Virtual Reality research at the Fieldlab Rotterdam
The Fieldlab Burglary Free Neighbourhood uses smart sensors to detect suspicious sounds and movements. In the Rotterdam Fieldlab we’re experimenting with sensors and subsequent measures to determine their effectiveness in sensing and preventing suspicious behaviour. The Virtual Reality research that started in September 2019 as part of the Burglary Free Neighbourhood, is expected to deliver a major contribution to the recognition of criminal behaviour.
The virtual environment will give researchers insight into the effectiveness of deterrent measures in a neighbourhood following the detection of suspicious behaviour. For this purpose, a part of the Rotterdam neighbourhood Lombardijen will be recreated in Virtual Reality. The Carlo Collodihof is currently being recreated to serve as a virtual Fieldlab. Besides various measurements from the behaviour of participants inside the virtual environment, surveys and interviews will be taken to gather a complete picture of the actions and the reasoning behind the behaviour of participants.
Building the virtual Fieldlab
Virtual Reality technology has been in use in specific scientific research for quite a number of years now, but only in the last few years the use of this technology has taken flight inside many branches of academic research. The reasons for this, besides a growing interest from researchers, are the easy availability of reliable, affordable and easy to use virtual reality equipment.
The building of the virtual environment takes a lot of preparation and time. Every aspect of the real environment must be recreated in the virtual world; streets, roads, houses, trees, etc. The Tech Labs of the Network Institute of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is responsible for creating the virtual environment. This is done in collaboration with the project team Inbraakvrije Wijk (Burglary Free Neighbourhood) Rotterdam, the university of Twente and the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Freiburg, Germany).
To gather data that is as close as possible to gathering data in the real world, we’re trying to create a realistic virtual environment. For this project we’re using several workflows to create all the various components of the virtual environment. Programs like Sketchup and Maya 2019 are used to create the physical environment and the houses. Substance Designer is used to create the materials that give the 3D models their realistic appearance and Unity3D Pro is used to assemble everything and program the actions and interactions. Other software is used to create humanoid avatar and animate them for background realism in the virtual environment.
At the moment we’re planning to finish the first version of the virtual Fieldlab in January 2020 and start data gathering from April 2020. The data gathering will last for about one year after which analysis and publication of the results will follow.