Virtual Reality Learning Lab – new online & offline location


We’re very proud to announce that the website of the Virtual Reality Learning Lab is online. We are still working on some technical details and of course we still have a lot of content to add. Nonetheless we are excited about this step; thank you Donna Schipper.

We’re even more excited about our new offline location at HUBspot Leiden, the centre for entrepreneurship and innovation that just opened its doors at Langegracht 70 in Leiden. Here, the VR Learning Lab will have its own office and plenty of room and hardware for students to work on their Virtual Reality projects.

The dangers of techno-pessimism in education

I do research on the potential of Virtual Reality for education. Now, people generally find VR very exciting and because of this I get a lot of enthusiastic reactions. People can imagine all sorts of useful applications for education. Students could learn about our solar system while experiencing a space flight, or walk through ancient Rome and learn about its history.

Of course, I also receive a lot of reactions that are more critical of VR as a learning tool. We are at a point in time where there’s hardly any decisive research about learning performances in Virtual Reality. We don’t even know yet whether people will buy VR headsets. Shouldn’t we wait for these kinds of things before we invest in hardware and educational VR content? VR has been a hype before, can the technology deliver the promises that are being made?

Generally I can understand and appreciate these critical viewpoints. I often even agree with them. However, I also think that there’s danger in this cautious, sceptical stance that is often seen in education. The danger is that it’s quite different from the agressive venture capitalist approach often seen in the internet & entertainment industries. Virtual Reality has the potential to be huge, which creates the possibility to invest in a company that will be leading in this new market. This promise has been the reason for VC’s to invest billions and billions of dollars in companies that create VR hardware and software.

So, when VR would actually become a mainstream technology, the entertainment industry will have a multi billion dollar head start. This head start will have had serious influence on the way we view and use Virtual Reality. There will be solid software distribution platforms created by the VR hardware companies. VR will be primarily perceived as a medium for gaming and other entertainment purposes, and only very slightly as a tool for learning. Matthew McCoy points out how the choices we make today, will strongly affect our future use of the medium in this interesting article.

In a way then, techno-pessimism in education is self-fulfilling. We can follow a cautious, sceptical approach and wait for strong research results that conclude that certain Virtual Reality applications lead to better learning results. But by doing so, we give the entertainment industry a head start, making it very hard for education to catch up. I guess something similar happened with our smartphones. We don’t primarily use these devices for their powerful learning capabilities, but instead for posting selfies on Instagram.

I want to stress that a critical stance about the use of VR in education is very valuable. Virtual Reality is not a tool that will solve all the ‘problems’ in education. I do not think VR will transform or disrupt education, despite what the headlines of tech blogs state. VR is not the best medium for all learning material. Some is better explained through text, video, by doing an assignment, or by explanation by the teacher. I do think however, that we should experiment with VR in the classroom much more!

What do you think? Is this danger real? What should we do about it?

If you’re interested in my research, you can follow me on Twitter, like my page on Facebook, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Virtual Reality for Science & Education 2016 – a Review

On the 10th of March 2016 we organized the Virtual Reality for Science & Education symposium at the Scheltema Complex in Leiden. I think we can safely state the event was a great success!

Over 125 people attended the event, causing a small shortage of chairs at the busiest time of the symposium. I have seen many familiar faces, but also met a lot of interesting new people. The list of attendees included researchers, professors, high school teachers, entrepreneurs, Virtual Reality developers, policy makers and artists. I think this mix of people led to very interesting discussions, thank you all very much for your input!

The speakers of the symposium showed us inspiring examples of successful application of Virtual Reality in science and education. I think these examples illustrate the countless opportunities that are in need of experimentation. Below you can find the list of speakers, the full program can be found here.

During the break and the drinks at the end of the day people could experience different VR experiences themselves. There were demonstrations by:


The video of the symposium was made by Floran Swanborn and is embedded at the top of this post. Below you can view the photos made by Roland Clarke.

Virtual Reality for Science & Education symposium - 10 March 2016

These are the slides for my presentation at the symposium.

Are you interested in the slides of the other speakers? Or do you have an idea for a new project? Please feel free to contact me. You can also subscribe to the Virtual Reality & Education newsletter if you want to be informed about future events!

Subscribe to the Virtual Reality & Education Newsletter

* indicates required

This symposium was made possible by the LUF, the Gratama stichting and the Media Technology program.

Continue reading

Virtual Reality spreker

Op zoek naar een inspirerende spreker voor een studiedag, congres of symposium? Ik geef zeer regelmatig lezingen als Virtual Reality spreker. Ik deel kennis en ervaringen van mijn PhD-onderzoek aan de Universiteit Leiden en bespreek verschillende projecten van het VR Learning Lab.

Eerder gaf ik lezingen bij bedrijven, bibliotheken, gemeentes, het po, vo, mbo, hbo en verschillende universiteiten. Aan de Universiteit Leiden doceer ik o.a. een Honours Class.

Continue reading

Virtual Reality for Science & Education Symposium – 10 March 2016

Updates about the program below!

During the last few years developments in Virtual Reality have gained a lot of momentum. Almost two decades after the inevitable downfall in the hype cycle, the Oculus Rift showed that a VR headset is within reach for the average consumer. This kickstarted many new initiatives, causing an entire VR ecosystem to emerge, with small start-ups and massive corporations creating new headsets, innovative input devices, spherical cameras and loads of immersive content.

These developments open many possibilities for research and education. Realistic simulations allow police officers to safely train dangerous situations. 3D visualizations can help the design process by allowing the user to walk around in buildings that have not been built yet. But we can also think of immersive data visualizations which can be navigated spatially. Psychology researchers can use VR to measure responses to realistic environments and scenarios. Lectures about ancient Rome could be given while walking past the Colosseum and virtual classrooms could make following a MOOC into a more intense and social experience.

To explore the possibilities of this new medium, we organize the symposium ‘Virtual Reality for Science & Education‘ on the 10th of March 2016. The symposium will start at 13:30 at the Scheltema complex in Leiden. Around 17:30 we will end the day with some drinks and Virtual Reality demonstrations.

On this day, the students from the eponymous elective research course of the Media Technology MSc. program will present the VR prototypes they have created.

The plenary program will have speakers from different backgrounds: Virtual Reality developers, scientists who use VR in their research and educators who experiment with VR in the classroom.


13:30 Coffee, registration and demo’s

14:00 Welcome

14:05 Robin de Lange (Leiden University)
In his talk, Robin will discuss some results from his PhD research so far. Why do many people think Virtual Reality could be a powerful tool for education? What kind of possibilities are there? What is the best way to proceed?

14:30 Guntur Sandino (CleVR)
CleVR specializes in creating complete and customized Virtual Reality (VR) solutions for a wide range of purposes in the (Mental) Health Care sector. Guntur will talk about the interactive applications they have created to treat fear of flying and Social Phobia.

14:55 Student team: DinoZapp
Gosse Mol, Han Lie, Roos Hoefnagel & Nickolas Ioannou will present the VR game they have created where children learn the practices of taxonomy in a playful way. This project was part of the VRSE course and created in collaboration with Naturalis.

15:10 Richard den Tilborg (Ordina)
VR is powerful technology, can it be used to change our subconsciousness for humanized purposes?Ordina SMART realized several cases to influence the brain. Two of them will be explained in this presentation. (1) Can VR help patients wih anorexia? and (2) Battle your fear for public speaking


15:50 Hans Luyckx (IJsfontein)
IJsfontein designs and develops playful (digital) learning based on the belief that people are naturally curious and intrinsically motivated to develop themselves. Hans will talk about the VR projects they created for Veilig Verkeer Nederland and the new Waterlinie Museum.

16:15Lisa E. Rombout
Lisa will discuss the use of the placebo effect in virtual health care, based on her Media Technology graduation research that compared real-world placebo’s with virtual ones.

16:25 – Student team: Orbital Visualization
Bauke Smits & Desiree de Ridder will present the VR application they have created that teaches Chemistry students the complex shapes of atomic orbitals. This project was part of the VRSE course.

16:40Sander Veenhof
To explore which role Virtual Reality can play in the future of education, Sander Veenhof has been developing and testing experimental multi-user VR learning environments for classroom use. In his talk, he will share the results – but the failures too.

17:00 – Discussion, Drinks & Demos

During the day visitors can try many different Virtual Reality demonstrations and experience the potential of VR themselves. The talks and experiences can be discussed during the (free!) drinks at the end of the day.

Flyer VR for science and education_10_March_2016

The symposium is free for everyone, but tickets are limited. Registration via this form is required.

Call for project demonstrations
We are looking for interesting additions to the program of the VRSE Symposium 2016. Do you want to show the VR project you have created? We still have openings for the following format:

  • Project demonstration. You will have a stand to showcase and explain your work during the day.

This symposium was made possible by the LUF, the Gratama-stichting and the Faculty of Science.

Virtual Reality for Science & Education

In May 2015 the Gratama Stichting and Leids Universiteitsfonds announced that my research project into the possibilities of Virtual Reality for the field of education will receive the Gratama research grant. Prof. dr. Jaap van den Herik helped me with the application procedure, the research will be part of my PhD work supervised by prof. dr. Bas Haring.

The research project includes an elective course where 30 students will explore the potential of Virtual Reality for science and education by creating experimental VR prototypes. More details about the course in the e-Studiegids.

My research project was mentioned in the Leiden University newsletter and Mare.

Graduation project

On the 28th of August 2013 I presented my graduation project, which was graded an 8.5.

Developing an Augmented Reality application to promote an extended concept of cognition in education

The ever decreasing size and price of computer parts seems to be leading to computing power becoming ubiquitous. Similar to technology such as pen and paper, computing power becomes intertwined with our problem solving processes in such ways that it becomes invisible. This development has, and will have, enormous influence on our cognitive profiles. The field of education however, has barely changed to cope with this change in cognitive profiles.  While developments in information technologies are changing how we learn in many ways, we believe it is essential to rethink what we should learn in this perspective of increasing availability and accessibility of computing power.

This research reviews an extended concept of cognition, in which technological elements can actually be part of the cognitive process. We suggest this view as a framework to discuss the goals of education and the technological aids that can be used to reach these goals. To raise this discussion, a mobile application is developed which shows the potential of Augmented Reality techniques to display context-sensitive information, which can be incorporated in the problem solving process.

The output of my research project consisted of three parts:

1. An article published in the third issue of AR[t] magazine of the ARLab titled: ‘Augmented Education: How AR technologies extend our minds’.

2. An Augmented Reality app ARMath, created using Unity 3D and the Vuforia AR library. The prototype recognizes mathematical statements and displays extra information on the problem in the vicinity, such as a graph when an equation is recognized. Because of the limitations of live text recognition, this prototype uses image recognition and therefore only works for certain mathematical statements.

3. A PhD proposal to extend this research.

Below you can find my article in the AR[t] magazine.

Download the article here

About me

Hi there! I am Robin de Lange, a researcher, lecturer and entrepreneur with a focus on Virtual Reality and education. I have a MSc degree in Media Technology from Leiden University and a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Philosophy at the same University.


I am the founder and principal researcher of the Virtual Reality Learning Lab. I do PhD research at Leiden University, supervised by prof. dr. Bas Haring. For my research I study the potential of Augmented and Virtual Reality for understanding and solving abstract problems. I give lectures and teach courses where we explore the possibilities of Virtual Reality for different fields. We also organize Virtual Reality workshops and demonstrations, develop applications and advise organisations on developments in this field.

I am also the founder and program leader of the Lyceo CodeLab, a unique program for high school students to learn how to code.

In the past I have initiated and contributed to many different projects. During my studies, I was the owner of a homework guidance and tutoring company, which was successfully transferred (twice). I’ve created philosophical infographics, developed Augmented Reality applications and worked on the first MOOC produced in the Netherlands.

On this page you can find for what kind of work you can hire me. I am usually in for new challenges, so feel free to contact me!


Some of my previous clients: