Lisa, you became a computer scientist to fulfill your childhood dream of being a »game maker«. Instead, you are now doing your doctorate at Fraunhofer FKIE in the field of virtual reality (VR). How did that come about?
Lisa: Ever since I knew there was such a thing as VR, I've been on fire for it. I mean, what's cooler than a computer game in 2D? A game in 3D, in VR! In my studies I realized that while I really like building applications, I'm even more interested in research. As a game developer, you implement a lot of practical applications and rarely work on theoretical issues – there's just not much research, not much that's really, really new. You don’t have those eureka!-moments. That's why I decided to work on the research side.
Why did you choose Fraunhofer FKIE for your doctorate?
Lisa: For my doctoral work and research, it’s always been important to me to keep an eye on what's next: What exactly is my goal? What am I doing this for? I don't want to lose my footing. It’s really helpful to collaborate closely with future users. And that worked really well at the FKIE right from the start. We are often at the customer's location, trying something out or doing a study with users. This gives me opportunities to put my theoretical work directly into practice in various projects.
So, for someone who doesn’t just want to do basic research, but also practical research that can be implemented in the near future, then FKIE is the place to be for your PhD.
Your dissertation topic (to put it simply) is »Locomotion methods in VR«. Can you explain that briefly?
Lisa: In VR, you somehow have to get from point A to point B in most applications; you have to change your position or orientation in VR. In real life, it's relatively easy. We just walk a bit or turn around – done. In VR, on the other hand, there are limitations in this regard. For example, if there are walls or obstacles in real space that don't exist in the virtual world, then actual walking is not so easy anymore. In VR, there are an incredible number of possibilities for dealing with this, the so-called locomotion methods, which are then also incredibly varied. I look at how these methods behave in relation to each other, examine them for similarities or the identical effects, and how and where you can use which ones.
What fascinates you about your work?
Lisa: The potential. And the enthusiasm. Not just my own but much more the enthusiasm of others. When I present our work – at a trade show booth, for example – and people might even be putting on VR head-mounted displays (HDMs) for the first time, it's always such a wow-effect that's hard to convey in any other way. And even as an »experienced« user, I can always dive into new worlds, there's always something new to discover and build.
Even if you can't spend enough time in the virtual world, what is it about working at FKIE in the real world that appeals to you?
Lisa: It's simply my colleagues. We have a lot of young people here and a really dynamic team, which is just fun. It's a bit like in the series Eureka. Everywhere you look, there are mad scientists geniuses and researchers who are all totally enthusiastic and motivated about what they're doing, but who also get on really well in their private lives. They're passionate about their work, and that's why they like to talk about it.
What are your hopes for your future here at FKIE?
Lisa: Oh, actually, it can continue like this. I'm already really content right now. I just think it would be cool if I could continue to work in my field as I have been doing so far and possibly branch out or expand a bit more: preferably through lots of cool new VR and AR (augmented reality) projects.