Virtual Reality Symposium: The VU Got Virtual!

The “Virtual Reality Symposium: Let’s Get Virtual!” was hosted on the 22nd of June by the XR community and Network Institute at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The public event gathered researchers from the XR community who presented their cutting-edge work over five talks. The topics ranged from discussing the virtual reality technology itself to applications for theoretical work and applied contexts.

Marco Otte (CTO at the Network Institute) opened the event with a showcase of local and international XR projects that the Network Institute facilitated through collaborations with different research groups. These collaborations have included criminology topics as well as cognitive research about mentalizing. This resulted in realistic avatars with lip-synchronised voice recordings and fine-grained bodily expressions.

After this, as part of the EU-wide, Horizon-funded Shotpros project Vana Hutter (Assistant professor in the Behavioural and Movement Sciences faculty at the VU) & Lisanne Kleygrewe (PhD candidate in the Human Movement Sciences Dep. at VU) demonstrated their VR police training technology. Geared with purpose-made VR police belts, trainees practice high-risk scenarios in simulated environments.

Jantsje Mol (Postdoctoral researcher at CREED, UvA) presented her VR environment with a typical Dutch house which study participants would help protect from floods. The aim is to raise awareness for flood preparedness in the Netherlands.

On the theoretical side, Freek van Ede (associate professor and member of the Proactive Brain Lab at the VU) showed how VR experiments can both expand existing accounts of human cognition by making them slightly more realistic, but also broaden the types of questions which can be asked.

The cutting-edge can also help preserve indigenous knowledge by putting it into a VR game which different audiences can engage with. This is how Bram Kreug (MSc artificial intelligence at the VU) hopes the Penan’s hunting techniques will be transmitted down the generations.

And finally, Tilo Hartmann (full professor of virtual reality and communication at the VU) shared some of the latest research avenues on the VR platform itself, showing how it is spread between accounts of VR as fully immersive versus still too distorted from reality. 

Closing the event, attendees could try out VR headsets on multiple demos over lunch.

See some photos from the event below!