Workshops and Tutorials

Spatial Cognition 2018 Symposium, Tutorial, and Workshops

One symposium, one tutorial, and four workshops will be held on September 5th 2018.

Morning Sessions:

  1. Spatial Cognition and Artificial Intelligence (Workshop)
  2. Spatial Navigation Interfaces for Immersive Environments (Tutorial)
  3. Connecting Spatial Visualization Skills and STEM (Symposium)

Afternoon Sessions:

  1. Models and Representations in Spatial Cognition (Workshop)
  2. Virtual environments as geo/spatial labs (Workshop)
  3. Teaching Spatial Thinking using Online and Blended Learning (Workshop)


  1. Spatial Cognition and Artificial Intelligence (SC&AI) 2018 (Morning Workshop)

The 1st International Workshop on Spatial Cognition and AI (SC&AI) will be the inaugural meeting of the synonymous Working Group (aimed to be) established as part of TC12, the International Federation for Information Processing Technical Committee on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and open to anybody interested in the topic. This Working Group, and consequently the 1st International Workshop on Spatial Cognition and AI, is born from the re-emerged need to bring together members of the international scientific community who work on both theoretical as well as applied overlapping research areas of the two fields.

Even though spatial cognition may be considered as the offspring of the overlapping research interests of cognitive science and AI in the realm of cognition that is concerned with space, in recent years we observed a period of weakening of the ‘visible’ links between the two fields. However, as evident from key publications from people involved in both areas, as well as early proceedings of the adjoining Spatial Cognition and other conferences, traditionally there has always been strong underlying research ties between the two fields.

We believe that in today’s era of deep learning and ‘black-box’ AI that appears in ‘spatial’ agents, such as self-driving vehicles, service robots, and interactive location based services (among others), the interdisciplinary nature of spatial cognition and its strong connection with AI may need to become more evident than ever. It takes a joint effort to make such cognitively inspired artificial systems a success.

In this spirit, the 1st SC&AI Workshop 2018 aims at bringing together researchers from different disciplines (e.g., AI & computer science, cognitive psychology & neuroscience, GIScience, cognitive geography & cartography, linguistics, philosophy of mind, architecture and design, engineering, mathematics, and others) to work on cognitively inspired spatial artificial systems.

Participation: Participation at the meeting is open to anybody interested, in principle.

Potential participants are asked to send a brief expression of to the workshop organizers, outlining their background, specific interests in linking spatial cognition and artificial intelligence, and ideas for contributing during the meeting’s discussions.

Please keep these expressions of interest to not more than a single page of text. Please send them to the email addresses given below.


mvasardani [AT]

kai-florian.richter [AT]



  1. Spatial Navigation Interfaces for Immersive Environments (Morning Tutorial)

Computer-mediated stimuli and environments such as Virtual Reality are becoming increasingly affordable, practicable, and widespread in spatial cognition research. In this tutorial we will provide an overview of the rapidly evolving landscape of navigation interfaces and paradigms used in mediated environments, from Virtual Reality (the main focus) to augmented and mixed reality, games, tele-operation, tele-presence, telerobotics, and design review. We will discuss different taxonomies of navigation paradigms, and take a detailed look at various breeds of spatial navigation interfaces and paradigm that allow for locomotion in immersive 3D environments such as virtual environments, games, design review, and telepresence applications. We will discuss relevant differences between navigating real vs. mediated environments, and how this can yield specific challenges including concurrent reference frame conflicts and adverse side-effects such as disorientation and motion sickness. As motion sickness is a widespread challenge in mediated environments, we will discuss underlying causes and potential solutions. These foundations form the basis for the practical skillset we will develop, by providing an in-depth discussion of navigation devices and techniques including data from experiments, and a step-by-step discussion of multiple real-world case studies. Doing so, we will cover the full range of navigation techniques from handheld to full-body, highly engaging and partly unconventional methods and tackle spatial navigation with hands-on-experience and tips for design and validation of novel interfaces. In particular, we will be looking at affordable setups and ways to “trick” users to enable a compelling feeling of presence and self-motion in the explored environments. As such, the course unites the theory and practice of spatial navigation in mediated environments. We will conclude with a discussion of open issues and potential future research directions.


Email: ber1 [AT]

School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), Simon Fraser University (SFU), Surrey, BC


Email: ernst.kruijff [AT]

Institute of Visual Computing, Hochschule BonnRheinSieg,

Sankt Augustin, Germany.



  1. Connecting Spatial Visualization Skills and STEM Symposium (Morning Symposium)

The problems of the future are complicated and interconnected. For example, how do we ensure that all of the world’s population has access to clean, plentiful water? There are many competing needs for the water itself, from agriculture to sanitation to personal consumption, but in addition, there are impacts on the environment to be considered as well as societal impacts between the countries in the developed world and those in the developing world. These considerations are in addition to the purely technical issues (e.g., how do we draw the saline out of seawater?) that engineers and other STEM professionals are known for solving.

In order to navigate through this complex world of issues and problems, STEM professionals of the future will need to be able to solve both more traditional technical problems as well as ill-defined multidisciplinary problems. STEM professionals will need the ability to think holistically about a myriad of factors and visualize a solution that solves the technical problem while satisfying cultural and economic constraints. Most undergraduate STEM curricula do not address modern problem solving skills, focusing instead on a student’s ability to perform certain technical tasks and/or to work on certain classes of problems.

Further exacerbating our ability to creatively solve society’s problems, is a lack of diversity in STEM fields, particularly in engineering. Optimal solutions and ideas require a diversity of experience in the design team. Solutions will not be optimal if half of the world’s population is neither consulted nor involved in formulating these solutions. There are numerous cases throughout STEM where a lack of gender diversity has resulted in incorrect theories (the social structure of certain species of primates) or less than ideal designs (minivans with sliding doors only on the “mom’s” side of the vehicle).

The focus of this symposium is on understanding the link between spatial visualization skills and STEM. Gender differences in spatial skills will be a subtheme of this symposium. It is posited that the lack of diversity in STEM is at least in part due to gender differences in 3-D spatial skills. The link between strong spatial skills and success in STEM has been the subject of a great deal of research over the years, with increased relevance recently due to the seeming worldwide focus on STEM education at all levels. Most studies examining spatial skills and STEM have been correlational in nature, i.e., individuals from STEM fields tend to have higher spatial skills; however, causal studies, examining the impact of spatial skills training have begun to emerge. In this symposium we will present results from a variety of studies that have examined links between spatial training and STEM success as well as studies that examine correlations between performance on specific STEM tasks and spatial cognitive skills. The speakers in the symposium represent a broad cross-section of researchers in the STEM disciplines who are examining factors contributing to STEM success as well as the link between spatial cognition and STEM success.


  • Gavin Duffy and Dr. Brian Bowe—Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland (confirmed)
  • Jeff Buckley (PhD candidate), Dr. Lena Gumaelius and Dr. Niall Seery—KTH Royal Technical University, Stockholm, Sweden (confirmed)
  • Mike Stieff—University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA (confirmed)
  • Sheryl Sorby—University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (confirmed)
  • Tom Lowrie—University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia (tentative)


  • Sheryl Sorby—University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA (confirmed)


  1. Models and Representations in Spatial Cognition (Afternoon Workshop)

As scientists who study spatial cognition, we ultimately want to explain how people acquire and use spatial information. Many explanations in spatial cognition rely on theories that are written in words. These theories are relatively flexible in that they can be applied to a broad range of experimental contexts without further specification. However, lack of specification sometimes causes these theories to be imprecise and difficult to falsify. In contrast, computational modeling can be used in an unambiguous way to further refine theories in spatial cognition. In turn, spatial cognition provides new challenges to computational modeling such as the abstraction of spatial data into a format conceivable by humans (e.g., spatial language, spatial images) and the translation of abstracted spatial data (i.e., spatial models and representations) into behavior among constantly changing environmental conditions. Whether models and representations of spatial cognition emphasize linguistic or visual perspectives, they should eventually converge on some scientific truth. However, addressing these challenges requires the combination of knowledge from various disciplines, including linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, computer science, architecture, transport engineering, and geography. This workshop on “Models and Representations in Spatial Cognition” aims to provide an interdisciplinary venue in which to present research related to the following topics (among others):

  • Spatial language as the format of spatial models/representations versus spatial language as descriptions of spatial models/representations
  • Differences between cognitive and other forms of models/representations of spatial information
  • The descriptive and/or prescriptive role of computational modeling in spatial cognition
  • Specific applications of computational modeling to investigations in spatial cognition

This half-day workshop will present the work of one invited speaker within the topics of the workshop. We are soliciting extended abstracts describing original or summaries of previous work of no more than 500 words. Relevant research includes different theoretical and experimental models of spatial cognition and computational approaches, agent-based modeling, machine learning (including neural networks), and the spatial analysis of navigable environments.


  • Submission date: March 30th, 2018
  • Notification date: April 27th, 2018
  • Date of workshop: September 5th, 2018


  • Tyler Thrash
  • John Kelleher
  • Simon Dobnik


  1. Virtual environments as geo/spatial labs (Afternoon Workshop)

Call for Participation: Virtual environments (VEs) are commonly used as geo/spatial labs in spatial cognition research. They provide safe and controlled environments to simulate the real or fictional worlds, and visualize “what if” scenarios in a realistic, familiar ways. In some cases then enable conducting otherwise impossible experiments. However, we often neglect that the outcomes of our studies, their validity and reproducibility are inevitably affected by two main components of our display setup: Choices we make in terms of VE types (e.g., video vs. interactive), as well as their visualization and interaction designs (e.g., levels of realism, color, size, camera position, playback speed); how the user interacts with the virtual world (e.g., hands, feet, gaze). These fundamental components of VEs are important to consider for a VE’s effectiveness as a geo/spatial lab. In this workshop, we will examine how the types and design of VEs, and interaction modalities used in them might affect SC studies. Join us to reflect on the role of visualization and interaction in general, and VEs in particular, in spatial cognition cognition studies. Ideally, we can identify some principles together that could guide the spatial cognition community regarding their visualization choices.

Participation is open to all. If you wish to take a more active role, we welcome submissions to be presented at the workshop as short presentations on:

  • the use of VEs in your experiments, with a critical reflection on the visualization and interaction considerations
  • your questions on work-in-progress, where you might be seeking advice on visualization and/or interaction design of your VE
  • position statements on research priorities at the cross of VEs and SC

Please submit a short summary (max 500 words excluding references) of your contributions (position paper or work-in-progress/question) that fit to any of the categories above to in PDF format by 5th of May 2018. We will give feedback on your submissions latest on June 15th. Workshop will take place on 5th of September, 2018.

The outcomes from the workshops will be shared as a blog post, and depending on the level of interest and number of participants, a joint paper or a journal special issue is envisioned.

If you have questions, feel free to contact the organizing team or email us at

Important dates:

  • Submission of short position or work-in-progress statements: May 5th, 2018
  • Feedback on submissions and final program: June 15th, 2018

Workshop Organizers:

  • Arzu Çöltekin

University of Zurich, Geography, arzu.coltekin AT

  • Victor Schinazi

ETH Zurich, Cognitive Science, victor.schinazi AT

  • Jan Wiener

Bournemouth University, Psychology, jwiener AT

  • Ismini-Eleni Lokka

University of Zurich, Geography, ismini-eleni.lokka AT

  • Jiayan Zhao

Penn State University, Geography, juz64 AT


  1. Teaching Spatial Thinking using Online and Blended Learning (Afternoon Workshop)

Call for Short Papers: Spatial thinking spans numerous disciplines and perspectives, so there is a need for courses to address spatial thinking from multiple perspectives. However, developing online and/or blended courses that effectively teach spatial thinking topics can be particularly challenging.

This workshop aims to assist educators with developing interdisciplinary courses on spatial thinking in the following ways:

  • Lightning Talks: Workshop participants will provide their perspectives on teaching spatial thinking from their discipline’s perspective in 5-minute lightning talks. See call details below.
  • Group Discussions: Workshop participants will be broken into smaller groups for break-out group discussions, following the lightning talks. These break-out group discussions will be designed to foster discussions between individuals with differing perspectives. These discussions, along with a final large group discussion at the end of the workshop, will allow workshop attendees to learn more about discipline(s) that they are unfamiliar with, and to share educational resources from their own discipline(s).
  • Online Learning Platform: After the workshop, the online learning platform will continue to be made available to workshop participants. This will allow for participants-and the whole spatial cognition community and beyond-to make use of the learning materials in their own blended learning courses.

Call for Lightning Talk Presenters: If you want to share your perspective on teaching spatial thinking using online and/or blended methods, by giving a lightning talk, please submit a short paper (link to EasyChair submissions TBA). Short papers should be a maximum of 6-pages (including references and figures) and follow the Springer LNCS formatting style ( Note that papers not adhering to the style guidelines or the page limits will be rejected without review. Manuscripts will be reviewed by at least two members of the program committee and/or expert panel. At least one author of each accepted paper must be present at the workshop to give the lightning talk. We plan to make the workshop proceedings available on our online learning platform, and publish the workshop proceedings with CEUR-WS.

Topics of Interest: Short papers, and their accompanying lightning talks, must focus on some aspect of teaching spatial thinking and provide resources for teaching an interdisciplinary spatial thinking course. Examples of topics include: educational resources/tools/recommendations, major spatial thinking topics, major spatial thinking findings, recommended readings, and/or future directions. The author(s) field(s) may include any discipline that deals with spatial thinking. Disciplines include, but are not limited to: Psychology, Geography, GIScience, Geoscience, Education, Informatics, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Architecture, and Art.

Important Dates:

  • Short paper submissions: May 1st, 2018
  • Notification of acceptance: June 1st, 2018
  • Camera-ready versions: July 1st, 2015
  • Date of workshop: September 5th, 2015

Workshop Organizers:

  • Tomi Kauppinen – Aalto University
  • Heather Burte – Tufts University