BNN Proefkonijnen – Having eyes in the back of your head
Ever thought of using a virtual reality headset to answer scientific questions on TV? Well, we did! The hosts of the Dutch TV show ‘Proefkonijnen’ (broadcasted on BNN) wanted to experience what it is like to have eyes in the back of the head. The TV show is known for their ironic, shocking and crazy fragments.
Tim Moelard (our virtual reality developer) hand-crafted a setup in which the hosts could divert their eyes to camera streams that pointed out from the back of their heads. Tim guided them through the different camera setups, whereas neurobiologist Martin Lankheet gave an explanation of what the hosts should experience.
The hosts wanted to experience what it is like to have eyes in the back of your head. Next to that, they also wanted to experience the vision of several animals, such as the vision of a horse. This required easily adjustable ‘eyes’ with different fields of vision. We made the setup portable by hooking up the Oculus Rift and the cameras to a laptop, which we placed in backpacks. This allowed the hosts to move around freely, while attempting multiple challenges.
We were able to imitate visions by changing the direction of the two cameras. The left camera represented the left eye and the right camera the right eye. Changing the eye direction was easy, the cameras kept recording while Tim made the desired adjustments.
The hosts attempted multiple challenges, such as getting a coffee – while simulating the eyes of a horse – and writing on a whiteboard while paying attention on what is happening behind. The last challenge turned out to be the most difficult: reverse parking with one eye in the front and one in the back of the head. Imagine doing that!
This project is particularly different from our previous experiences because we would normally model and program the virtual reality experience, instead of working with two pass-through cameras. This proved to be a great way of stepping outside our everyday ‘virtual reality developer’ activities!