Category Archive: Our News

Mar 23

Pain Studies Lab Showcases VR research at BC Tech Summit, Future Realities Sector, March 14-15, 2017.

The BC Tech Summit is the largest technology conference in BC. This year, the second annual #BCTECH Summit took place March 14-15, 2017 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The Summit was co-hosted by the BC Innovation Council (BCIC) and BC’s Ministry of Technology, Industry and Citizens’ Services, More than 5,000 entrepreneurs, researchers, students and government officials came together to discuss the latest tech innovations from British Columbia on Canada’s west coast.

SFU Pain Studies Lab founder Dr. Diane Gromala, along with researchers Xin Tong, Serkan Pekcetin, Frederico Machuca, Servet Ulas and Sungmin Park showcased their Virtual Reality research work in the Future Realities area, together with other research labs and commercial companies, such as EA, Microsoft, Conquer Mobile and Archiact, to name a few.

Audiences from academia, government, universities and industry companies enjoyed the lab’s demo. A lot of teenagers who participated the Innovation Day at BC Tech Summit, asked many questions about the Pain Lab’s scientific and health research. Further, patients and health researchers joined us to discuss how their own pain situation might benefit from our research, and expressed their willingness to test the Pain Lab’s diverse research.


Mar 04

Xin Tong presents research at ACM’s Conference on Computer- Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW)


Xin Tong, a Pain Studies Lab Ph.D. student, presented research at ACM’s 20th Annual Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW). The conference took place from February 27thMarch 1st in Portland, Oregon in the U.S.A.
CSCW is the premier venue for presenting research in the design and use of technologies that affect groups, organizations, communities and networks. Bringing together top researchers and practitioners from academia and industry, Facebook, IBM, Google, Microsoft and the NSF (National Science Foundation) sponsored this conference. 
Over 500 attendees participated.
Xin presented two of the lab’s research posters, described below.



“A Collaborative Visualization Tool to Support Doctors’ Shared Decision-Making on Antibiotic Prescription” by Weina Jin, Carman Neustaedter, Diane Gromala and Xin Tong.
This collaborative tool visualizes the antibiotics’ coverage spectrum, allowing users to choose the most appropriate antibiotics. The asynchronous collaboration around visualization mimics the actual collaboration scenarios in clinical settings, and provides supportive information during physician’s decision-making process. Our work contributes to the CSCW community by providing a design prototype that supports asynchronous collaboration among healthcare professionals, which is crucial but lacks in many of the current clinical decision support systems.
“Chasing Lovely Monsters in the Wild, Exploring Players’ Motivation and Play Patterns of PokéŽmon Go: Go, Gone or Go Away?by Xin Tong, Ankit Gupta Henry Lo, Amber Choo, Diane Gromala and Chris Shaw.
For our PokŽémon Go research, we presented a critical analysis of Pokémon Go players’ experiences from an online survey filled in by 32 participants. The goal of this survey was to get a glimpse of Pokémon Go players’ motivation, their play patterns and experiences, and an understanding of their self-reported behavioral changes and concerns. The results revealed both negative and positive outcomes of the gamification approach Pokémon Go adopted.
Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 12.57.12 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-04 at 12.57.26 PM


Weina Jin, Carman Neustaedter, Diane Gromala and Xin Tong,
A Collaborative Visualization Tool to Support Doctors’ Shared Decision-Making on Antibiotic Prescription,
20th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW), Pages 211-214,
Feb 25Mar 1 2017, Portland, USA.
Xin Tong, Ankit Gupta, Henry Lo, Amber Choo, Diane Gromala, and Chris Shaw,
Chasing Lovely Monsters in the Wild, Exploring Players’ Motivation and Play Patterns of PokŽmon Go: Go, Gone or Go Away?
20th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW), Pages 327-330,
Feb 25Mar 1 2017, Portland, USA.

Feb 10

Body Image / Body Schema: Collaborating with the Best

The Pain Studies Lab holds numerous and regular meetings with our expert collaborators. During this visit, PhD students Serkan Pekcetin and Servet Ulas brainstormed with Dr. Diane Gromala and pain expert Dr. Owen Williamson about strategies concerning immersive virtual reality (VR)
and body image/body schema. Research has shown that some chronic pain patients have “body dysmorphia.” For example, a painful limb may feel larger than it really is, or unconscious “guarding” of painful areas may relate to a patient’s need for more interpersonal space when they
interact with others. Dr. Gromala’s NSERC Discovery Grant and Canada Research Chair are enabling Pain Studies Lab’s researchers to examine this phenomenon and to invent technological interventions that may help patients in clinical or home settings.

@2017 SFU Pain Studies Lab
photo by Sungmin Park

Feb 09

Movement Futures Workshop

SSHRC_movement_futures (2)



Dr. Diane Gromala and PhD student Servet Ulas participated in Movement Futures, 
a workshop headed by SIAT’s Director, Dr. Thecla Schiphorst. Building on Dr. Schiphorst’s 
successful SSHRC-funded MOVING STORIES research, this 
workshop brought together experts from Canada, the U.S., France, Australia and elsewhere. 
Over 3 days, they developed strategies that focused on how to transfer and enact the 
knowledge expertise developed by Moving Stories researchers.

Nov 10

Michael Bidu visits PainLab

Michael Bidu, CEO of Interface Health Society and organizer of the annual
INTERFACE HEALTH SUMMIT  visited the Pain Studies Lab
on October 20th. He met with SFU’s Dr. Chris Shaw, Assoc. Director of SIAT
(School of Interactive Arts & Technology) and Dr. Gromala, Pain Studies Lab and
Chronic Pain Research Institute’s founding director. The triumvirate discussed ideas
for catalyzing the quickly growing area of health and technology in the greater
Vancouver region.

photos: © 2016, SFU’s Pain Studies Lab           photographer Sungmin Park


photos: © 2016, SFU’s Pain Studies Lab          photographer Sungmin Park






Oct 08

Pain Lab @ IASP World Congress on Pain 2016, Japan

Dr. Chris Shaw and Dr. Diane Gromala at the Yokohama Convention Center, site of the 16th World Congress on Pain.


The Pain Studies Lab members presented two posters at the IASP’s (International Association for the Study of Pain’s) 16th World Congress on Pain in Yokohama, Japan on September 27th and 30th.
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) is an international learned society promoting research, education, and policies for the knowledge and management of pain. The IASP was founded in 1973 and publishes the scientific journal Pain. Currently, the IASP has more than 7,900 members from 133 countries.

More than 4,400 health professionals, researchers, and practitioners participated in this year’s plenary sessions, workshops, and poster sessions that define the cutting edge of pain research and treatment.

Lab Founder Dr. Diane Gromala presented Two Paradigms of Designing Virtual Reality for Chronic Pain Patients: Pain Self-Modulation vs. Pain Distraction. This poster introduced two paradigms we have investigated that may help Chronic Pain (CP) patients better self-manage their pain through Virtual Reality (VR) technology: pain distraction and what Dr. Gromala terms “pain self-modulation.” Two immersive VR environments, each of which represents a paradigm, were designed, built and tested in the Pain Studies Lab: Virtual Meditative Walk and Möbius Floe.
Citation: Two Paradigms of Designing Virtual Reality for Chronic Pain Patients: Pain Self-Modulation vs. Pain Distraction. Xin Tong, Diane Gromala, Weina Jin, Pam Squire. 16th World Congress on Pain in Yokohama, Japan.


Dr. Chris Shaw presented AS IF, a serious game designed by Pain Studies Lab members Weina Jin, Xin Tong and Servet Ulas. The goal of this game is to foster the empathy and understanding towards chronic pain patients’ situations. AS IF simulates the bodily motion limitations of a chronic pain patient and displays pain visualizations on a player’s avatar, that is, their virtual body.

Citation: AS IF: an Empathy Game for Chronic Pain. Weina Jin, Servet Ulas, Xin Tong, Dr. Diane Gromala, Dr. Chris Shaw.16th World Congress on Pain in Yokohama, Japan.



Sep 21

Pain Lab’s Students Present Five Posters in PainWeek 2016

PAINWeek is the largest pain conference in US for frontline clinicians with an interest in pain management. This year the conference was held during September 6-10 in Las Vegas, NV, USA. Pain Studies Lab members–Ashfaq Amin and Frederico Machuca presented five posters in the conference. The general themes of the posters were Virtual Reality, Pain, Depression and Empathy.

Ashfaq Amin presented in PainWeek 2016

Ashfaq Amin presented in PainWeek 2016

Frederico Machuca in PainWeek 2016

Frederico Machuca in PainWeek 2016

The five posters that got accepted in this conference are:

1. “Two Paradigms of Designing Virtual Reality for Chronic Pain Patients:
Pain Self-Modulation vs. Pain Distraction
“, Xin Tong, Diane Gromala, Ashfaq Amin, Weina Jin, Pam Squire(MD).

2. “Comparison of Immersion in Cardboard VR and Oculus Rift for Playing a Pain Management Game“, Ashfaq Amin, Diane Gromala.

3. “ AS IF: gaining understanding and empathy through an interactive system“, Weina Jin, Xin Tong, Servet Ulas, Frederico Machuca, Diane Gromala

4. “Using Virtual Reality Game for Chronic Pain Management A Randomized Clinical Study“, Weina Jin, Amber Choo, Ashfaq Amin, Diane Gromala, Chris Shaw.

5. “Serious Game for Serious Disease: Diminishing Stigma of Depression via Game Experience“, Weina Jin, Diane Gromala, Frederico Machuca.

Sep 20

Pain Lab Hosts Collaborators for a Participatory Design Visit

During their visit to the Pain Studies Lab, Dr. Owen Williamson, Clinical Kinesiologist Jordan Smith, and Clinical Kinesiologist Daehan Kim courteously shared their expertise and knowledge in their fields with the members of the lab. They also provided invaluable input by providing their acknowledgement about the role of Virtual Reality for helping people who are in pain. After a thorough assessment about the shortcomings of off-the-shelf Virtual Reality experiences; a brainstorming session is held in order to come up with pertinent design paradigms regarding Virtual Reality applications which are aimed at specific medical conditions.

photos: © 2016, SFU’s Pain Studies Lab                                  photographer Sungmin Park

photos: © 2016, SFU’s Pain Studies Lab photographer Sungmin Park


Dr Owen Williamson is an orthopaedic spine surgeon and specialist pain medicine physician.
Jordan Smith is a Clinical Kinesiologist and Trainer with a specialization in pain management.
Daehan Kim is a Researcher, Clinical Kinesiologist and Trainer who is currently working at Essential Kinetics.

photos: © 2016, SFU’s Pain Studies Lab                                                                                            photographer Sungmin Park

photos: © 2016, SFU’s Pain Studies Lab photographer Sungmin Park

Frederico (left), Serkan (middle) and Jordan Smith (right) while they are in exchange of ideas.

Frederico (left), Serkan (middle) and Jordan Smith (right) while they are in exchange of ideas.

Aug 30

Xin Tong: the Pain Lab’s Unity Certified Developer

Pain Lab Ph.D. student Xin Tong recently earned formal certification as a Unity Developer. She sat Unity’s Certified Developer Exam on August 13th at the Centre of Digital Media in Vancouver. Unity’s goal of holding such exams is to help developers validate their Unity knowledge and skills.

The Unity Certified Developer Exam covers foundational skills for video game development with Unity, has 100 questions spanning 16 areas of competency, and is intended to evaluate knowledge for a comprehensive understanding of the game production process.


Jul 17

Diane Gromala presents at Canadian Pain Society 2016 Meeting

Prof. Diane Gromala, PhD, presented “Is VR Useful for Pain Management? Challenges” at the Canadian Pain Society’s (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting on May 27, 2016. The conference was held this year in Vancouver.

The Panel “Virtual Reality and Pain: A New Frontier or Smoke and Mirrors?” was chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Gold, a doctor at UCLA who specializes in paediatric pain, and Dr. Bernie Garrett from UBC’s School of Nursing who works with VR for chronic pain. The panelists discussed the historical and recent advances in the use of VR to alleviate and manage acute and chronic pain. 

Gromala is the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Computational Technologies for Transforming pain, and is the Founding Director of the Chronic Pain Research Institute at SFU. Dr. Gromala began her exploration of VR and pain in 1991, the earliest days of VR. She has worked since that time on VR, focussing on chronic pain with her collaborators and students at the Pain Studies Lab at SFU in Surrey. 


Photograph : Prof. Diane Gromala, PhD, at the Canadian Pain Society’s (CPS) Annual Scientific Meeting on May 27, 2016 in Vancouver.

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