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Keynote Speakers

Photo of Shiri Azenkot Shiri Azenkot Monday, 18 March 2024, 10:15 - 11:15 (Orlando, Florida USA UTC-4)
Room: Fantasia Ballroom H
Photo of Michael Tschanz Michael Tschanz Tuesday, 19 March 2024, 10:15 - 11:15 (Orlando, Florida USA UTC-4)
Room: Fantasia Ballroom H
Photo of Simon Richir Simon Richir Wednesday, 20 March 2024, 18:00 - 21:00 (Orlando, Florida USA UTC-4)
Room: Fantasia Ballroom G/H/J

Shiri Azenkot
Associate Professor of Information Science, Cornell Tech

Photo of Shiri Azenkot

XR Access: Making Virtual and Augmented Reality Accessible to People with Disabilities
Monday, 18 March 2024, 10:15 - 11:15 (Orlando, Florida USA UTC-4)
Room: Fantasia Ballroom H


As augmented and virtual reality (XR) technologies gain traction, they remain almost completely inaccessible to people with disabilities. How can a blind person walk around a virtual bar in Horizon Worlds? How can a Deaf person have a conversation with a friend in VR Chat? It is critical to think about these challenges and address them proactively before people with disabilities are left further behind.

In this talk, I will present XR Access, which I co-founded to promote XR accessibility research and practice. For the last five years, XR Access has been bringing together practitioners, researchers, and advocates in conferences and seminars, developing resources, and supporting students in XR accessibility. I will present a taste of XR accessibility research, and outline ways in which you too can join this movement.

Shiri Azenkot is an Associate Professor of Information Science at Cornell Tech who does not like bloated bios. So here are the basics: Shiri researches accessibility, with a focus on emerging platforms like augmented and virtual reality. She publishes at the typical top venues for accessibility and HCI and has received the typical awards for someone at this stage in her career. She directs the XR Access Initiative. For more information talk to her at the conference!

Michael Tschanz
Director of Engineering Technology and Analysis at Global Engineering and Technology (Disney Experiences)

Photo of Michael Tschanz

Disney's Industrial Controls Design and Data Analytics Ecosystem
Tuesday, 19 March 2024, 10:15 - 11:15 (Orlando, Florida USA UTC-4)
Room: Fantasia Ballroom H

An overview will be provided of the complete suite of Disney’s simulation and data analytics platforms that are utilized in the design, development, and predictive maintenance of Disney’s world class attractions. Disney’s Scientific Data Analytics initiative will be presented which includes AI/ML, digital twin, and front-line methods. These solutions are live and employed in a variety of use cases and applications.

Michael leads a multidiscipline team which develops mathematical/physics models for transportation, ride and animatronic systems, custom software/network applications, and robotics. The responsibilities for this team includes the development of optimization algorithms, servo controllers, and interactive/immersive experiences. Michael’s background includes designs of numerous attractions at various Disney theme parks including Test Track®, Mission: SPACE®, Toy Story Mania!®, and Expedition Everest®. Michael also designed the velocity profiles at worldwide locations of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™. Michael is leading Disney’s patented Scientific Data Analytics initiative focused on digital twins and attractions predictive maintenance. Prior to Disney, Michael developed precision guidance algorithms and aerospace sensor simulations for Texas Instruments. He is also a professional jazz/classical pianist. Michael earned his BSEE from Ohio Northern University and a MSEE from the University of Texas Arlington. Further studies included a preparatory scholarship at the Cleveland Institute of Music in classical piano performance.

Simon Richir
Professor at Arts et Metiers ParisTech & Laval Virtual co-founder

Photo of Simon Richir

The Laval Phenomenon: A Deep Dive into France's VR Capital
Wednesday, 20 March 2024, 18:00 - 21:00 (Orlando, Florida USA UTC-4)
Room: Fantasia Ballroom G/H/J


This 30-minute conference delves into the remarkable story of Laval, a small French town that emerged as a global center for research and development in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Since the inception of Laval Virtual in 1999, this event has been pivotal in bringing together pioneers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts of interactive and immersive technologies from around the globe.

The speaker, Simon, will begin with a historical overview of Laval Virtual, highlighting how an intuition transformed Laval into an internationally recognized hub of innovation. Simon will share anecdotes from the early editions, emphasizing the evolution of the technologies showcased and how they reflected and shaped industry trends.

The discussion will then focus on the key factors contributing to Laval's success and global prominence in the VR field, including the local community's commitment, support from both public and private institutions, and Laval Virtual's ability to foresee and integrate technological advancements.

The presentation will also illustrate how Laval has become a venue for exchange and collaboration, fostering innovation and the development of groundbreaking VR/AR projects. Simon will provide concrete examples of technologies and projects that have emerged from this international collaboration.

In conclusion, the conference will consider the future of VR and AR, drawing from Laval's example to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. The speaker will encourage reflection on how communities and countries can draw inspiration from Laval to foster innovation within their own technological ecosystems.

This conference celebrates the pioneering spirit of Laval and serves as an invitation to view the future of immersive technologies with optimism and ambition.


Simon Richir, M.Eng, Ph.D., one of the pioneers and the most recognized leaders in French VR research and its practical application. Professor at ENSAM (Arts et Metiers ParisTech), the renowned French School of Engineering, Simon Richir is also the head of "Laval Arts et Metiers Institute" and "Presence & innovation" research team (LAMPA Lab, EA1427).

His research and teaching activities concentrate on technological innovation, engineering design process, ideation, innovative projects, training, management, and innovative uses of new advanced technologies such as Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality. In addition to these activities, he is also the co-founder and the present scientific chair of one of the world's most prestigious international events in Virtual Reality: the annual Laval Virtual International Conference.

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