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[Defense] Enhancing Therapists’ User Experiences in Utilizing Remote Virtual Communicator Immersive Therapy Tools for Patients with Autism

Thursday, October 22, 2020

1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Mohammed Alshair
will defend his proposal
Enhancing Therapists’ User Experiences in Utilizing Remote Virtual Communicator Immersive Therapy Tools for Patients with Autism


Several studies have demonstrated visual immersion applications can be effective tools in training, education, and therapeutic purposes. While most studies focused on the effectiveness of the applications accomplishing their intended goals for trainees, students, and patients, we are interested in enhancing the user experience for trainers, teachers, and therapists to improve the effectiveness of these applications for participants. Our study introduces the Virtual Communicator Remote (VCR) application, an immersive therapy and training tool for patients with mental illness, particularly those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The VCR tool is an immersive system that uses lifelike avatars and scenes controlled by the user in fine-grained detail in real-time (e.g., avatar talks, gestures, moves through scenes, etc.). The number of possible user selections is vast, and therefore users must be able to select and use their desired conditions and movements without difficulty. We will test solutions in providing therapists with more user-friendly and natural user interfaces to enhance the therapists’ immersive application user experience during live therapy sessions. The primary use for the VCR is to present interactive, real-time social communication sessions to meet the patient’s individual needs. This tool can be used either with PC or Windows VR headsets in the therapist’s office or by remote connection through the cloud.

This study will focus on developing the user interface to make it maximally usable and appealing to the therapist/user. Without a well-planned and user-friendly UI, the therapist must control high-fidelity 3D human avatars by repeatedly clicking multiple buttons and dropdowns to change facial expressions, the intensity of expressed emotion, gestures, and whole-body movements while at the same time engaging and focusing on the clients’ conversation during the therapy session. A critical ingredient will be to simplify the controls by allowing the therapist to create and use custom controls that can combine multiple facial expressions and gestures sequences that are frequently used to have faster and more natural access. In this study, we will test an improved version of the UI (as described above) in comparison to the original UI, which is problematic, potentially confusing, and cumbersome for the user.

 Thursday, October 22, 2020
1:00PM - 2:00PM CDT
Online via MS Teams

Dr. Jaspal Subhlok, dissertation advisor

Faculty, students and the general public are invited.

Online via MS Teams