“New Beginnings” – immersive technology event at the Leiden Learning & Innovation Centre

by Pippa Brownlie, Leiden Learning & Innovation Centre, The Netherlands.

On the 23rd of January, the Leiden Learning & Innovation Centre (LLInC) was delighted to host a first-of-its-kind Immersive Tech Event for Leiden University.

Welcoming a vast range of staff from faculties and departments across our institution, our den Haag campus saw Immersive Tech enthusiasts come together to discuss their passions, voicing their questions, concerns, and ambitions, all while showcasing their many and greatly varied projects.

We would love to share with you a little of what made this event, in our eyes, truly special. All were encouraged to attend, whether established experts or curious onlookers keen to see what the fuss was about. These contrasting backgrounds combined with practical hints, demos, and deep dive presentations made for some fascinating insights and discussions, all of which we hope will spur the recognition and action required to secure our university’s Immersive Tech community the future and support it merits.

Following an initial welcome by our Senior Learning & Innovation Consultant Tanja de Bie, we began the session with an icebreaker quiz. Through questions such as “how many XR applications have been developed at Leiden University so far?”, we not only established a shared base level of knowledge amongst participants, but also observed a curiosity-sparking sense of surprise. At the beginning of the day, 40% of attendees had underestimated the number of applications developed at their own university.

Demonstrating Leiden University’s strength as lying not only in application development but also practical implementation, our two keynote speakers then provided fascinating insights into how Immersive Technologies have revolutionised their research.

First to present was Dr Ineke van der Ham, a Professor of Technological Innovations in Neuropsychology, discussing how diagnosis methods for acquired brain damage have altered since Virtual Reality’s (VR) implementation. Whereas, in the past, navigation tests could be performed only on a small, comparatively simplistic scale, Professor van der Ham and her team’s VR project “Leiden Navigation Test” demonstrates an alternative method. Within this VR experience, a participant adopts the persona of an astronaut sent to an unfamiliar planet. Having followed a predetermined journey along a path, they are then asked to recall aspects of their journey – a process allowing for a highly nuanced diagnosis of navigational impairment.

Following this came Dr Paz Gonzalez, a Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics who demonstrated how Immersive Technologies have influenced her research into uses of the past tense in Spanish. As Dr Gonzalez explains, in previous years, her research had involved having participants watch videos and look at comics, later describing what they had observed. The results she received, however, left her questioning whether there might be a more reliable means of gathering data. The answer, for her, lies within Immersive Technologies. When within a virtual environment, participants’ choice of verbal forms often alters to become less influenced by perceived external influence/pressure. Moreover, environments and scenarios can be adapted to elicit an increase in data production.

After our keynote speakers, there came a change of pace as our fabulous MC Niloufar Daneshkhah welcomed four members of staff from LLInC: Michiel Musterd, Monika Theron, Adel Qaddoumi, and Max Montfrooij.

While Michiel gave an inspirational, logistically-oriented speech regarding Immersive Technology’s potential and the requirements for its realisation, Monika presented the conclusions of her extensive interviews with Leiden University staff. These form only a part of a larger project intended to assist in considerably upscaling Immersive Technologies’ capacity across the university and will feature in an upcoming report on the topic. Concluding this section of the programme, Adel and Max then introduced with great enthusiasm LLInC’s Tech Fusion Studio, demonstrating its already impressive capacity as an innovative testing lab environment as well as indicating its many additional capabilities including motion capture, and virtual production.

Following lunch, our afternoon of demos then began with vigour. For those wishing something of a hands-on session, there were introductory workshops for 360 degree video as well as Virtual Pilates in VR. For those keen upon discussion, there were workshops on Design Thinking for Immersive Technology Development and Future Foresight. There was also an Exploration Session within which fundamental topics pertaining to Immersive Tech such as finance, standardisation, and responsibility were debated in small groups prior to a large final feedback moment.

For LLInC and Leiden University more broadly, this event was not only the first of its kind but one which represents merely a starting point for Immersive Technology’s emphasis across the campus. Whether experts or novices, all participated actively within discussions of the kind key to ensuring that Immersive Technologies gain the traction and recognition they deserve. For this reason, we’re determined to ensure that this Immersive Tech Event will be far from the last at Leiden University. We’re thrilled to see our thriving community characterised by enthusiasm, curiosity, and determination, and look forward to seeing and experiencing all which is yet to come!


Pippa Brownlie, Leiden Learning & Innovation Centre, The Netherlands.

Further reading.