Doctoral thesis about presence in video conferences

I just learned about this dissertation by Muhammad Sikandar Lal Khan at the Department of Applied Physics and Electronics of Umeå University (Sweden) entitled: Presence through actions : theories, concepts, and implementations. The thesis will be defended next week (see here).

Here is the abstract:

During face-to-face meetings, humans use multimodal information, including verbal information, visual information, body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal gestures. In contrast, during computer-mediated-communication (CMC), humans rely either on mono-modal information such as text-only, voice-only, or video-only or on bi-modal information by using audiovisual modalities such as video teleconferencing. Psychologically, the difference between the two lies in the level of the subjective experience of presence, where people perceive a reduced feeling of presence in the case of CMC. Despite the current advancements in CMC, it is still far from face-to-face communication, especially in terms of the experience of presence.

This thesis aims to introduce new concepts, theories, and technologies for presence design where the core is actions for creating presence. Thus, the contribution of the thesis can be divided into a technical contribution and a knowledge contribution. Technically, this thesis details novel technologies for improving presence experience during mediated communication (video teleconferencing). The proposed technologies include action robots (including a telepresence mechatronic robot (TEBoT) and a face robot), embodied control techniques (head orientation modeling and virtual reality headset based collaboration), and face reconstruction/retrieval algorithms. The introduced technologies enable action possibilities and embodied interactions that improve the presence experience between the distantly located participants. The novel setups were put into real experimental scenarios, and the well-known social, spatial, and gaze related problems were analyzed.

The developed technologies and the results of the experiments led to the knowledge contribution of this thesis. In terms of knowledge contribution, this thesis presents a more general theoretical conceptual framework for mediated communication technologies. This conceptual framework can guide telepresence researchers toward the development of appropriate technologies for mediated communication applications. Furthermore, this thesis also presents a novel strong concept – presence through actions - that brings in philosophical understandings for developing presence- related technologies. The strong concept - presence through actions is an intermediate-level knowledge that proposes a new way of creating and developing future ‘presence artifacts’. Presence- through actions is an action-oriented phenomenological approach to presence that differs from traditional immersive presence approaches that are based (implicitly) on rationalist, internalist views.

The entire thesis can be downloaded at

The thesis consists of the following papers:

  1. Telepresence Mechatronic Robot (TEBoT): Towards the design and control of socially interactive bio-inspired system
  2. Gaze perception and awareness in smart devices
  3. Action Augmented Real Virtuality Design for Presence
  4. Moveable facial features in a Social Mediator
  5. Head Orientation Modeling: Geometric Head Pose Estimation using Monocular Camera
  6. Tele-Immersion: Virtual Reality based Collaboration
  7. Face-off: a Face ReconstructionTechnique for Virtual Reality(VR) Scenarios
  8. Distance Communication: Trends and Challenges and How to Resolve them
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