I started with Virtual Reality from the sideline; I had an idea about setting up an experiment for children in VR, but did not have a clue as how to build it. VR allows for standardized environments which can easily be changed. So the technical people at the University Utrecht began working on a VR app, while I thought about the script and experimental parameters. The first couple of times I put on the VR goggles (Oculus Rift S), I was completely blown away by the experience. VR offers a truly immersive experience that can be utilized for many purposes. For the project I was working on (YOUth study), we planned to use it primarily for PR purposes (the wow-effect for participating children or as a demo for schools). However, VR can certainly be used for research (besides the interesting clinical applications or watching Netflix). Whereas children typically perform tasks on a computer in a labroom, VR allows the researcher to shape the environment in ways that better reflects the influence of real-life factors such as peers cheering the participant on.
As with all techniques, there are many complicating issues with VR. Most importantly: how do you operate/manipulate objects in the VR environment with the hand-controllers which you do not see when you put on the headset? Movement is also an issue: how can you navigate the VR environment in a way that is instantly clear (most participants are new to VR) and not nauseating. How do you convey information? Via written text or a speaking avatar? And how do you get participants to look where you want them to look?
With these and other questions in mind, I began to develop VR apps myself so that I could experience first-hand some of these issues and think about, and try out solutions. Thusfar, I’ve made two apps which can be downloaded below. Currently, I’m working on a VR brain application. And I’m eager to try to integrate 3D 180 degree recordings in a VR environment.