Portrait of Mar Gonzalez Franco

Mar Gonzalez Franco

Principal Researcher



I am a researcher in the EPIC (Extended Perception Interaction and Cognition) team at Microsoft Research. In my research I try to advance Spatial Computing by building new devices and experiences. All while studying human behavior, perception and neuroscience.

2021 Events

SocialVR, CHI Workshop Keynote, May 7th, 2021
Berripills, BioCruzes Hospital, Bilbao, Spain, March 17h, 2021
SXSW, Panelist, Avatars in Virtual Reality, Austin, TX, March 16th, 2021
Mozilla Festival 2021, Panelist, Designing Accessible VR Experiences, March 8th, 2021
University of Iowa, Invited Lecture, March 3rd, 2021
XRBootcamp, Locomotion, Avatars and other tools, invited speaker, February 12, 2021
Goldsmiths, University of London, Invited Lecture, Locomotion, January 18th, 2021


I graduated top class in Computer Science from URL, Barcelona 2008 and completed a Master in Biomedical Engineering in a join program between Universitat de Barcelona and Tsinghua University in China 2010. In 2014 I earned my PhD in Immersive Virtual Reality and Clinical Psychology under the supervision of Prof. Mel Slater at the EVENT-Lab, affiliated as a visiting student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MediaLab. During my PhD I produced anarchic hand experiences into healthy humans (link), as well as stabbed their virtual hands (link). Altogether to explore how our brain perceives our body and search the underlying mechanisms that determine what is real and what is not. Technologically I was using real-time computer graphics, HMDs and body tracking systems.

Over the years my work has evolved in three ways> (1) to continue exploring the wonders of VR and spatial computing; (2) to create new devices and explore what these technologies do to our perceptual systems, most prominent is my work exploring new haptic devices and spatial audio; and (3) to understand how do people behave at large when presented with technology. In that context I have an on-going collaboration with the Soundscape Team, and I did a post-doc at the University College London’s Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics (UCL-VECG) group where I explored obedience to authority paradigms, and whether people would electroshock an avatar (Scientific American).

My interest on impacting larger audiences made me pivot from academia into industrial laboratories and after having been at the MIT, Tsinghua, UB and UCL; I created and led an immersive tech lab at Airbus Group; joined the Startup Traity working on the creation of reputation standards for a user base of 4.5M. And since 2016 I am with Microsoft Research.

Despite the shift into industry, I am still deeply involved in the scientific community, where I often act as expert advisor to governments (US NSF, Canada NSERC, European Commission). As well as published, served as program committee, chair, and reviewed in multiple venues (IEEE & ACM conferences and transactions, Nature Publishing group, Science Robotics). I am also very keen at disseminating my views on how technological companies and industrial labs should run. As well as the implications of technologies for the general public. In that role I have been invited to write several commentaries on my work for Scientific American and done keynotes and interviews with multiple Media outside of the VR world (Bloomberg, GEN summit). Which also gained me some awards as junior technology leader to follow (Business Insider ES 2019 MAS Technology Award 2019).

Professional Activities

Peer Reviewer: IEEE VR, ACM Siggraph, SIG CHI, ACM UIST, ACM MM, ACM TEI, ACM TOCHI, IEEE ISM, IEEE Transactions on Multimedia, IEEE Transactions on Haptics, Frontiers in ICT, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Plos One, Experimental Brain Research, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems; Review Editor for Virtual Environments at Frontiers in ICT and Frontiers in Robotics and AI

Committee: Associate Editor Frontiers in VR (2020), ACM SAP Conference and Program Chair (2019, 2020), ACM Siggraph VRCAI (2019), IEEE VR (2019), IEEE VR (2018), Technical Program ACM MM (2017), Technical Program ACM MMSys Special Session on Immersive Experiences (2017), Panelist IEEE VR (2012), VERE Symposium Chair (2011), Workshop BCI Interaction (2009)

Expert Evaluator: US National Science Foundation (since 2018); Canada NSERC (since 2019); European Commission (since 2016); Expert – Los 100 de COTEC (since 2017); Bind 4.0 Industry accelerator (2018).

Visitors, Interns & Students

Christopher Berger – Visiting Researcher, Caltech
Ryo Suzuki – Intern University Colorado
Zelia Egan – Highschool Intern – Lakeside School
Antonella Maselli – Intern University of Maastricht – U Santa Lucia,  Roma
Brian Cohn – Intern University Southern California
Parastoo Abtahi – Intern, Stanford University
Anthony Steed – Visiting Researcher, University College London
Naomi Layton – Highschool Intern – Lakeside School
Christopher Berger – Visiting Researcher, Karolinska Institutet
Baihan Lin – Visiting Student, Columbia University
2015 (at Airbus)
Jacob Thorn – Intern, University College London
Rodrigo Pizarro – Intern, Universitat de Barcelona


Download Full CV

* Image by Dan DeLong


Previous Events


IEEE AIVR, Special Session Avatars, chair, December 14-18, 2020
CMU Africa, Invited Lecture, December 9th, 2020
MSR Webinar, “Avatars: Finding a sense of self and others in the virtual world”, December 9th, 2020
ACM SUI, Spatial User Interaction, Keynote, October 30, 2020
Harvard in Tech, Panelist, October 29, 2020
Future of Social AR, CSCW, organizer, October 17-18, 2020
BNEW invited speaker, October 6-8, 2020
ACM Spatial User Interaction SUI, Keynote, October 2, 2020
ACM Symposium on Applied Perception, chair and speaker, September 17-18 2020
IDEAL UPC Keynote, September 8, 2020
Unity3D, XR hangouts, August 14, 2020
Cornell University, Invited Seminar, August 11, 2020
Snap Creative Challenge AR Storytelling, organizer, June 18, 2020
BIO Immersive Medicine of the Future panel, June 10, 2020
Frontiers in VR Editors Seminar, June 4, 2020
UW Reality Lab lecture, April 21, 2020
IEEE VR 2020 – Atlanta, March 20-27, 2020 (presenting)
Tech Spirit – Barcelona, February 25, 2020 (speaker)


Smart Haptics Conference 2019 – Seattle, USA – 3-5 December, 2019 (speaker)
MAS Mujeres A Seguir – Award Ceremony – Madrid, Spain – October 22, 2019 (finalist)
Invited Talk at UC3M Universidad Carlos III Computer Science Department – Leganes, Spain – October 23, 2019
Keynote at Cologne Futures – Koln, Germany – October 11, 2019 (keynote)
ACM Symposium on Applied Perception – Barcelona – September 19-20 , 2019 (chair)
Technology Empowering People Diada Graus TIC CosmoCaixa – Barcelona – September 25 2019 (panelist)
Bloomberg: The Future of Investing: Driving Growth Through Innovation – San Francisco – June 11 2019 (live fire chat)
VERE Symposium – Barcelona – 28 February 2019 (invited speaker)

Infinity Box Theatre Project – Pacific Science Center, October 12-14, 2018 (scientist)
World VR Forum – Crans-Montana, Switzerland, June 7, 2018 (panelist)
GEN Summit – Lisbon, Portugal. May 31, 2018 (panelist)
SotaBind 4.0 – Bilbao, Spain. May 30, 2018 (keynote)

Stanford University. November 28, 2017 (seminar + visit)
Society for Neuroscience 2017. Washington DC, November 11-15, 2017 (presenting)
Grace Hopper Celebration 2017, Orlando, October 4-6, 2017 (Microsoft Ambassador)
Microsoft Faculty Summit 2017. The Edge of AI. July 17-18, 2017 (panel session organizer)
EXF17 Experience Fighters, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, “Illusions in Virtual Reality”, June 21-22, 2017 (invited speaker, 500 attendees)
Women in VR, Innoarea, ValenciaLab, May 3, 2017 (invited speaker)
e3iVR, University of Wisconsin, Madison WI, USA, “Ethics in the investigational and interventional uses of immersive Virtual Reality”, April 26-27, 2017 (invited speaker)