As the sole PI, Dr. Guo Freeman, Assistant Professor of Human-Centered Computing, receives a $399,785 HCC Small grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
This three-year project investigates how people experience harassment in new and potentially disruptive ways in nuanced online social spaces to design novel and safer social technologies to protect them, promote trust among users, and mitigate emerging online risks. It primarily focuses on new forms of online harassment emerging in social Virtual Reality (VR) — novel and increasingly popular 3D virtual spaces where multiple users can interact with one another through VR head-mounted displays, full-body tracking avatars (e.g., one’s avatar movements correspond to one’s offline body movements in real-time), synchronous voice conversations, and simulated touching and grabbing features.
As online social spaces evolve towards more natural and immersive interaction, social VR grows as an important and popular media for various social activities and connections. In particular, with global events such as COVID-19, social VR has become even more popular and used for holding academic conferences (e.g., IEEE VR 2020), workshops, tech camps, and has the potential to be used for teaching and learning broadly in the near future. Therefore, this project will directly promote public interest in VR research and innovation. It will also contribute to the general public’s social and emotional well-being by creating safer online social spaces and promoting healthier interaction dynamics in these spaces.