Byron Reeves

Byron is the Paul C. Edwards Professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, and Co-Founder and Faculty Co-Director of the H-STAR Institute (Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research) and its industrial affiliate program, Media X. He is an expert on the psychological processing of media in the areas of attention, emotions, learning, and physiological responses, and has published over 100 scientific papers about media and psychology. His research has been the basis for a number of new media products for companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard, in the areas of voice interfaces, automated dialogue systems, and business process simulations. He is currently working on the application of multi-player game technology to behavior change and the conduct of serious work, and is Co-Founder of Seriosity, Inc., a company building enterprise software inspired by game psychology.


H-STAR: The Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute, is a Stanford interdisciplinary research center focusing on people and technology - how people use technology, how to better design technology to make it more usable (and more competitive in the marketplace), how technology affects people's lives, and the innovative use of technologies in research, education, art, business, commerce, entertainment, communication, national security, and other walks of life.

Media X: A collaboration of Stanford and industry that brings together Stanford's leading interactive technology research with companies committed to technical advancement and innovation. Media X sponsors Stanford faculty and researchers studying basic issues about the design and use of interactive technologies to influence the next generation of commerce, learning and entertainment.

LIFE: (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments) is an NSF funded multi-year interdisciplinary collaboration between learning scientists at Stanford University, the University of Washington, SRI International, and other institutions across the country. The LIFE Center develops and tests principles about the social foundations of human learning in informal and formal environments, including the use of interactive technology.

Current ideas and research

Avatars: A powerful feature of virtual worlds and games is the ability for people to represent themselves inmedia. We are working on laboratory experiments that show the involvement that people have with avatars, and how that involvement shapes emotional responses, learning, memory and evaluations of media experiences. One recent experiment looks at physiological responses to avatars using heart and skin conductance measures, and one looks at brain fMRI responses while people view avatars and their relationship to learning.

Media Realism: What's the different in psychological response if people think that media are presenting reality vs. a manufactured version of reality? A long-term project, first summarized in The Media Equation (with Clifford Nass), examined numerous similarities between media and real life. A recent experimentshows that physiological arousal increases when people think that video material is about real people rather than actors playing a role.

Synthetic economies: Another powerful feature of games and virtual worlds are the synthetic currencies that allow players to create a marketplace for trading game pieces and all kinds of other objects and services. Could synthetic currencies influence real behavior? Using a currency and banking systems developed by Seriosity (called Attent™), we tested the influence of a currency system to gain and allocate attention via email.

Energy Efficiency and Games: The ingredients from successful games can be used to change behavior that may otherwise be difficult to influence. We are beginning a project with the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center to use games to link energy information with individual homes and provide engaging feedback that will lessen and redistribute energy use in homes, cars and commercial buildings. A movie of this idea can be downloaded here or viewed on YouTube.

J. Leighton Read

J. Leighton Read, M.D., is a General Partner in four Alloy Ventures funds from 2001-2007 and a successful entrepreneur and CEO. His companies have created outstanding financial returns by delivering extreme innovation to solve needs in discovery of new medicines, life science research and public health. For over two decades, he has also been interested in the psychological principles that underlie successful electronic games and is currently devoting substantial time to his role as Executive Chairman of Seriosity.

Alloy Ventures in Palo Alto, California ( is an early-stage venture fund with over $1billion under management. Before joining the firm in 2001, Leighton spent 14 years as a biotechnology entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded Affymax NV, under the direction of Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni, setting the stage for two successful spin-outs: Affymetrix and Maxygen. He founded Aviron, a biotechnology company best known as the developer of FluMist™, the intranasal influenza vaccine, where he served as Chairman and CEO until 1999 and Director until its acquisition by MedImmune in 2002. While at Alloy, he funded a spin-out of Maxygen and served as the first CEO of Avidia, Inc, later acquired by Amgen.

Leighton received a B.S. from Rice University in Psychology and Biology (1973), an MD from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (1976) and completed internal medicine training at Duke and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston where he held appointments at the Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health. His published research dealt with applications of decision theory in medicine, cost-effectiveness analysis and policy regarding medical innovation. Based on a long-standing interest in computer-aided decision-making, he produced a successful interactive PC game in 1984 to promote healthy lifestyles based on text-based adventure games and behavior modification principles. He is a director of a number of young companies in the fields of biotechnology, medical devices, nanotechnology, cleantech and software. He also serves as a trustee or director of The BeneTech Initiative, BioVentures for Global Health, The UC Berkeley Foundation and School of Public Health Council and the Santa Fe Institute. His awards include several as co-inventor of technology underlying the Affymetrix GeneChip™ and Ernst & Young's California Life Science Entrepreneur of the Year.

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