Date: June 21 - 23, 2021
Place: Virtual Conference
General Chairs: D. Yvette Wohn (New Jersey Institute of Technology) and Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy (BBC R&D)
Author/Reporter: Lingyuan Li (Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA)
Editor: Niall Murray (Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT))
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has forced international researchers and practitioners to share their research at virtual conferences, ACM Interactive Media Experiences (IMX) 2021 clearly invested significant time and effort to provide all attendees with an accessible, interactive, and vibrant online academic feast. Serving on the Organizing Committee of IMX 2021 as the Student Volunteer Chair as well as a Doctoral Consortium student, I was happy and honoured to take part in the conference, to help support it, and to see how attendees enjoyed and benefited from it.
I was also delighted to receive the ACM SIGMM Best Social Media Reporter Award which offered me the opportunity to write this report as a summary of my experiences with IMX 2021 (and of course a free ACM SIGMM conference registration!!).
IMX 2020 was the first time for the conference to go entirely virtual. In its second year as an entirely virtual conference, IMX 2021 collaborated with OhYay to create a very realistic and immersive experience for the conference attendees. On OhYay, attendees felt like they were in a real conference venue in New York City. There was a reception, lobbies, main hall, showcase rooms, rooftop, pool, and so forth. In addition to the high-fidelity environment, IMX 2021 and the OhYay development team added many interaction features into the platform to help attendees have a more human-centred and engaging experience: for example, attendees were able to “whisper” to each other without others being able to hear; they could send reactions, like applause emoji with sound effects; they could join some social events together, such as lip-sync, jigsaw.
IMX 2021 contained a high number of inspiring talks, insightful discussions, and quality communication. On Day 1, IMX hosted a series of workshops: XR in Games, Life Improvement in Quality by Ubiquitous Experiences (LIQUE), DataTV and SensoryX. I had a three-hour doctoral consortium (DC) in the morning on Day 1 as well. 8 PhD students presented ongoing dissertation research and had 2 one-on-one sessions with distinguished researchers as mentors! I was so excited to meet people in a ‘real’ virtual space and the OhYay platform also enabled DC attendees to take group pictures in the photo booth. I could not help but Tweet my first-day experience with lots of photos.
On Day 2 and Day 3, with artist Sougwen Chung’s amazing keynote “Where does ‘AI’ end and ‘we’ begin?” kicking off the main conference, a set of paper sessions and panel discussions regarding mixed-reality (AR/VR), AI, gaming and inclusive design brought inspiration, new ideas and state-of-the-art research topics to attendees. Admittedly, AR/VR as well as AI technology as the focus of the current development of science and technology, lead the progress of civilization of the times. IMX helped us to see this trend of balance and integration of AI, AR, VR and MR in the future: the downstream of the hyper-reality terminal products dips into various fields, including games, consumer applications, enterprise applications, health care, education and others. With the increase of downstream application scenarios, the market space is expected to further expand. This opens up a broader world for all researchers, designers and practitioners including IMXers to explore how we can put warmth into products delivered by the developing technologies which come with many unknowns and create a need for establishing best practices, standards, and design patterns for as many people as reasonably possible.
Every time I tweeted, I picked up representative screenshots, made them into a pretty collage, and gave infectious enthusiasm to the text. That may be my secret of winning the Social Media Award to help disseminate IMX information.
In addition to the world-leading interactive media research sessions, panels, speakers and showcases presented, IMX 2021 also aimed for some interactive fun for networking and chilling for attendees. There was a virtual elevator that could be seen as an events hub for attendees to select which event they wanted to join. Various social events were provided to enrich breaks in between research sessions: Mukbang, Yoga, Lip Sync, Jigsaw, etc. For example, attendees sometimes needed to collaborate with Jigsaw, which spontaneously enhanced mutual understanding through the interactive collaborative engagement even if IMX was a virtual conference.
In this sense, IMX 2021 succeeded in its aim to allow attendees to have an “in-person” and immersive experience as much as possible because there were many opportunities for attendees to communicate more deeply, network, and socialize.
IMX 2021 DC provided an opportunity for 8 PhD students to present, explore and develop our research interests, under the mentorship of a panel of 14 distinguished researchers, including 2 one-on-one sessions. The virtual conference enabled mentors from all over the world to make exchanges views with students without geographical limitations. We were also able to have in-depth communication to obtain valuable instruction on dissertation research in such an immersive environment. Moreover, each student not only gave a presentation at the DC before the main conference but also presented a poster at the conference, enabling wider visibility of our work.
It is noteworthy that IMX 2021 made accessibility design an integral part of the conference. Except for closed-caption for ready-made videos, IMX 2021 had a captioner to provide an accurate real-time caption for a live discussion. In addition, some attendees were excited to find out that an ASL option was also offered!
IMX also took efforts to make the platform more friendly to screen-reader users.
In conclusion, IMX 2021 was an excellent example of an engaging, interactive, fun, informative and nice virtual conference. The organizing team clearly not only made significant efforts to represent the diversity in which interactive media is used in our lives but also already presented an amazing show of how interactive the media could be to even benefit our online communication. I look forward to IMX 2022!