ERC Consolidator Award: Future Social Interaction in XR

The future of XR is social.

There are no words for how happy I am to announce I’ve been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant called FUSION with €1.98 million in funding to pursue my vision for the future of social XR.  FUSION proposes new techniques to fuse social signals between individuals and across realities, hypothesizing that interaction stability in XR is a signal we can measure and manipulate.  If we can make social interaction in XR feel good, it will forever change the way we connect, collaborate, and share our lives with each other.   

Behind every success is a long line of failures, of ideas lovingly crafted and thrown away, and many stressful days.  Every academic will tell you to keep applying and be resilient, but that is easier said than done and comes at great personal cost. In the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, the statement that always speaks to me is “respect the work required to produce new ideas.”  When it’s crunch time with deadlines, when we’re doing peer review, and when we’re forced to work in a resource constrained environment, it can be a challenging practice to respect the work it takes to produce new ideas.  Be kind to your colleagues, be kind to anonymous peers whose work you review, and be kind to yourself.  

I want to celebrate today by also sharing and celebrating the failures. I’ve submitted seven rejected fellowship applications since beginning my academic career in 2014, and more rejected standard grant applications than I can count on two hands. I see a significant progression in the quality of my ideas and work over these years, but I also see the care and love that went into the early ideas, the sadness of throwing them away, and the struggle of going back to the drawing board and trying something new.

As part of my dedication to open science, I am sharing here all the past fellowship proposals that led to this success, so the invisible work of failure is visible with this happy announcement.

ERC Consolidator Grant 2023 – Accepted after Interview

The ideas behind FUSION have been the focus of my work since my first projects using social signal processing to model behaviour around public displays in 2014. This transformed after a serendipitous connection through volunteering, where my experience in social signal processing could be applied to modelling behaviour in virtual environments. I made significant revisions to my proposal after interviewing for ERC in 2022. I learned how much more concrete and detailed the work plan needed to be, which must be balanced against clear research questions. Conceptual integrity, leading to an ambitious and single outcome, was the biggest challenge in writing this successful proposal.

EPSRC Open Fellowship 2023 with Plus Component – Rejected after Interview

SocialXR was another revision of the rejected 2022 ERC submission, and I was excited to add the Plus Component, which focused on open science and inclusive publication policy. The Plus Component should be an opportunity for more diverse contributions to science to be recognised, but I was frustrated with the panel feedback that my Plus Component should have only focused on my specific discipline, and should not have aspired to go beyond computing. I was very discouraged by the process around the Plus Component, and I do not think I would apply for this again or recommend others to either.

ERC Consolidator Grant 2022 – Rejected after Interview

FUSION was the first interview I was granted for a fellowship application. Although I was unsuccessful, I learned so much through the process and had a really good experience. In preparing for the interview, it became clear my work plan was too high level. I had a clear vision of “what” I wanted to do, but not “how.” I knew I could revise this work and make it better. I knew I was finally on the right track and really had an idea worth picking myself back up for.

EPSRC Fellowship 2021 – Rejected without Interview

FIX was a clear progression from the first immersive technologies proposals, but I can see that some of the ideas are still somewhat unformed and in places half-baked. I still believe in these key concepts, particularly around mediated perception and the ethics of immersion, but these ideas were not so well developed yet.

ERC Starting Grant 2019 – Rejected without Interview

V-Real tried to further refine the first immersive ideas, but in hindsight it’s clear there’s no core concept tying it all together yet. I threw together input techniques, my favourite concept around manipulated perception, and my track record on social acceptance into one proposal. There’s low conceptual integrity, but it was a step in the right direction.

EPSRC Fellowship 2018 – Rejected without Interview

SituatedVR was the beginning of my shift towards immersive technologies. The work was not well received, and I was still very new to the field. Since finishing my PhD, I had changed topics frequently, and struggled to find a good fit and establish myself in any one area. Until I found immersive technologies, which give me such intrinsic joy I’ve never looked back.

ERC Starting Grant 2016 – Rejected without Interview

EMIT was my first ERC Grant application, and I was still working in public displays and public interaction. This was not well received, but writing was a good exercise.

EPSRC Fellowship – Rejected without Interview

DIPS was my first fellowship application, and my first big application after being successful in the EPSRC First Grant Scheme. The First Grant Scheme at that time was capped at £120,000, so it was a small project. Even though I was technically “on the ladder” at this point, it would be many years until I was able to translate my First Grant Scheme success into a successful full-size grant application.

Fellowship Applications History by Julie Williamson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Future Immersive Interaction @CHI2022

We have a busy CHI planned with a full papers, poster paper, and alt.chi paper published from the group this year. I’ve also been busy as Papers Chair for 2022, and looking forward to continuing this job in 2023.

We evaluated a consensus seeking task in a virtual environment accessed via an HMD or a desktop PC.

With colleagues from University of Glasgow, CWI, Toyota Research, and Northeastern University, we published our latest work on digital proxemics, available Open Access in the ACM DL. Code and Data are also available on GitHub.

Digital Proxemics: Designing Social and Collaborative Interaction in Virtual Environments

April 2022pp 1-12 Behaviour in virtual environments might be informed by our experiences in physical environments, but virtual environments are not constrained by the same physical, perceptual, or social cues. Instead of replicating the properties of physical spaces, ..

Laura will be presenting her poster on “reality anchors,” research looking at what anchors users need from reality to contextualise virtuality.

“Reality Anchors”: Bringing Cues from Reality into VR on Public Transport to Alleviate Safety and Comfort Concerns

April 2022pp 1-6 Reality (VR) headsets have the unique capability to create private virtual content anywhere around the user, going beyond the capacities of traditional devices, but are not widely used while travelling, due to safety and comfort concerns. …

Ross will be presenting his speculative project on the future of always on XR in the alt.chi track, in collaboration with the Neil McDonnell in the School of Philosophy.

When Virtuality Surpasses Reality: Possible Futures of Ubiquitous XR

April 2022pp 1-8 Is our future heading towards enhancing the human experience with computer-mediated reality? Immersive technology is unique, existing between the world and our senses, letting users traverse wholly virtual environments (i.e. distant places or fantasy …

Dennis and Debbie Club Micro-Residency at University of Glasgow

I’m very excited to announce that the Dennis and Debbie Club will be doing a micro-residency with the Public and Performative Interaction Group at the University of Glasgow.  Dennis and Debbie have worked across a range of open source technologies to create animations, video installations and virtual reality experiences.  For the month of March, Dennis and Debbie will work with the EPSRC IAA Funded Virtual Errands Task Project to explore walk up experience and presence in virtual environments.  
Watch this space for updates on this project.  To see more about the Dennis and Debbie Club, visit

BBC Click: Glasgow’s Digital Creativity

The Public and Performative Interaction has been discussed on the BBC Click Programme about Glasgow’s Digital Creativity.  Julie Williamson’s work on engagement with public displays explores how we can create the best possible user experience on spherical touch sensitive displays.  Evaluating engagement and experience is vital to ensure the novel technologies we develop are actually used in practice.

Watch the programme here:  BBC Click:  Glasgow’s Digital Creativity (featured at 6:35)

For more information about our projects and public engagement, see for our latest updates.

Sunken Ripples: A New Interactive Experience

What an exciting time to play with technology and interactive experiences.  We are delighted to be contributing to the Glasgow Film Festival with Sunken Ripples, an experimental interactive installation.  This work is part of the EPSRC SIPS project in collaboration with Pufferfish Ltd.

25th of February, showings at 18:00 and 19:30, Glasgow IMAX

SunkenRipplesCome experience the exciting cutting edge technology of an interactive spherical display as part of a new kind audiovisual performance. For the first time ever, a spherical display will be joined with the IMAX screen to create an immersive and playful experience in an underwater landscape. Join us in the world of Sunken Ripples, where interaction and touch on the spherical display ripple into huge proportions.

This event is brought to you by the University of Glasgow Public and Performative Interaction Group.

Tickets are available for FREE at the IMAX from 16:00 on the day of the performance.



CHI Interactivity 2014 in Interactions Magazine

After a successful Interactivity at CHI 2014, Steven Benford and I were given the opportunity to feature some of the most exciting and visually compelling Interactivity exhibits in Interactions Magazine.

Interactivity is a unique forum of the ACM CHI Conference that showcases hands-on demonstrations, novel interactive technologies, and artistic installations. At CHI 2014, we aimed to create a “one of a CHInd” Interactivity experience with more than 60 interactive exhibits to highlight the diverse group of computer scientists, sociologists, designers, psychologists, artists, and many more that make up the CHI community.

GaussBricks – Rong-Hao Liang, Liwei Chan, Hung-Yu Tseng, Han-Chih Kuo, Da-Yuan Huang, De-Nian Yang, Bing-Yu Chen.

Rainbowfish  – Grosse-Puppendahl, T., Beck, S., Wilbers, D., Zeiss, S., von Wilmsdorff, J., and Kuijper, A.

TransWall – Heo, H., Park, H-K, Kim, S., Chung, J., Lee, G., and Lee, W.

The Vocal Chorder – Unander-Scharin, C., Unander- Scharin, A., and Höök, K.

Check out the complete article on the ACM DL.

Spherical Interaction for Public Spaces (SIPS): EPSRC First Grant Scheme

The SIPS project will design and evaluate interactions on spherical displays in public spaces.

The SIPS project will design and evaluate interactions on spherical displays in public spaces.

It’s an exciting time for public and performative interaction at Glasgow University.  My first EPSRC grant has been funded, the announcement is available now on the EPSRC website.

So watch this space, this grant begins August 1st!

Grant Overview:  Public interactive displays have the potential to significantly enhance the quality of life for people living in future city spaces. However, current public displays and interfaces go unnoticed or completely ignored by the majority of passers-by. This presents a serious problem for the impact and uptake of touch sensitive displays if only a small minority will approach these displays and discover their interactive qualities. Existing approaches to designing and evaluating public displays have not been successful at realising the substantial opportunities that public displays afford. This research addresses this problem by exploiting recent technological developments in curved displays to create socially acceptable and enticing interactions for public spaces.

Curved displays offer exciting opportunities for public interaction that are not possible with flat displays. For example, a cylindrical display mimics the shape and form traditional kiosks for flyers and notices that can be seen in many cities. This kind of display can be placed in a walkway and be viewed from many perspectives. Other non-flat shapes, such as spherical displays, allow multiple users to interact while facing each other and viewing vertical content. Installations where users can see each other and observe others interacting are more encouraging and result in higher rates of interaction than displays where users are unable to observe each other. Another important aspect of a spherical display is that the entire display is never completely visible from one perspective. While areas on the top may be visible to both users vertical areas of the screen are only visible to some. These “private” areas of the display could be exploited to support sharing, ownership, and collaboration on a social display.

Given the new opportunities afforded by curved displays, foundational research is needed to understand how this new technology should be designed for and used in public spaces. There is limited research on interaction for curved surfaces and even less on curved surfaces for public spaces. An important aspect of this research is to develop novel multitouch interaction techniques that exploit the form factor of a curved display for public interaction. This will involve perceptual studies to learn the physical constraints and ergonomics of multitouch gestures on curved surfaces. This research will also explore how novel gestures and physical metaphors can enhance interaction on curved surfaces. This will involve evaluating user perceptions of control and responsiveness on a spherical display, simulating different levels of friction and weight for interactive elements.

Another important aspect of this research involves how curved displays work in real public spaces as compared to flat displays. Little is known about how different interaction styles encourage or discourage continued use of flat or curved public displays. In order to measure these metrics at scale for large numbers of passers-by, new evaluation techniques are needed. This project introduces a novel evaluation technique to capture and analyse pedestrian traffic around public installations. This approach can quantify different metrics of public display usage and enable the collection of large-scale data sets not feasible with traditional observation methods.

Finally, this research also aims to dramatically change the approach to designing public displays by considering context and impact on local spaces. Previous work on public displays has primarily involved flat displays and focused on making displays as noticeable and enticing as possible. This presents the possibility of creating unnecessary or unpleasant distraction and actually making public spaces less enjoyable places to be. This research will not only measure how enticing our displays are but also critically analyse the impact of these displays on the places where they are deployed.

Celtic Connections Installation with Pufferfish Ltd

1016359_10102296579687751_325721798_nAs part of my current project, I am working with Pufferfish Ltd to evaluate spherical displays in public spaces.  One of our exciting installations combines my research and my love of Scottish music.  We’re working with Celtic Connections to install the PufferSphere display in the concert hall for the whole opening weekend of the festival.  It’s an exciting place to be and also my first public engagement since starting my SICSA Fellowship.  It’s been a wild ride but we’ve pulled it off with style.

The official news item…

Computer scientists plan to make Celtic Connection with global project

Visitors to the 21st Celtic Connections festival will have the chance to hold the world in their hands at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall from today (Thursday 16 January).

Researchers from the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science have teamed up with Edinburgh-based display developer Pufferfish Ltd to create an eye-catching illuminated globe which will provide information on 25 of the festival’s top acts.

Celtic Connections globe

Celtic Connections image

A computer-controlled display will project a high-resolution image of a world map onto the 600-mm spherical display’s touch-sensitive surface. Users can ‘spin’ the image, which is marked with the locations of artists’ home cities, and tap on artists’ names to find out more about their work and festival gigs.

In addition to providing an unusual source of useful information to Concert Hall visitors, a set of small cameras placed around the display will provide the research team with feedback on their reactions.

Research associate Dr Julie Williamson, who led the project, said: “This is the result of four months of work to develop the content to show on the PufferSphere display and determine how we could best measure visitors’ responses.

“We’re really interested in finding out more about how technology influences pedestrian traffic in public spaces, a process we call performative interaction. We want to know how long people spend at the display and whether they use it alone or in groups. We wanted to get involved with Celtic Connections because it attracts so many visitors from around the world and we were delighted when they agreed to help.

“We’re planning to continue our research with another public display at the University campus next month.”

Dr Williamson worked on the project with product designer Daniel Sundén and Pufferfish Ltd’s software manager Dr Jay Bradley and sales and marketing manager Ben Allan.


News Release:


An Unusual Training Session

2013-04-27 11.04.40 In my effort to keep up my training during CHI 2013, I completed my long run today along the Seine River. Accidentally ran into a few landmarks along the way. I started near the conference center going towards to the Arc de Triomphe.





2013-04-27 11.11.50

From there I headed down Champs-Élysées. The was the best part of the run because it was a gentle downhill slope the whole way.







2013-04-27 11.25.51

Caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from the other side of the water.  Notice the lovely springtime weather in Paris this week.






2013-04-27 11.48.08

Crossed over the water along “lover’s bridge” at the 4 mile point but forgot maths and and geometry and headed in a triangular trail which would end up being more than 8 miles (I had just completed the hypotenuse of my run).





2013-04-27 12.20.02 Took a victory lap around the base of the Eiffel tower and headed home thinking of lunch! Ended up being roughly 10 miles all told, at a terrible pace due to the constant stopping/starting for traffic and sightseeing.  But it was important to just get out there and run!

This training is all going towards the half marathon in Edinburgh this May.  I’m running the half in memory of my mother for the Bowl Cancer UK Charity.  Donate and become part of an excellent cause!

Visit My JustGiving Page