Following are examples of current and proposed research projects by faculty affiliates of the IVECG:

  • Walt Scacchi mentored a team of two high school student researchers in their comparative study and playtesting of 26 different science learning games during Summer 2014. The results from this study has been published in a Technical Report under the title, Making Learning Fun: An Analysis of Game Design in Science Learning Games, in October 2014.
  • Andrea Nicholas and Walt Scacchi have launched a new research effort focusing on reinventing undergraduate neuroscience education through the development and use of serious games. Initial emphasis is focusing on how to supplement large enrollment laboratory courses through a collection of multi-level neuroscience problem-solving games that support different modes of scientific reasoning and experimentation.
  • Steve Cramer, (PI) and Co-Investigators Mark Bachman, David Reinkensmeyer and Walt Scacchi have received a grant from the National Institute for Health to investigate how best to employ specially designed passive/active user interface devices in facilitating the recovery of upper body motor control by stroke patients using a game-based telerehabilitation environment. One goal of the project is to determine the scalability of the environment to support stroke patients in geographically dispersed locations like at their home, rather than requiring them to routinely visit a clinical therapy facility.
  • Tom Boellstorff (Anthropology) and Bonnie Nardi (Informatics) propose studying how persons with disabilities understand embodiment as avatars in virtual environments. Based upon a range of ethnographic methods including participant observation and individual and group interviews both online and offline, they will explore how experiences of movement, self-presentation and self-efficacy shape how disabled persons perceive themselves (and are perceived by others) as “disabled” when their avatar bodies are fully “able” in a virtual environment. They will examine differences between physical and psychological disabilities as well as temporary and lifelong disabilities. They also will examine the role of support groups and informal community among disabled persons in virtual environments. They will be open to the possibility of new kinds of disability that emerge in the context of virtual environments themselves (like a difficulty in typing on a keyboard that might carry great significance in online interaction). Finally, they will examine in what contexts persons with disabilities choose to reveal their disability to others online.
  • Over the past decade, observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background together with modern theoretical insights have provided for the first time an accurate statistical accounting of the initial conditions for structure formation in the universe. One of the most profound goals in astrophysics is to understand how galaxies evolved into the rich variety of objects that we see linking the cosmic web today. Though the fundamental physical laws that govern these processes are reasonably well understood, the evolution of universal structure is inherently non-linear and sufficiently complex that theoretical understanding is largely driven by the development and analysis of large numerical simulations. These simulations involve tens of millions of particles and solve the equations governing the evolution of dark matter, gas and stars in volumes that span millions of light years within an expanding universe. James Bullock (Physics and Astronomy) and Crista Lopes (Computer Science) are working together to use simulations of this kind in order to answer some of the deepest problems in galaxy formation: What explains the rich variety of galaxy types we see in the universe? How do galaxies acquire their fuel to form stars? What allows galaxies to keep forming stars for billions of years without exhausting their gas supply for fuel? As simulation output files become larger, the analysis of the data itself becomes a limiting factor in research results. Some specific problems of interest include developing connections between the observable universe (e.g., cold gas, luminous stars, hot plasmas, heavy elements) and the underlying matter that is more difficult to observe (e.g., warm gas and dark matter). Visualization techniques would inform the development of new statistics for quantitative comparisons between theory and data.
  • Magda El Zarki (Computer Science) and Patricia Seed (History) are developing an educational game that will introduce students at many levels to the immense diversity of African peoples and their interactions between 1400 and 1700. In teaching the history of the slave trade and the arrival of Africans to American shores, nearly all of the scholarship has focused upon the journey across the Atlantic and the dreadful fate that awaited the slaves once they reached the other side of the Atlantic. However, the people who were transported across the Atlantic were born into distinct societies, cultures, families and customs that had endured for decades and sometimes centuries. That part of the story — the immense diversity of the lives of Africans before they were seized and before they traversed the Atlantic — remains untold not only in our educational system in California but throughout the United States.