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The Alternate Realities Summit (previously The Crossover Summit) will be taking place at Sheffield Doc/Fest on Sunday 12 June 2016.

Join us for a day of intriguing panels and playful presentations from the leading voices in interactive factual storytelling and virtual reality. Bringing together experts from documentary film and broadcast, theatre, journalism, engineering and neuroscience to explore the impact of artificial intelligence with our first android keynote speaker, Bina48; to discuss advances in virtual reality journalism, to demonstrate cutting-edge binaural sound techniques and more. Whether you're a digital native or completely new to interactive storytelling, you can be sure you will leave informed, agitated and aroused. 

We kick off the Summit morning session 'Robots, Androids and Avatars Live' with a series of keynotes and practical demonstrations from intelligent machines and their human companions: social robot Bina48 debates love, war and the universe with Ramona Pringle, Dr Stephen Smith presents virtual Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter, who answers all your questions about his experience in real-time, NAO gives us a brief history of robots and iCub helps us to see beyond our own eyes with telepresence experiments.

Back by popular demand, our VRfternoon sessions explore the impact of virtual reality on factual storytelling. Google's very own Principal Filmmaker for VR, Jessica Brillhart kicking off post-lunch proceedings, with her latest insights from the frontline of VR making. We will be delving into the advantages and potential pitfalls of binaural sound, investigating how journalism works in virtual reality, sharing what the VR community can learn from immersive theatre, analysing whether virtual reality can increase our empathy levels, as well as launching a new VR film from the United Nations.

Read on for details of each session...


Love, War & Robots: (Wo)man and Machine, in Conversation
Sun 12 June / 10:05 – 10:50 / Crucible Studio

The concept of intelligent machines is no longer science fiction, it is a reality – but whose values and lifestyles are influencing the design of this new species? Join Ramona Pringle, Director of the Love, War + Robots project, in conversation with our first android keynote speaker, Bina48, as they discuss love, war and identity. Followed by Q&A with Bruce Duncan, Director of the Terasem Movement Foundation.

Science Fiction Prototyping: ArtificiaI Intelligence and Storytelling
Sun 12 June / 10:55 – 11:40 / Crucible Studio

Sheffield Robotics demonstrate the importance of intelligent machines in the future of storytelling. Covering telepresence, embodiment, and the increasing social and economic influence of AI, we will discover how human content creators will be working with sentient machines to take documentary to the next level. Featuring live demonstrations from their robot friends.

New Dimensions in Testimony
Sun 12 June / 11:45 – 12:30 / Crucible Studio

Dr Stephen Smith’s keynote talk will showcase New Dimensions in Testimony; ground-breaking natural language software that allows audiences to have a “virtual encounter” with the recorded image of Holocaust survivor, Pinchas Gutter, who responds in real time, powered by complex algorithms providing realistic conversation. Dr Smith shows how he and his team compile the complex audio and visual data for this project, which will transform storytelling and archives of the future. 


The Future of Virtual Reality
Sun 12 June / 13:30 – 13:55 / Crucible Studio

Jessica Brillhart, Principal Filmmaker for VR at Google, is at the forefront of developing in our understanding of the potential of virtual reality. Her blogs are used as a manual by emerging VR producers. As a film enthusiast with a passion for technology, she will share her insights from the frontline of VR production.

360 Sound for a 360 Experience: Dynamic Binaural Audio in VR
Sun 12 June / 14:00 – 14:30 / Crucible Studio

Audio engineers demonstrate how cutting-edge spatial audio is being used to create richer and more immersive VR experiences. From the challenges of recording in the wild to the complexities of marrying 360 sound with 360 visuals, learn from the experts about the role of sound in VR storytelling and how to start designing dynamic binaural audio for your next project.

VR & Journalism: Opportunities and Challenges
Sun 12 June / 14:35 – 15:15 / Crucible Studio 

Virtual reality transports you to other places, allows you to witness the conditions people live in and see the world through their eyes. But how authentic is it when 360 filming requires shots to be carefully staged? What is VR journalism good for? How will it change our newsrooms? A range of journalists from press and broadcast discuss the ethics, audience and business of VR journalism.

Session producer:  Hugo Ward, The Economist

United Nations VR Film Launch
Sun 12 June / 15:20 – 15:50 / Crucible Studio 

The UN has pioneered the use of virtual reality to raise awareness of global issues. Join our mass viewing of their latest VR film, about gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where factions fight over the country’s mineral resources. After the viewing, director Gabo Arora will be interviewed by Francine Stock of BBC Radio 4’s The Film Programme. In partnership with Brink Institute.

VR: The Machine to Make us More Human?
Sun 12 June / 15:55 – 16:40 / Crucible Studio

Bringing together research in neuroscience and academia, and using data collected from The Empathy Station project, our speakers interrogate the idea of VR as the ‘ultimate empathy machine’. How can we define the differences between empathy and immersion? Is VR an opportunity for 'embodied' relating across cultural, social and political difference? Can the effects of ‘generated’ empathy be measured and mobilised to create meaningful real world change? In partnership with British Council Film.

All the World’s a Stage
Sun 12 June / 16:45 – 17:25 / Crucible Studio

When you don a VR headset, you are in the middle of the action. No longer a passive spectator, you’re onstage with the actors. You can look around, move around, even interact. Creating VR is more like staging theatre than shooting film. Four VR producers with a background in theatre discuss what we can learn from producing drama when making VR

Interactive Theatre, Technology & Empathy & In My Shoes: Waking in Slough
Sun 12 June / 17:30 – 18:00 / Crucible Studio

Jane Gauntlett talks about the In My Shoes project and her mission to describe the indescribable and empathise with the inexplicable. Jane’s work recreates true stories as theatrical experiences that straddle the intersection of empathy, performance, multisensory immersion, documentary, and technology. This talk will include a performance of the first In My Shoes piece that she made: Waking in Slough.

An Alternate Realities Summit pass includes entry to our special Alternate Realities event A Night of Surveillance: The Supernerds Experience, beginning at 20:00 in the Crucible Studio.