Projects


My expertise is in the area of social virtual reality (VR) and my dissertation topic focuses on creating socially equitable spaces in social VR for younger users (children/teens).

Recent work towards my dissertation here [1 & 2].

Outside of my dissertation, I have broader interest in VR & AR (augmented reality) and general human computer-interaction topics.

Anonymity vs Familiarity: Self-Disclosure and Privacy in Social Virtual Reality

Understanding how and why users reveal information about their self in online social spaces and what they perceive as privacy on-line is a central research agenda in HCI. Drawing on 30 in-depth interviews, in this paper we focus on what type of information users disclose, to whom they reveal information, and concerns they had regarding self-disclosure in social Virtual Reality (VR) -where multiple users can interact with one another through VR head-mounted displays in 3D virtual spaces. Our findings show that overall, users felt comfortable to disclose their emotions, personal experience, and personal information in social VR. However, they also acknowledged that disclosing personal information in social VR was an inevitable trade-off: giving up bio-metric information in order to better use the system. We contribute to existing literature on self-disclosure and privacy online by focusing on social VR as an emerging novel online social space. We also explicate implications for designing future social VR applications

*Maloney, Divine, Zamanifard *Samaneh, and Guo Freeman. “Anonymity vs Familiarity: Self-Disclosure and Privacy in Social Virtual Reality”. In:26th ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (VRST). 2020. [paper]

**Full Paper**

Highlights:

  • Users feel comfortable disclosing personal and emotional information
  • Social VR is an inevitable trade-off, giving up biomedical information in order to better use the system
VRST 2020
Acceptance Rate: 26.5%
Talking without A Voice" : Understanding Non-verbal Communication in Social Virtual Reality

Exploring communication dynamics in digital social spaces such as massively multiplayer online games and 2D/3D virtual worlds has been a long standing concern in HCI and CSCW. As online social spaces evolve towards more natural embodied interaction, it is important to explore how non-verbal communication can be supported in more nuanced ways in these spaces and introduce new social interaction consequences. In this paper we especially focus on understanding novel non-verbal communication in social virtual reality (VR). We report findings of two empirical studies. Study 1 collected observational data to explore the types of non-verbal interactions being used naturally in social VR. Study 2 was an interview study (N=30) that investigated people’s perceptions of non-verbal communication in social VR as well as the resulting interaction outcomes. This study helps address the limitations in prior literature on non-verbal communication dynamics in online social spaces. Our findings on what makes non-verbal communication in social VR unique and socially desirable extend our current understandings of the role of non-verbal communication in social interaction. We also highlight potential design implications that aim at better supporting non-verbal communication in social VR.


Maloney, Divine, Guo Freeman, and Wohn Yvette. “Talking without A Voice" : Understanding Non-verbal Communication in Social Virtual Reality” . Proc. ACM Human-Computer. Interact. (CSCW). 2020. [paper]

**Full Paper**

Highlights:

  • Offline non-verbal behaviors such as gaze, facial behaviors, gestural behaviors, and proximity were noted as being used to communicate non-verbally in social VR
  • Users generally perceive non-verbal communication as positive in their social VR experience, its a natural way to initiate communication with online strangers
  • Non-verbal communication in social VR allowed for privacy, social comfort, and effective protection for marginalized users
CSCW 2020
Acceptance Rate: TBD
Body, Avatar, and Me: The Presentation and Perception ofSelf in Social Virtual Reality

Self-presentation in online digital social spaces has been a long standing research interest in HCI and CSCW. As online social spaces evolve towards more embodied digital representations, it is important to understand how users construct and experience their self and interact with others' self in new and more complicated ways, as it may introduce new opportunities and unseen social consequences. Using findings of an interview study (N=30), in this paper we report an in-depth empirical investigation of the presentation and perception of self in Social Virtual Reality (VR) - 3D virtual spaces where multiple users can interact with one another through VR head-mounted displays and full-body tracked avatars. This study contributes to the growing body of CSCW literature on social VR by offering empirical evidence of how social VR platforms afford new phenomena and approaches of experiencing and practicing novel identity practices in online social interactions. We also expand the existing research agenda in CSCW on the increasing complexity of people’s self-presentation in emerging novel sociotechnical systems.


Freeman, G. & Maloney, D. Body, Avatar, and Me: The Presentation and Perception of Self in Social Virtual Reality. Proc. ACM Human-Computer. Interact. (CSCW). 2020. [paper]


**Full Paper**

Highlights:

  • Users create avatars similar to themselves OR platform specific avatars
  • Characteristics such as aesthetics, gender, race, and maturity were  important aspects that socialVR users often emphasized when perceiving and approaching others’ self-presentation
  • Self presentation led to understandings of oneself in three ways: 1) an adventurous means to experience one’s everyday self 2) as an engaging approach to discover one’s unknown self, and 3) as an embodied way to explore gender identity
CSCW 2020
Acceptance Rate: TBD
A Virtual Space for All: Exploring Children’s Experience in Social Virtual Reality

Social virtual reality (VR) is increasingly becoming an emerging online social ecosystem where multiple users can interact with one another through VR head-mounted displays in 3D virtual spaces. The co-existence of minors and adults in social VR presents unique challenges and opportunities regarding how these two groups interact with each other in these shared virtual social spaces, which is a timely and understudied topic in HCI and CHI PLAY. In this paper, we report our findings of a participatory observation study to explore the interaction dynamics between minors and between minors and adults in social VR. Our findings contribute to a better understanding of young people’s engagement with technology and point to future directions for designing safer and more socially satisfying social VR experiences for minors.

Maloney, Divine, Guo Freeman, and Robb Andrew. “A Virtual Space for All: ExploringChildren’s Experience in Social Virtual Reality”. In: Proceedings of the 2020 ACM SIGCHIannual symposium on Computer-human interaction in play (CHI-Play). 2020. [paper]

**Full Paper**

Highlights:

  • 4 themes relating to how minors interact with one another: (1) building virtual intimacy and stronger emotional connections (2) experiencing rich social interactivity beyond gameplay (3) engaging in nuanced group behaviors; (4) managing harassment/bullying.
  • Complicated social dynamics in adult-minor interaction, such as barriers, tensions, and frustrations of co-existing.
  • **Risk for minors to be exposed to inappropriate content**
CHI-Play 2020
Acceptance Rate: 29.3%
Falling Asleep Together: What Makes Activities in Social Virtual Reality Meaningful to Users

The increasingly popular social Virtual Reality (VR) is dramatically transforming how people meet, interact, and socialize online. These immersive digital spaces blend aspects of the online and offline worlds, creating new opportunities for online interactivity. Yet, questions still remain about what individuals actually do in social VR and how they envision and reflect on the design of social VR technologies. In this paper, we report our findings of an interview study (N=30) that investigated what made activities on these platforms meaningful to users as well as users’ recommendations for designing social VR to better support such activities. Our findings expand current literature on social dynamics and sociality in online digital spaces by focusing on social VR. We also inform future design directions to create more socially supportive and satisfying social VR space.

Maloney, Divine and Guo Freeman. “Falling Asleep Together: What Makes Activities in Social Virtual Reality Meaningful to Users”. In: Proceedings of the 2020 ACM SIGCHI annual symposium on Computer-human interaction in play (CHI-Play). 2020. [paper]

**Full Paper**

Highlights:

  • Social VR affords a broad range of activities such as play, meetings, social gatherings.
  • Activities enjoyed include: (1) experimenting with full body "mirroring", (2) experiencing mundane activities in new ways, (3) social & mental improvement, (4) immersive cultural appreciation, (5) engaging in immersive events.
CHI-Play 2020
Acceptance Rate: 29.3%
It Is Complicated: Interacting with Children in Social Virtual Reality

Social VR refers to 3D virtual spaces where multiple users can interact with one another through VR head-mounted displays. These novel digital spaces are dramatically transforming how people meet, interact, and socialize online and have attracted users of different age groups and maturity levels. This variety sometimes leads to less desirable interactions, tensions, and frustrations between different user bases (e.g., adults and children). Based on 30 interviews, we focus on how people perceive and experience interacting with young users across various social VR applications. We aim at better understanding the complex social interaction dynamics afforded by socialVR. We also discuss potential design implications toward a more child centered design for future social VR platforms.

Maloney, D., Freeman, G., & Robb, A. (2020, March). It Is Complicated: Interacting with Children in Social Virtual Reality. In 2020 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces Abstracts and Workshops (VRW) (pp. 343-347). IEEE. [paper]

**Workshop Paper**

Highlights:

  • Children are an inherent part of the social VR experiences
  • Adults showed concern for younger users in this novel online social ecosystem
  • Users stress the importance of designing separate social spaces which cater for different age groups
  • First paper in the field on modern day commercial social VR and children

Additional Comments: This was one of my favorite projects because this is the project where I realized the importance of studying younger users, because these users will point to the future designs.

IEEEVR 2020
My Body, My Avatar: How People Perceive Their Avatars in Social Virtual Reality

The perception and experience of avatars has been critical to understand the social dynamics in virtual environments, online gaming, and collaborative systems. How would emerging sociotechnical systems further complicate the role of avatars in our online social lives? In this paper we focus on how people perceive and understand their avatars in social virtual reality (VR) - 3D virtual spaces where multiple users can interact with one another through VR head-mounted displays (HMDs). Based on 30 interviews, we identified three key themes emerging in people’s perceptions and experiences of their avatars across various social VR applications. Our study contributes to further improving social VR technologies and better understanding emerging social interaction dynamics and consequences within social VR.

Freeman, G., Zamanifard, S., Maloney, D., & Adkins, A. (2020, April). My Body, My Avatar: How People Perceive Their Avatars in Social Virtual Reality. In Extended Abstracts of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts (pp. 1-8). [paper]

**Late Breaking Work**

Highlights:

  • Users consider creating avatars in social VR more challenging and highly technical but regarded such experience as fun and emotionally fulfilling
  • Connections with their avatars were more engaging, intimate, and personal because their physical body was the immediate sole interface
  • These avatars led to more engaging and embodied approaches to exploring their own identities

CHI 2020
Implicit Racial Bias in Embodied Virtual Avatars

The first half of my PhD I focused on implicit racial bias and the effects it can have on embodied virtual avatars.

We present a study to investigate the effects of embodied avatars on a user’s implicit racial bias. The results of previous research in this area has been conflicted; one study found that implicit racial bias increased after embodying an avatar of another race, while three other studies found that implicit racial bias decreased. A hypothesis that could explain this discrepancy is that the direction of change is influenced by the presence or absence of stereotypical triggers. If the presence of stereotypical triggers lead to an increase in implicit racial bias, this would be a serious cause for concern with regard to the recent emergence of consumer virtual reality (VR), and the development of VR games which require immersive avatars could possibly strengthen a user’s implicit racial biases. Here we present a study design to investigate the potential effects of embodied avatars potentially strengthening user’s implicit racial bias.

Maloney, D., Rajasabeson, S., Moore, A., Caldwell, J., Archer, J., & Robb, A. (2019, March). Ethical Concerns of the Use of Virtual Avatars in Consumer Entertainment. In 2019 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR) (pp. 1489-1492). IEEE. [paper]

Maloney, D., & Robb, A. (2019, March). An Initial Investigation into Stereotypical Influences on Implicit Racial Bias and Embodied Avatars. In 2019 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces (VR) (pp. 1074-1075). IEEE. [paper]


**Short Papers**

Highlights:

  • Embodied virtual avatars can have affect our perception, behavior, cognition
  • Contradicting literature suggest embodying a black avatar reduces and also increases ones implicit racial bias
  • Our hypothesis on solving this was the influence of the stereotypical environment and stereotypical actions done
IEEEVR 2019
Social Presence in AR

The summer of 2016, I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from Dr. Greg Welch at University Central Florida in the Synthetic Reality Lab. What we aimed to do was to increase social presence in augmented reality through plausible interactions. Working with one of the graduate students at the time Kangsoo Kim, we build a simulation in Unity using the Microsoft Hololens to create a virtual human interaction. The rendering was beautiful in the Hololens even though the field of view was limited and we used the Unity Hololens development kit. Proud to say our work was published in ICAT-EGVE 2016 and CASA 2017.


In augmented reality, people can feel the illusion of virtual humans (VHs) integrated into a real (physical) space. However, affordances of the real world and virtual contents might conflict, for example, when the VHs and real objects “collide” by occupying the same space. This implausible conflict can cause a break in presence in real–virtual human interactions. In this paper, we address an effort to avoid this conflict by maintaining the VH’s spatial and behavioral coherence with respect to the physical objects or events (e.g., natural occlusions and appropriate help-requesting behaviors to avoid implausible physical–virtual collisions). We present a human subject experiment examining the effects of the physical–virtual coherence on human perceptions, such as social/copresence and behaviors with the VH. The basic ideas, experimental design, and result supporting the benefit of the VH’s spatial and behavioral coherence are presented and discussed of virtual humans(VH) enlisting help from real humans(RH). The experiment used augmented reality(AR) to display a VH who was in a wheelchair. VH would ask a real human to move a physical chair out of the way.

Kim, K., Maloney, D., Bruder, G., Bailenson, J. N., & Welch, G. F. (2017). The effects of virtual human's spatial and behavioral coherence with physical objects on social presence in AR. Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds, 28(3-4), e1771. [paper]

Kim, K., Bruder, G., Maloney, D., & Welch, G. (2016, October). The Influence of Real Human Personality on Social Presence with a Virtual Human in Augmented Reality. In ICAT-EGVE (pp. 115-122). [paper]

**Full Paper**

Highlights:

  • Virtual Humans will soon be integrated into our everyday lives
  • Plausible interactions with virtual humans increases your social presence (e.g., feelings of connectedness with them)
ICAT'16 & CASA'17
Vection in VR

The summer of 2015, I had the pleasure being mentored by Dr. Bobby Bodenheimer at Vanderbilt University in the Learning in Virtual Environments lab. My task was to create a real world simulation of vection (the illusion of movement). I built the simulation using sketchup, vizard, and Unity. Proud to say our work was published in IEEE VR 2016. Images of the simulation can be found below.


Vection is the illusion of self-motion, usually induced by a visual stimulus. It is important in virtual reality because inducing it in motion simulations can lead to improved experiences. We examine linear and circular vection in commodity level head-mounted displays. We compare the experience of circular vection induced through a real-world stimulus, an optokinetic drum, with that experienced through a virtual stimulus. With virtual stimuli, we also compare circular vection with linear horizontal and linear vertical vection. Finally, we examine circular and linear vection in more naturalistic virtual environments. Linear vection was induced more rapidly than any other type, but circular vection occurs more rapidly with a real-world stimulus than a virtual one. Our results have practical application and can inform virtual reality design that uses head-mounted display technology and wishes to establish vection. Circular vection can be induced easily and rapidly through visual mechanisms. We have an optokinetic drum that is capable of inducing compelling circular vection that works in almost all people we have tested in it. The goal of this project is thus twofold: (1) to see how well and how reliably vection can be induced in virtual reality with commodity-level HMDs as compared to real-world stimuli, and (2) to see if compelling vection could be comparably induced when the stimuli are complex naturalistic scenes, not abstract optic flow patterns.

Bodenheimer, B., Wang, Y.,
Maloney, D., & Rieser, J. (2016, March). Induction of linear and circular vection in real and virtual worlds. In Virtual Reality (VR), 2016 IEEE (pp. 153-154). IEEE [paper]

**Poster**

Highlights:

  • Vection is the illusion of movement
  • We were able to induce that in VR through realistic and unrealistic worlds
IEEEVR 2016

I am passionate about working on projects encompassing social good