UIST 2019 Online Experience

As part of our long term goal to increase the Sustainability and Accessibility of the conference, UIST 2019 will be providing a number of online experiences for both local attendees and those who cannot attend. These activities are part of an experiment we are doing to understand how future conferences might add meaningful remote experiences for people who can’t attend the conference.

We will be live streaming video of the UIST technical paper sessions and keynotes, hosting social VR spaces for remote co-watching of these streams, and providing an online chat service for all participants (local and remote). Remote participants may choose to watch the live streams by themselves, or as part of shared virtual 3D rooms with other remote participants.

Online Social Virtual Spaces

We will use Mozilla’s Hubs social VR platform to host a collection of virtual rooms for people who cannot physically attend the conference. Participants can join the Hubs rooms from any web browser, using 2D screens or immersive VR displays (for more information on hubs, visit https://hubs.mozilla.com).

These rooms will include spaces to co-watch the conference video streams in small groups, and a virtual poster session running synchronously with the live poster session at UIST. Anyone may join other remote viewers in the shared 3D spaces, discuss the talks and posters and meet other remote attendees.

Our goal is to increase access to the conference for remote participants who would otherwise be unable to attend due to mobility impairments, chronic health issues, temporary travel limitations, or a choice to reduce their impact on the environment due to carbon emissions from long distance travel.

Participants access the Hubs rooms through the Discord chat server we have set up (see below). Because we are running this as an experiment, we will require all participants (local and remote) to fill out a registration form (acknowledging they understand this is part of a study) to gain access to the Discord server. To gain access to the Discord server, you will need a Discord account (visit https://discordapp.com to create one if you do not have one). NOTE: unlike Slack, which uses a separate account for each server, Discord uses a single account that you use to join any number of servers. You can change your nickname per server, but only have one account.

To register and gain access to the Hubs rooms and Discord chat server, make sure you have signed up for a Discord account, and follow the appropriate link:

Local Messaging and Chat

We have set up a server using the popular social chat application Discord that both local and remote UIST participants can use to chat with each other and the conference staff. Discord is a chat application similar to Slack, originally created for the gaming community. We chose Discord because Mozilla offers a binding to Hubs that will allow us to manage the Hubs rooms.

This service can be used by local conference attendees to chat with each other, but also serves as the entry point for the shared remote experience. To gain access, register using the links above, even if you do not wish to participate in the Hubs remote experience.

Video Streaming

The conference will stream video of the majority of the technical paper presentations and keynotes on Twitch. We are using these streams in the social experience above, but you may also watch them directly, using these direct Twitch URLs.

Answers to Common Questions

1. I am attending UIST, and would like to use the Discord chat service to chat with other local attendees. Can I get access without registering above?

Unfortunately, no. The Discord server for UIST is not a public server, so we require a registration step to obtain the URL to join. In addition, since we are doing an observational study of this setup for remote participation, we would like everyone with access to the server to acknowledge that they understand this is happening during registration.

2. Do I need a VR headset to join the VR social space?

No. Hubs runs in any web browser. On 2D displays, you use the mouse and keyboard to move around. In VR, you use relatively common VR movement controls, a combination of teleporting and moving with the wand controls.

3. I’ve never used Hubs or any 3D virtual world. Will this be hard to use?

We have created a tutorial room to help people with all levels of experience get comfortable with Hubs. We will also be happy to answer questions, and help you learn how to use the environment effectively.

If you visit hubs.mozilla.com, you can also create a room and experiment on your own to learn the controls and see what’s possible. The Hubs Wiki has overviews of the controls and capabilities of hubs, how to use it on desktops or in VR, and other tips on making the Hubs experience enjoyable.

4. I’ve joined the Discord server. How do I get access to the Hubs channels?

We would like all remote attendees to go through a short tutorial so they become familiar with how to use the Hubs controls. After finishing the tutorial you will receive a command that you can type into the Discord channel to get access to all the remote channels. If you are in a hurry, you can skip the tutorial by typing !quickenter into the chat. Our Discord bot will send you a message with some quick tips on how to navigate in Hubs. You can also find more information in the #readme channel.

5. I’d like to see what remote people are chatting about and possibly join in the discussions. Can I get access to the remote channels as a local attendee?

Yes, we offer you the opportunity to connect and chat with remote participants. If you wish to do so please type !remoteenter into the Discord channel to get access to the channels associated with the Hubs rooms used by the remote participants. Keep in mind that we strongly recommend that you do not try to access the Hubs rooms from the conference WiFi due to bandwidth limitations on site.

6. Where can I find the Hubs links?

The links can be found in the title of the remote Discord channels. If you are using discord on a narrow screen, and can’t see the URL in the channel title bar, we will also pin the URL as a “pinned message”. You can also scroll up to the last Hubs URL in the channel, and use that link.

7. Why are there multiple channels and virtual spaces for each of the two video streams (from North Ballroom and South Ballroom)?

The number of people in a single Hubs room is limited for two reasons. At a practical level, the more people that are in a room, the more powerful a machine is needed to handle the network traffic from voice and data streams, and to render all the avatars in real time. So, each room is limited to 25 participants. But, even if we could handle more people in one room, the social spaces become visually cluttered, harder to navigate, and loud when many people are present. One of the advantages of online social video co-watching is that you can chat with others nearby, and spread out so you don’t disturb others. This becomes harder the more people are in a room.

8. The room I would like to watch the videos in is full (or all rooms are full), can I still watch with others?

When you follow the link to a Hubs room, you are placed in a lobby before you can enter the room. The view from the lobby should let you watch the screen and hear the activity in the room, and while in the lobby you can type messages that will be seen by others in the room. Any number of people can watch from the lobby, so if your preferred room is full, you may still watch from that room’s lobby (and chat with people in that room).

9. What are the rules? Can I talk with others? Use hubs features like dropping in media or drawing in the space?

In line with the UIST Code of Conduct, you should not do things that negatively affects other people’s experience. If you would like to chat with others, please be aware that your audio can be heard by all members of the room, but does fall off over distance. We have made the rooms big so that you can move away from others if you want to chat.

One powerful feature of Hubs is that many things with a public URL (images, videos, 3D models, pdf’s) can be brought into the room by pasting the URL in it. If there are related bits of content, such as PDFs, images or videos of the work being presented, you can drop those in the room to share them. But, again, please consider the impact on others. Any content dropped in the room will be visible to everyone, and need to be loaded and rendered in everyone’s 3D room. If you play a video, everyone will see and hear it.

Purposely adding content to the rooms to disrupt the experience for others will be considered a Code of Conduct violation.

10. If someone is engaging in behavior that I feel violates the Code of Conduct, how can I report it?

You may report inappropriate behavior in a variety of ways. We will have volunteers watching the Discord server for messages, so you can type a public message and mention @admin or @moderator to make sure we see it (even something like “Can a @moderator please contact me”), send a direct message to one of the people with Moderator, Admin or Support roles that are online and listed in the Discord sidebar, or email remoteexperience@uist.com.

If you are attending UIST and see behavior on the Discord chat that you feel is inappropriate, you may also talk to someone locally. The student volunteers or any committee member should be able to help you.