Publishing Conference Paper – A valuable experience

post by Keerthy Kusumam (2017 cohort)

I published my conference paper, ”Unsupervised face manipulation via hallucination” in the International Conference on Pattern Recognition. The paper focused on a generative computer vision method to alter the pose and expression of a facial image in an unsupervised manner. I spent several months conducting experiments, analyzing the results, and discussing our findings. I received valuable feedback from my supervisors, which helped us to improve the quality of our work.

After the initial submission, I received comments from reviewers who provided suggestions for revisions. I took these comments into consideration and worked hard to make the necessary changes. This process was challenging as well as rewarding in the end. The paper was accepted to be presented as an oral presentation at the conference. The reception of our paper was quite positive and received several questions and comments from attendees. This was a valuable opportunity for me to network and receive feedback.

The motivation behind writing my conference paper was to explore the current state of face manipulation technology and to identify potential future directions for research in this area. As a 2nd year PhD student, I wanted to demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of the field, as well as contribute to the use of generative AI in face manipulation tasks. My main objective was to present a comprehensive overview of the current state of the field and to identify areas that could benefit from further research, especially behavioural monitoring in affective computing. In these areas, data is limited, and the use of generative AI can synthesize realistic data for further analysis.

I approached the research process by first conducting a thorough literature review to understand the current state of face manipulation technology and to identify gaps in the current research. I then used various research methods, such as conducting interviews with experts in the field and collecting data from various sources, such as academic journals, conference proceedings, and online forums. I also conducted experiments to validate some of my findings.

My key findings showed that the field of face manipulation is rapidly advancing and that there are many promising areas for future research. I discovered that there are various technical and ethical challenges that must be addressed to ensure that face manipulation technology is used responsibly. These findings impacted my original objectives by reinforcing the need for further research in this area and by highlighting the importance of responsible development and use of face manipulation technology.

I presented my research in the conference paper using a clear and concise writing style, and by using various visual aids, such as diagrams, graphs, and tables, to help illustrate my points. I also used a logical structure, with clear introductions, conclusions, and recommendations, to ensure that my ideas were easily understood by the conference audience. I also made sure to clearly state my findings and to provide context for each of the points I was making. The contributions were accompanied by experimental evidence.

One of the main challenges I faced while writing the conference paper was ensuring that my research was comprehensive and up-to-date. To overcome this, I made sure to regularly consult with my supervisors and to gather feedback from my peers. I also took the time to review relevant literature and to stay informed about the latest developments in the field.

As a result of writing the conference paper, my understanding of the topic of generative computer vision methods has deepened, and I have gained a better appreciation for the complex and rapidly evolving nature of this field. I have also gained a deeper understanding of the technical and ethical challenges that must be addressed to ensure responsible development and use of face manipulation technology.

The feedback I received from the conference audience was quite positive. Many attendees commented on the comprehensiveness of the research. Some attendees suggested areas for further research, which I have since incorporated into my future plans, especially in using this method to anonymize face datasets.

Overall, my conference paper on unsupervised face manipulation via hallucination was a valuable experience that allowed me to contribute to the field of generative computer vision and gain valuable insights into the complex nature of this field. The research process allowed me to deepen my understanding of the technical and ethical challenges that must be addressed in order to ensure responsible development and use of face manipulation technology.

Paper reflection – Articulating Soma Experiences using Trajectories

post by Feng Zhou (2017 cohort)

Somaesthetics combines the term ‘soma’ with ‘aesthetics’. The concept of ‘soma’ is predicated on the interconnectedness of mind, body, emotion and social engagement, considering all to be inseparable aspects that together form an embodied, holistic subjectivity. Aesthetics here refers to the ways in which we perceive and interact with the world around us. Somaesthetics is a widely used methodology for user study, which plays a significant role in my PhD research. Researchers who have focused on the research of Somaesthetics for many years and have published a number of prominent papers from the Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm visited the Mixed Reality Lab (MRL) of the University of Nottingham (where I am based) and collaborated with researchers here to run workshops on Somaesthetics. It was an excellent chance for me to learn Somaesthetics deeply through the workshop and explore the application of this methodology to my research.

Researchers were split into four groups to explore different applications. The group I was involved in was to explore the boundaries between humans and technology. The skin is traditionally seen as being a critical boundary of the body and one way of defining the bodily self. We can see, i.e. perceive with our eyes, our “external”, fleshy body – our moving limbs and parts, and our skin as the boundary between our “external” and “internal” body –our organs, cells, muscles etc., – which we cannot see, but instead feel or imagine. However, the boundary may be considered malleable. Take the example of a prosthesis – is this a part of our body or a separate piece of technology?

We attached cloth straps to the dancer’s calf and thigh so other members of the team could control them. Participants had to imagine a limb that had a ‘mind of its own’ – an exploration of dance where a part of one’s body was separated from control. The dance experience became one of negotiating control with one’s own body. This could serve as a conceptual stand-in for novice kinaesthetic skills where one’s body is unable to do what is asked – perhaps lacking the range of motion needed. But this was beyond being simply unable to perform the controlled limb; it actually became a separate performer in its own right, creating an intriguing partnership with a part of one’s own body, and encouraging the dancer to question the boundaries of their body and soma.

As we began to dance, our bodies behaved as we expected and we were unfettered. As our group began to take control of our limbs, we lost some agency over our bodies. The external influence started to exert itself in such a way that it restrained us, or actively pulled us. We were no longer ‘at one’ with our own bodies – rather those who controlled our limbs shared control with us. Over time as we learned how to work together, that action could even be considered a part of us (at least as far as the experience goes). It should be noted that the group members pulling on the straps were a stand-in for a ‘disobedient’ prosthesis – so the notion of it becoming part of us, or perhaps beginning as part of us, separating from us and returning might be more tightly aligned to our own body than the group experience – nevertheless the group does have access and licence to control our limbs.

This workshop was one of the user studies to support our final paper. Questioning the boundaries between humans and technology also invites reflection on the boundary between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’: separated by the skin, breathing in and out, ingesting and excreting. Thinking through these boundaries allows designers to redefine them, and thus challenge not only where the soma begins and where it ends, but also where the boundaries of experience lie. This turned out to significantly support my user workshop with disabled dancers to personalise their prostheses.

My job for the final paper was mainly to describe the activity I was involved in during the workshop. This was a precious experience to learn to write a paper collaboratively with many authors. Our final paper has 14 authors from the Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm and Mixed Reality Lab. Each of us wrote a specific part of the paper on Overleaf. We also have regular meetings to discuss writing up issues. This was also the time l started to learn Latex, which helped a lot in my left writing up on papers and thesis.