Masters studentships explore exciting frontiers of digital storytelling

XR Stories research activity continues to grow through the support of three University of York Masters by Research studentships. The projects will focus on delivering research and development for industry-led challenges in partnership with University of York academics. 

Damian Murphy, Director of XR Stories, says: “These projects will help shape how we design, deliver and engage with the future of immersive and interactive storytelling experiences.”

The first project will explore ‘Audio personalisation for Accessible Augmented Reality Narratives’ and is led by Gavin Kearney, a Senior Lecturer within the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of York. The project will examine Enhanced Audio Description (EAD), an alternative approach to Audio Description (AD). AD is a way of helping visually impaired audiences experience visual content. EAD enriches the experience by using  soundtrack enhancement, spatial audio and first-person character narration to describe what is happening. In contrast, AD just uses a superimposed third-person narration. 

Gavin writes: “AD is not typically utilised in XR, in part due to the non-linear, interactive nature of AR and VR experiences. The project is therefore important in that it will develop strategies based on EAD that will finally open up XR media to visually impaired end-users.” 

The second project ‘Story Seeds – Growing Storied Experiences from Outdoor Cultural Heritage Sites through Tangible Interaction Artefacts’ is led by Debbie Maxwell, Lecturer in Interactive Media in the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media at the University of York. Story Seeds draws on the human need to share stories and is centred on gathering and retelling of experiences of visitors at outdoor cultural heritage sites in the UK. The project will work with participants to design sensor-based, tactile, interactive artefacts to capture their experience of a physical site as narrative and give them a personal memento of their visit to take home. 

Debbie tells us: “Memories and our recounting of those memories change over time. This project explores these changing memories and stories in the context of cultural heritage, looking at ways to open up the sharing of visitor experiences to create a connected evolving network of stories – something that is becoming increasingly important in these physical socially distanced times.”

Damian Murphy, Professor in Audio and Music Technology, in the Department of Electronic Engineering at the University of York, also leads the third project ‘Exploring immersion through biosensors in audio visual applications’. The project aims to assess the impact of any immersive storytelling experience, from audio books, through to radio plays, films, games or VR applications. 

Damian writes: “If we want to design the next generation of engaging, meaningful immersive and interactive stories, it is really important to understand what it is to be ‘immersed’ in such an experience and how we can measure what immersion means for an audience. This project will explore these challenging questions by analysing biometric data as we might obtain from, for instance, wearable activity trackers. Can we automatically sense when we become immersed in a story experience, or what external distractions might break that sense of immersion?”. 

These exciting projects are all in the early stages of their research and development and all involve partnership with leading industry companies and organisations working in immersive and interactive storytelling.

Published on 15 January 2021

Filed under: Digital storytelling, Funding news, R&D Projects, Research, XR Stories