Denise Quesnel



PhD Student


dquesnel at



Denise joined the iSpace team in Fall 2016 as a grad­u­ate student.

Denise stud­ies pro­found emo­tional shifts, like awe and wonder, that can occur through inter­ac­tion with immer­sive, mul­ti­sen­sory artis­tic arte­facts and tech­no­log­i­cal expe­ri­ences. She is a researcher of the immer­sive real­i­ties, specif­i­cally cre­ation and design of virtual/augmented real­ity (VR/AR) con­tent and interfaces.

After spend­ing over a decade in the film and VFX indus­try, she founded an immer­sive R&D studio, worked in University research depart­ments, and is now a PhD stu­dent with the iSpace Lab at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. Her artis­tic and work expe­ri­ence feeds into her moti­va­tion around under­stand­ing how emo­tional shifts com­bined with tech­nol­ogy can help facil­i­tate com­pas­sion, under­stand­ing, inter­con­nec­tiv­ity for our­selves, one another, and our planet. As an active vol­un­teer with ser­vice to the global com­mu­nity, Denise cre­ated the SIGGRAPH VR Village in 2015 to help create a venue for inter­dis­ci­pli­nary immer­sive works in the sci­en­tific, enter­tain­ment, med­ical, and edu­ca­tion fields. She is also involved in advo­cacy and policy-making in the health care and tech­no­log­i­cal communities.


VR/MR/AR 4 Good: Creating with a Purpose

Interested in connecting & joining? If you're interested in connecting to others engaged or interested in the xR4Good field, you could join the xR4Good facebook group, or fill out this online signup sheet and state what you're interested in Introduction Over the past five years, we have seen awareness and creation of Virtual, Mixed, and Augmented Reality (VR/MR/AR or, the ‘immersive realit...

Connected through "AWE": creating immersive experiences for social connection

Do you get enough “awe” in your life? In our busy day-to-day lives, we often take our experiences for granted. While we have the technology to connect with one another, like smart phones, we don’t necessarily get outside with nature, or stargaze. Such activities may consist of common awe-inspiring moments, and we now understand that feeling awe is associated with all sorts of social and well...

Virtual Earthgazing - towards an overview effect in Virtual Reality

How can we use immersive VR to give people pivotal positive experiences without having to send them out into space?   “We went to the Moon as technicians, we returned as humanitarians” reflected Edgar Mitchell after his space flight. This describes the overview effect – a profound awe-inspiring experience of seeing Earth from space resulting in a cognitive shift in worldview, le...

Sonic Cradle

Sonic Cradle suspends the body is a completely dark chamber which encourages experiences comparable to mindfulness meditation.  Users compose peaceful soundscapes in real-time using only their breathing. [vimeo 35764652] Introduction and demo of the Sonic Cradle Sonic Cradle is a relaxing human-computer interaction paradigm designed to foster meditative attentional patterns.  The current p...


Prpa, M., Quesnel, D., Vidyarthi, J., Kitson, A., & Riecke, B. E. (2016, May). Sonic Cradle - Immersive interaction design combining breathing- and neurofeedback to foster focused attention meditation on breath. Poster presented at the 2nd International Conference on Mindfulness, Rome, Italy. Retrieved from
Quesnel, D. T., & Riecke, B. E. (2017, October). Connected Through Awe: Can Interactive Virtual Reality Elicit Awe for Improved Well-Being? Poster presented at the 3rd Annual Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: Virtual Reality and Behavior Change, Stanford University, CA, USA. Retrieved from
Quesnel, D. T. (2017, November). Evoking Deep Connections by Embodying Another’s Reality. Talk presented at the TEDxESFU, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Retrieved from
Quesnel, D., DiPaola, S., & Riecke, B. E. (2018). Deep Learning for Classification of Peak Emotions within Virtual Reality Systems. International SERIES on Information Systems and Management in Creative EMedia (CreMedia), (2017/2), 6–11. Retrieved from
Stepanova, E., Quesnel, D., & Riecke, B. E. (2018). Transformative Experiences become more accessible through Virtual Reality (pp. 1–3). Presented at the Virtual and Augmented Reality for Good Workshop (AR/VR4Good) at IEEE Virtual Reality 2018, Reutlingen, Germany: IEEE.
Stepanova, E. R., Quesnel, D., Kitson, A., Prpa, M., & Riecke, B. E. (2017, November). Virtual Reality as a Tool for Inducing and Understanding Transformative Experiences. Poster presented at the Psychonomic Society 58th Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Cole, A. W., Quesnel, D. T., Pekcetin, S., Gromala, D., O’Brian, H., Antle, A. N., & Riecke, B. E. (2017). Integrating Affective Responses and Gamification into Early Reading Acquisition Software Applications. In CHI PLAY’17 Extended Abstracts (pp. 73–85). Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Quesnel, D., Stepanova, E. R., Aguilar, I., Pennefather, P., & Riecke, B. E. (2018). Creating “AWE”: Combining artistic intuition and research-based design for an emotionally-profound art installation. Presented at the 2018 IEEE Games, Entertainment, Media Conference (GEM) (full paper), Galway, Ireland: IEEE.
Quesnel, D., & Riecke, B. E. (2018). Are You Awed Yet? How Virtual Reality Gives Us Awe and Goose Bumps. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1–22.
Stepanova, E., Quesnel, D., Kitson, A., Prpa, M., Aguilar, I., & Riecke, B. E. (2018, June). A framework for studying Transformative Experiences through VR. Symposium presentation presented at the 23rd Annual CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy & Social Networking Conference, Gatineau, Canada. Retrieved from
Stepanova, E. R., Quesnel, D. T., & Riecke, B. E. (2019). Space - a Virtual Frontier: How to Design and Evaluate a Virtual Reality Experience of the Overview Effect Promoting The Feeling of Connectedness. Frontiers in Digital Humanities - Human-Media Interaction, 6(7), 1–22.
Quesnel, D., & Riecke, B. E. (2017). Awestruck: Natural Interaction with Virtual Reality on Eliciting Awe (pp. 205–206). Presented at the Poster presented at IEEE Symposium on 3D User Interfaces 3DUI, Los Angeles, CA, USA: IEEE.
Stepanova, E. R., Quesnel, D. T., & Riecke, B. E. (2019). Understanding AWE: Can a virtual journey, inspired by the Overview Effect, lead to an increased sense of interconnectedness? Frontiers in Digital Humanities - Human-Media Interaction, 6(9), 1–21.
Quesnel, D., Stepanova, E. R., Aguilar, I., Kitson, A., & Riecke, B. E. (2017). AWE. Invited Virtual Reality Exhibition presented at the TEDxSFU, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Quesnel, D., Stepanova, E. R., Aguilar, I., Kitson, A., & Riecke, B. E. (2017). AWE. Invited Virtual Reality Exhibition presented at the SPLASH, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Quesnel, D., Stepanova, E. R., Aguilar, I., Kitson, A., & Riecke, B. E. (2017). AWE. Invited Virtual Reality Exhibition presented at the TEDxEastVan, Vancouver, BC, Canada.