PhD studentships explore new realms of knowledge through XR Stories funding

Five University of York PhD projects are underway thanks to funding from XR Stories and our industry partners. These exciting projects aim to push the boundaries of XR knowledge and understanding through innovative research and development to address key challenges, in partnership with leading companies and organisations in the creative industries.

The first project is led by Marian Ursu, Professor in Interactive Media and Jon Hook, Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media, both in the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media and is titled ‘Conceptualising interaction and immersive fictional story design founded in film and TV’. The project aims to develop a new conceptual framework to support the expression of thought, design and analysis of interactive and immersive stories in film and TV. 

The pioneering framework will be used in storytelling design where the viewer is placed within a story and given agency, rather than being a passive spectator. This area is largely unexplored in the film and TV industry. 

The second project, ‘Sharing narratives through shared spaces: Intelligent immersive audio for real-time interactive networked performance’, is led by Helena Daffern, Senior Lecturer in Music Technology and Gavin Kearney, Assistant Professor in Audio and Music Technology, both in the Department of Electronic Engineering. The PhD will explore the potential of new video software (such as Zoom) for online interactive performances in live performing arts for immersive and engaging theatrical and musical experiences. 

The systems artists have available to them currently present a number of challenges, such as network delays, that make live music-making very difficult. The project aims to address these issues by developing technology to enable remote immersive musical interaction in real time. Helena comments: “This project will open doors to exploring inclusive and accessible ways to actively engage with creative storytelling.” 

Tom Collins, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Music Technology in the Department of Music leads the third project, ‘Exploring interactive and personalised podcasting with AI-driven audio production tools’. This project will research the exciting possibilities for innovative user experience in AI audio technologies and podcasting.

Through interviews, software development and workshops, the PhD will explore the development of interactive and responsive narratives in podcast form and how AI can play an additional role. Tom writes: “The majority of podcasts are conceived and consumed as immutable, linear media. But step changes in AI audio and collaborative web technologies open up new and exciting possibilities for podcast interactivity and personalisation.” 

The final two projects are led by Damian Murphy, Professor in Audio and Music Technology, in the Department of Electronic Engineering. His first project explores ‘Creative affordances of orchestrated devices for immersive and interactive audio and audio-visual experiences’. Damian tells us: “Our homes are now full of many sound generating devices, from TVs, phones, tablets, to smart speakers. We’re exploring how we can connect these devices together as part of a network and design new audio content and new experiences for them to enhance our overall enjoyment of these listening experiences. 

The final project will focus on ‘Context aware personalised audio experiences’. Headphones and the devices they are connected to are getting smarter and this project will explore how we can use the microphones on these devices to act as sensors, detecting features in our wider world. The project will explore how we can use this information, together with machine learning, to provide clearer and more relevant listening experiences that are better attuned to our location and activities.

The PhD projects funded through XR Stories will significantly advance our research capacity in immersive and interactive narrative content and strengthen the University of York’s leading position in shaping the future of digital storytelling.

Published on 14 January 2021

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