Researchers Ponder New Field of Anticipation

Albert Einstein discovered that time is relative, moving either fast or slow relative to the speed of something else. In doing so he revealed a new understanding of reality.

But what is time in virtual reality?

On Feb. 6, a mixed group of researchers from the arts to science to emerging media met to investigate this idea as part of the symposium, “Anticipation, Time and the Virtual Experience.”

Sponsored by the anté, the Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems at UT Dallas, the symposium attracted 31 participants from across the Metroplex to the Rachofsky House, a contemporary landmark residence in Dallas with a museum quality collection of modern art.  Six other scholars from France, Holland and Canada added their voices remotely by pre-taped discussions streamed over the web.

Many of the speakers viewed the virtual world as a way to understand a new field of science known as anticipation, which tries to apply the natural, evolutionary state of anticipation – in which living organisms feel or know beforehand a particular action – to the actions of computers, robotics and artificial intelligence. For example, an anticipatory mechanism in a car endows it with the ability to “know” the driving habits of the driver.

“A virtual experience can be defined as uchronic – out of time or an alternative to time,” said Dr. Mihai Nadin, Ashbel Smith Professor and director of anté. “It cannot be precisely inserted in the traditional flow of time embedded in the deterministic sequence from past to future.”

Among the discussions were concepts of time as defined by photography and video games, creativity and imagination as models for anticipation and the social and aesthetic aspects of virtual time.

UT Dallas Professor Frank Dufour also helped to organize the symposium and spoke on the topic of the anticipatory quality of film, video and games. From this symposium, the organizers hope to grow a network of scholars interested in the field of anticipation and its practical applications.

The “Anticipation, Time and the Virtual Experience” symposium will be webcast in the near future. For more information about the symposium, go to