Tech Labs Mobile App scores Best Demo at BNAIC 2018

The Babbeltruc app (see here for more) made by Computer Science VU and the Tech Labs of the Network Institute, won the Best Demo at this year’s Benelux AI Conference!

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Using Virtual Reality to train bus drivers

In collaboration with the Rotterdam public transport organisation (RET), Allerto and the Artificial Intelligence group (Tibor Bosse & Romy Blankendaal) at the VU, the Network Institute developed a virtual reality training application to help bus drivers cope with aggressive passengers.
The application uses true immersive virtual reality by using VR-goggles and VR-controllers to give the user control over a virtual bus driver. The bus driver will be confronted with passengers who could get aggressive if not treated properly. By making the correct choices, the bus driver can avoid aggression and solve the situation with the potential for violence.
The VR training will be used beside the more traditional classroom and role-playing sessions to make sure bus driver are well instructed in how to handle potentially aggressive passengers.

In the news
De Telegraaf
Allerto

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Anti-scam training app in the news

Over the past two weeks there’s been a lot of media attention about the Babbeltruc App. This tablet app was created by the Network Institute in collaboration with Artificial Intelligence (Tibor Bosse & Laura van der Lubbe) at the VU and the KBO-PCOB (a national elderly organisation) to help the elderly in coping with doorstep scams.
The app confronts the users with several scenarios where a virtual human tries to either gain access to their house or get sensitive information. The user has to choose from several possible answers at each step and is then asked to say aloud the chosen response. A newly developed algorithm (by Daniel Formolo, AI-CS-VU) will determine how assertive the response was spoken.
With all this information the app can advise the user in getting better at avoiding being scammed.

The Babbel Truc app in the news

VU Beta website
VU Centraal
De Telegraaf
KBO-PCOB
Max Vandaag
Telegraaf (video)
Noord Holland nieuws (@ 09:15m)

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Fall 2018 Newsletter Tech Labs is out!

After a very busy period here at the Network Institute Tech Labs, we’ve finally been able to create an other newsletter. The newsletter offers some insight in the projects being done at the Tech Labs and gives you all the important news about the Tech Labs.

Please note: The Game Cella’ Lab will move to its temporary location in the Transitorium (KE09) on November 1, 2018!

Find the Newsletter Fall 2018 under the Tech Labs menu or simply download it here!

VR Training App

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Tech Labs: Ons Tweede Huis Festival & Virtual Reality

Health care organization “Ons Tweede Huis” (Our Second Home) held a fun and informative festival in order to celebrate their 50th anniversary. To show what the future could hold for engaging, entertaining and caring for their patients, the Tech Labs of the Network Institute lent a set of Virtual Reality equipment. Using the head-mounted-display visitors got an idea of what this relatively new technology could mean for them and their family in care of Ons Tweede Huis.
The festival was a great success and many visitors tried on the VR set.

Read more about the festival at the Parool website (dutch).

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Training the Elderly

Doorstep scams are scams in which a con artist has a convincing, but fraudulent, story with the purpose of coming into your house and/or stealing money. Often these scams appear at the doorstep, for example when somebody wants to enter your house because they must check the electricity or with similar excuses. However, it also happens that the con artist calls you by phone (telling a story about fraudulent payments, aiming to get banking information for example) or approaches you on the street. Elderly people are often the victims of such doorstep scams, which usually have a high impact on their lives.

Within this project, we are creating a tablet application that can be used to train how to verbally act in such situations. The users both learn what to say, and how to say it, in various scenarios. They will both receive automated feedback on how they dealt with the different situations (what they said) and on the assertiveness of their voice (using an algorithm to analyze vocal signals).

This project is a collaboration between the VU and Unie KBO-PCOB.

VU staff working on this project: Romy Blankendaal, Tibor Bosse, Daniel Formolo, Charlotte Gerritsen, Laura van der Lubbe, Marco Otte

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Virtually Bad

This project introduces the concept of “virtual bad guys”: intelligent virtual agents that take a negative or even aggressive stance towards the user. Although they pave the way to various interesting applications, it is hard to create virtual bad guys that are taken seriously by the user, since they are typically unable to apply serious sanctions. To address this issue, this study experimentally investigated the effect of “consequential” agents that are able to physically threaten their human interlocutors. A consequential agent was developed by equipping users with a (non-functioning) device, through which they were made to believe the agent could mildly shock them. Effects on participants’ levels of anxiety and (physiological and self-reported) stress were measured, and the role of presence and perceived believability of the virtual agent was assessed. The consequential agent triggered a stronger physiological stress response than the non-consequential agent, whereas self-reported levels of anxiety and stress did not significantly differ. Furthermore, while presence and believability were substantially associated with users’ stress response, both states did not mediate or explain the effect of a consequential vs. non-consequential agent on stress, as they did not significantly differ between conditions. Implications of these findings and suggestions for follow-up studies on “virtual bad guys” are discussed.

The Tech Labs helped develop the virtual environment, using the custom developed Galvanic Skin response sensor and supplying the VR equipment to run the experiment.

Researchers: Tibor Bosse, Tilo Hartmann, Romy Blankendaal, Nienke Dokter, Marco Otte

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Can VR help autistic children?

In this study a virtual environment was build to see if a virtual training agent could help autistic children in trying to relate to other children. The idea was that a virtual environment feels safer and the children will more easily accept instructions and interact with the virtual agents.

The participants would sit in a chair, wear a virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift DK2) and wear a Blood-Volume-Pulse sensor on their index finger to measure heart rate.

The scene was a classroom with two children, boy and girl, and an adult trainer (male). The virtual trainer would ask the virtual children and the participant simple questions. The actual answer of the participant was not important, but the change in heart rate was. By determining a baseline heart rate at the beginning of each trial, the software checked the actual heart rate at several points in the scenario. If the heart rate was above a certain threshold, the virtual trainer would first try to calm the participant down before continuing the conversation.

Reseachers: Laura Helgering, Michel Klein

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Network Institute VR at IDFA 2017

Take a look at this short impression of the VR display at the IDFA this year.

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Tech Labs VR featured in Discovery Channel documentary

As most of you have probably seen in the Tech Labs Newsletters, the Tech Labs have been working on a virtual neighborhood for studying burglary. These studies are a collaboration between the NSCR (Jean-Louis van Gelder), the University of Porstmouth (Claire Nee) and the Network Institute’s Tech Labs (Marco Otte). The previous version of the Virtual Environment was used in several studies including one carried out in British prisons using actual criminals.

Discovery Channel made a short documentary of this study which features our virtual neighborhood.

At the moment we are working on the second version of the neighborhood featuring many more houses with different features offering an even more realistic environment to use in studies.

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Tech Labs Newsletter Spring 2016 is here!

For those not on the mailing list, the new Tech Labs Newsletter is out!
Just go to Tech Labs – Tech Labs Newsletters or download the PDF directly from here.

Enjoy reading about the latest and greatest projects running at the Tech Labs and get an idea of what the Tech Labs might be able to do for you!

screen_3396x1912_2016-05-09_13-13-40

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Video on Virtual Reality in Academic Research

Erik Verwiel, master student at the UvA, made a short video about the role of immersive Virtual Reality in academic research at the moment.
ReTeks

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Tech Labs Newsletter Summer 2015 is available

The latest Newsletter of the Network Institute Tech Labs gives you an update on a variety of projects using the Tech Labs. There are a few very interesting new projects and an update on some familiar projects that have been running for some time now.
The Newsletter also gives a heads-up on the newest technology available at the Tech Labs for use in research or education.

Download the latest Summer 2015 Newsletter here!

For more information please take a look at the Tech Labs pages on this website or contact Marco Otte (m.otte at vu.nl).

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Tech Labs VR in BBC Science Interview

In collaboration with Claire Nee (University of Portsmouth) and Jean-Louis van Gelder (NSCR) the Network Institute Tech Labs are creating a virtual environment to study the behaviour of burglars. The next study using this state-of-the-art environment will involve real offenders currently serving prison time in the UK.
Claire Nee was recently interviewed by the BBC about her research and how virtual reality helps understanding the burglar’s behaviour.

“The house we’re robbing isn’t real; it’s on a computer screen, part of a virtual reality program that I can control with a mouse. It’s the latest tool that Nee, a forensic psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, has been using to try to get inside the minds of burglars.”

Read the full interview here.

BurglaryV4 2015-06-17 12-26-28-95 BurglaryV4 2015-06-17 12-28-37-36

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