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Dr. Marco Scirea is an Associate Professor at the SDU Metaverse Lab and is revolutionizing how we experience music in virtual environments through the lens of artificial intelligence and procedural content generation.

Today, virtual reality forms the basis for entertainment, education, and therapy for billions of people globally. Music plays a central role in our engagement with virtual worlds, and the efficiency of educational or therapeutic virtual environments.

Given the worldwide lack of resources for education and therapy the use of VR becomes vital. Through AI-driven procedural content generation, virtual environments can adapt to individual users, ensuring that mental healthcare is available to everyone in the future.

AI is the way to human technology

As an award-winning scientist, Dr. Scirea’s research focuses on utilizing artificial intelligence to create music and audio that changes dynamically based on both the actions of the individual and their emotional state.

This work is a necessity beyond merely making virtual worlds more engaging. Dr. Scirea seeks to improve the performance of virtual environments by redefining how we use audio. Hearing is key in how we experience the world yet, despite this, the use of audio in our interaction with design is underdeveloped at best.

Dr. Scirea’s work is fundamentally pushing the boundaries of how we interact with technology: Imagine playing a video game where the music changes based on your actions, or undergoing therapy in a controlled, yet dynamic environment tailored to your emotional state.

The potential for education software is substantial, with audio and content that changes based on the engagement level of a student. Dr. Scirea’s work creates the foundations for these future innovations.

Mental health care in VR

An example of the possibilities inherent in procedural content generation is VRaid. This multi-site research project has redefined the treatment of social anxiety, a very common disorder globally.

Today, the preferred therapy is exposure therapy, but this requires both patient and therapist to be in real-world situations that are uncontrollable and potentially dangerous. These setups are also not adaptable to the individual patients’ emotional landscape.

VRaid solves these problems by moving the therapy session into an individually tailored virtual reality. The data-driven model of anxiety, that Dr. Scirea has developed, additionally gives back control to the therapists by providing crucial insight into how each patient is feeling during remote therapy sessions.

AI-powered adaptive music

Another example is MetaCompose, which solves the problem of repetition in the music of virtual environments, such as video games. MetaCompose uses AI to generate adaptive and unique music that not only responds to the narrative in-game, but also to the player’s emotions and actions.

Dr. Scirea uses his expertise in procedural content generation and AI to pursue his goal of making technology more human. His work is a stepping stone towards a world where technology adapts to its users, not the other way around.

Dr. Scirea hails from Italy, moving do Denmark for his PhD. He teaches AI and game programming at the Game Development and Learning Technologies programme with the goal of inspiring a new generation of programmers to take virtual worlds to the next level.

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