Research

Together with TNO -the most influential institute for scientific innovation in the Netherlands- and the Utrecht school of the Arts, the GMT group forms the center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation (AGS), which aims to create technology for highly effective learning and training experiences.

Thesis topics within GMT are closely related to the AGS main research themes:

Modeling the world.

This theme involves all that is required to create and visualize realistic models of the world. The challenges are to create digital models of real-world objects, both natural objects and man-made objects. Typical techniques to be investigated are reverse engineering and automatic scene generation from images and geographic information systems.

Believable virtual characters.

This theme deals with the modeling of the characters that will inhabit the virtual worlds. Virtual characters can be either software driven autonomous agents or avatars driven by instrumented humans. Challenges are the true-to-life modeling of the human body, posture and physical movements. Agents must show convincing cognitive behavior and autonomously sense their environment, respond and plan their actions.

Simulating the world.

This theme studies the (physical) simulation of the virtual world. It includes real-time simulation of the dynamics of moving objects but also the simulation of changes in clouds, flames, and liquids. Besides the visual aspects it is also important to simulate other sensory data, like sound, temperature, and tactile experience.

Interacting with the world.

This theme studies the high-level interaction between the user and the world, including navigation, manipulation, and multi-sensory interfaces. The study of next generation interfaces includes torso mounted tactile displays and head mounted visual displays for multimodal feedback, brainwave driven devices and body instrumentation for intuitive control, automatic sensing of natural user behavior and cognitive user interaction models. Further, we want to create experiences that go beyond the physics of the simulation (cross-modal sensations and perceptual illusions).

Affective appraisal.

The term affective appraisal in the context of gaming and simulation refers to the influence that a simulated environment has on the mood and level of responsiveness of the subject experiencing the simulation. We want to investigate the main factors contributing to the involvement and emotional reactions, that are evoked by a virtual environment, and to the effectiveness of simulations and enjoyment of serious gaming.

Adaptive game play.

This theme deals with the high-level behavior of the simulated environment in response to user behavior. The environment should automatically adapt to the capabilities and reactions of the user and to the learning experience required. This poses for example challenges in deducing intentions, goals and emotions from the actions of the user, balancing local autonomy of the elements that interact with the user and the global goal of the system, and context and expectation management.

Learning with simulated worlds.

This theme studies how to use virtual environments and games for learning and training purposes most effectively. Training scenarios, including multiple participants and cooperating teams, are extremely complex. This complexity not only entails the building and management of training scenarios, but also how to monitor scenario progress, when and how to make interventions and freeze scenarios, and when and how to provide additional instruction and feedback.

The X-factor.

This theme involves the artistic design aspects and user experience factors (challenge, fantasy and curiosity). These make an application fun, enjoyable, rewarding and motivating, but are poorly understood. Knowledge from the areas of cinematography, drama and story understanding will be used to better understand the emotional effects of narratives, pace, identification and involvement with characters that occur in games. Theoretical and empirical studies of the effects of emotional and cognitive interest are crucial in creating the right experience of users and learners in games and educational software.