disciplinary research on peace and conflict. and outreach activities are concerned with aspects of critical peace studies, peace. CPS research and outreach activities are concerned with aspects of critical peace studies, peace education, livelihoods in conflict-affected societies, peace mediation processes, arms control, demobilization, and reintegration.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU):

NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology will participate through the Sense-IT, a lab of the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications researching sensor-based digital storytelling and digital storytelling tools, and IMTEL research group, investigating innovative immersive technologies for learning in several contexts, ranging from university education to emergency and medical training and workplace training