September 16, 2020

Request for proposals on social experiences in VR environments

Deadline October 29, 2020
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About

Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) is pleased to invite university faculty to respond to this call for research proposals on exploring unique challenges, opportunities, and other considerations in the emerging space of social VR.

Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) have the potential to change the way we work, learn, and connect with each other. However, many elements of the technology needed to build this future do not exist yet — and neither do many of the norms around their responsible development and use. At FRL, we are building the next computing platform centered around people and are committed to driving this innovation forward in a responsible, privacy-centric way. This is why we’ve crafted a set of principles for Responsible Innovation to guide our work at FRL and help ensure we build products that are designed with privacy, safety, and security at the forefront.

Facebook is soliciting proposals to help accelerate research that targets our third Responsible Innovation Principle, “Consider Everyone” (see Areas of Interest).

Existing research has focused on how 2D social platforms identify the challenges posed to users when interacting online. These include gaming addiction, online harassment, cyberbullying, physical isolation, and more. Today, 3D social platforms, taking place in VR, are growing in number and scale. Given its nascency, however, there are significant research gaps in understanding user interaction and user safety in these social VR experiences, as well as how these experiences impact users, especially teens.

Recently launched in invite-only beta for users in the U.S. and Canada, Facebook Horizon is a social experience where users can explore, play, and create with others in VR. As FRL continues to develop its newest social VR platform, we are committed to building with this principle in mind and empowering users to become stewards of respectful product use. This means creating engaging virtual experiences that not only facilitate positive connections between users, but also ensure that our products are inclusive of our diverse community.

Facebook is therefore soliciting proposals to help accelerate research in social VR with the hope of fostering open, welcoming, and safer virtual worlds. There are fairly robust research fields in traditional 2D social platforms, and we hope to drive similar progress in the fields of 3D and virtual reality social interaction. We anticipate awarding a total of five awards of up to $75,000 USD each. Payment will be made to the proposer’s host university in the form of a grant awarded by a third-party donor-advised fund, per the Terms & Conditions set forth below.

We strongly encourage researchers from diverse backgrounds and of diverse abilities to apply.

Applications are now open

Application Dates

  • Launch Date September 16, 2020
  • Deadline October 29, 2020, 5:00 p.m. AOE
  • Winners Announced Week of November 30, 2020

Areas of Interest

Our third Responsible Innovation Principle, “Consider Everyone,” reads as follows:

In a world where augmented and virtual reality technology might someday be ubiquitous, it’s critical that we consider everyone who comes into contact with our products. We build products that are inclusive of our diverse community and design hardware that isn’t one-size-fits all. Just like when the camera was invented and society established norms around when it was appropriate to take photos, we also need to consider people who aren’t using our products, such as by adding indicators when cameras are in use. We know we can’t do this alone, so we conduct user research and work with in-house and external experts.

Within the ecosystem of social VR, we are specifically interested in a set of topics relating to understanding user experience in 3D immersive social environments. Examples might include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. How does social VR contribute to social connection?

  • As with any form of interactive platform, virtual reality can help us better understand user behaviors and psychology. Facebook is interested in learning how immersive 3D VR experiences can help us better understand topics related to social connection, interaction and interpersonal relationships (virtual and real).
  • Social networks and groups are fundamental forums for interaction on these platforms. We are interested in how groups and communities arise, operate, and facilitate interaction in social VR environments.

2. What lessons in social interaction, social psychology and experience have we learned from 2D social platforms that apply to 3D immersive environments?

  • Despite immersive social platforms being relatively new to society, there are countless lessons that we can take from research on 2D social platforms that have been in existence for decades.Facebook is interested in discovering how research areas like social interaction, social anxiety and online harassment from a 2D lens can be applied to further understand experiences in 3D social VR environments.

3. How can we ensure user safety for teens in social VR environments?

  • Facebook is interested in how immersive social VR experiences affect teens (ages 13-18) in particular. Further, Facebook seeks to understand how social VR platforms can mitigate threats such as online addiction, online harassment, cyberbullying, and other safety concerns for younger users.

Researchers are encouraged to propose additional topics relevant to the theme of social interactions and social user experiences in VR environments. We strongly encourage researchers from diverse backgrounds and of diverse abilities to apply.

Requirements

Proposals should include

  • A summary of the project (1-2 pages) explaining the area of focus, a description of techniques, any relevant prior work, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes.
  • Clear and concise statement of the scientific contribution and routes to eventual deployment.
  • A draft budget description (1 page) including an approximate cost of the award and explanation of how funds would be spent.
  • Names of the researcher(s) involved in the proposed work with their CV/resume or links to Google Scholar pages.
  • Timing and dates.
  • Indication of any previous or current connections/collaborations with Facebook (in which case please name any Facebook contacts).

Eligibility

  • Proposals must comply with applicable US and international laws, regulations and policies.
  • Applicants must be current full-time faculty at an accredited academic institution that awards research degrees to PhD students.
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator on any resulting award.
  • Facebook cannot consider proposals submitted, prepared or to be carried out by individuals residing in, or affiliated with an academic institution located in, a country or territory subject to comprehensive U.S. trade sanctions.
  • Government officials (excluding faculty and staff of public universities, to the extent they may be considered government officials), political figures, and politically affiliated businesses (all as determined by Facebook in its sole discretion) are not eligible.

Terms & Conditions

Please read these terms carefully before proceeding.

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to Facebook RFP solicitations, including whether or not to grant an award and the interpretation of Facebook RFP Terms and Conditions. By submitting a proposal, applicants affirm that they have read and agree to these terms and conditions.

  • Facebook has partnered with Charities Aid Foundation America (“CAF America”) to administer awards under this RFP through a Donor Advised Fund. Under this arrangement, awards recommended by Facebook will be subject to review and approval by CAF America’s Board of Directors. Facebook’s recommendations are based on criteria determined by Facebook. Awards approved by CAF America will be subject to the terms and conditions contained in CAF America’s grant agreement. Applicants understand and acknowledge that they will need to agree to such additional terms and conditions to receive an award.
  • Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to Facebook RFP solicitations, including whether or not to recommend an award, and the interpretation of Facebook RFP Terms and Conditions. By submitting a proposal, applicants affirm that they have read and agree to these Terms and Conditions.
  • Facebook is authorized to evaluate proposals submitted under this RFP, to consult with outside experts, as needed, in evaluating proposals, and to recommend awards be made by CAF America using criteria determined by Facebook to be appropriate and at Facebook’s sole discretion. Facebook’s recommendations will be final in all matters relating to its RFPs, and applicants agree not to challenge any such decisions. All grants awarded by CAF America are made in CAF America’s sole and independent discretion and governed by CAF America’s grant agreement.
  • Facebook will not be required to treat any part of a proposal as confidential or protected by copyright, and may use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce and distribute all or a portion of the proposal in any manner for the sole purposes of administering the Facebook RFP website and evaluating the contents of the proposal. Facebook may also provide proposals submitted under this RFP to CAF America for review and evaluation.
  • Personal data submitted with a proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the applicant and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Facebook for the purposes of administering Facebook’s RFP website, evaluating the contents of the proposal, and as otherwise provided under Facebook’s Privacy Policy. Such personal data may also be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by CAF America for the purposes of evaluating the contents of the proposal and determining whether or not to approve an award recommended by Facebook.
  • Neither Facebook nor the applicant is obligated to enter into a business transaction as a result of the proposal submission. Facebook is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal.
  • Feedback provided in a proposal regarding Facebook products or services will not be treated as confidential or protected by copyright, and Facebook is free to use such feedback on an unrestricted basis with no compensation to the applicant. The submission of a proposal will not result in the transfer of ownership of any IP rights.
  • Applicants represent and warrant that they have authority to submit a proposal in connection with a Facebook RFP and to grant the rights set forth herein on behalf of their organization. All awards provided by CAF America in connection with this RFP shall be used only in accordance with applicable laws and shall not be used in any way, directly or indirectly, to facilitate any act that would constitute bribery or an illegal kickback, an illegal campaign contribution, or would otherwise violate any applicable anti-corruption or political activities law.
  • Any disputes arising from CAF America’s grant of an award are also subject to the grant agreement signed by the applicant with CAF America. In the event that any condition of the grant agreement conflicts with these terms and conditions, the conditions of the grant agreement will supersede these terms and conditions.

For questions related to this RFP, please email Kelly Forbes Marshall at kellymarshall@fb.com.