MD.20.009 – Moving Reality’: Interdisciplinary research to assess the impact of virtual and augmented reality

Route: Measuring and detecting: anything, anytime, anywhere

Cluster question: 107 How can we anticipate the impact of new technologies on humans and society, and understand and evaluate the influence of existing technologies?

Digital technologies establish new forms of interaction between humans and virtual content. This digital transition imposes complex social, legal, ethical, and business challenges, as well as fundamental questions related to human perception/cognition. Virtual (VR) and Augmented reality (AR), for example, are employed increasingly in education, marketing, employment, healthcare, and law. At present, however, assessment of how these technologies affect individual choices and social interaction is limited to small-scale studies in artificial laboratories and non-standardized scenarios.
We propose an interdisciplinary research program to objectively assess the impact of VR/AR technologies in real-life scenarios and on a large-scale. First, we will develop a novel research infrastructure integrating: 1) mobile VR/AR technology to augment real-life environments (e.g., offices, houses, shops, hospitals, factories) with virtual content; 2) wearables and sensors to measure behavioral (e.g., gaze, facial expression), physiological (e.g., heart, respiration, skin conductance) and brain (electroencephalography) signals; and 3) a digital platform to store, analyze, and share virtual environments and research generated data, through privacy-preserving and FAIR modalities. Then, we will use this novel infrastructure to experimentally examine the impact of VR/AR technology on human decision-making, embodied perception and cognition, experiences of agency and digital objects, in a series of real-life use-cases (e.g., job interviews, legal cases, financial decision-making), developed in close collaboration with our societal partners. For example, VR and AR enable people to interact with realistic virtual renderings of their future selves and living conditions during retirement, which may affect their savings behavior and financial well-being during retirement. With the novel infrastructure, we will be able to assess the actual efficacy of VR/AR in influencing such decision-making processes and understand related (neuro)physiological and behavioral variables. A consortium of experts from ethics, law, behavioral economics, psychology, neuroscience, and data science will ensure a uniquely holistic research approach, addressing these multiple aspects simultaneously.


Augmented reality, decision making. real-world neuroscience, mobile EEG, sensors and wearables, virtual reality

Other organisations

Brightlands Smart Services Campus


Organisation Maastricht University (UM)- BISS Institute
Name Prof. dr. E. (Elia) Formisano