David Roberts is a Professor of Telepresence at the University of Salford. He has a joint appoint across the schools of Health Science and Computer Science and Engineering. The reason for this joint appointment is to bring together research in both schools within a focus of Virtual Reality and Mental Health. David has above 100 academic publications, mostly in the area of shared simulation, primarily where sharing takes place across a distance. His current research focusses on non-verbal communication with virtual characters and avatars in mental health applications. His previous research has been closing the gap between Non-verbal communication (NVC) in the real and virtual world for 20 years. His potential relevance to robotics is in contributing to development and understanding of non-verbal interactions between humans and robots.
His work has contributed to an understanding of the technological conditions necessary for virtual reality collaborations to be effective. What differentiates David’s work is the emphasis on faithfully communicating as many non-verbal resources as possible. For example, he has developed novel VR displays and mediums that together allow faithful communication of attention and appearance while people move around the tele-shared simulations. These simulations allow two or more people who are not co-located to physically walk around a shared artefact or within a shared room, exchanging glances and seeing what the other is looking at, and what their body language and facial expression give away, importantly all without invading personal space. David is joint PI on the current EU project CROSSDRIVE, which uses his technology to allow scientists, engineers and operators to stand together on a ‘virtual Mars’, to decide where the Rover should land and go. He led the EPSRC-funded multi-partner project ‘Eyecatching’, which developed support for mutual gaze between distal moving people. This system was extended by his EPSRC-sponsored PhD students through incorporation of 3D video-based avatars, technology which underpins CROSSDRIVE. David was General or Program Chair of IEEE/ACM Distributed Simulation and Real Time applications for 6 consecutive years up to 2011. He has also been Co-program chair of ICAT/EGG. He regularly reviews for research councils including EPSRC, ESRC. His recent frequent journal reviewing includes IEEE TVGC.