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VR systems and humans

Individual course

Virtual reality (VR) technology transports us to real or synthetic places that may be inaccessible, breathtaking, complex beyond our wildest imagination, or just simple and relaxing. Applications include entertainment, social interaction, virtual travel, remote training, architectural walkthroughs, cultural appreciation, and learning enhancement. Although VR has been around for decades, it always came with a high cost to enter the field because of advanced, expensive equipment and computing resources. Thanks to widespread progress in display, sensing, and computational technology, the newest VR systems are cheap, lightweight, and easy to program. This has caused a flood of excitement as almost anyone can pick up a VR headset and start developing experiences.

The purpose of this course is to provide you with a deep understanding of the fundamentals of VR. Because VR tricks our brains by presenting synthetic stimuli to our senses, it is extremely challenging to develop and analyze VR systems that are both effective and comfortable. To get a handle on these issues, this course will fuse together knowledge from a variety of relevant topics, including basics in human physiology, neuroscience, and perceptual psychology, and illustrate how they impact the development of VR hardware, software and content.

Course contents

  • Overview of human physiology, neuroscience and human perception with relationship to VR
  • Depth and scale perception
  • Perception of screen resolution
  • Perception of motion
  • Perceptually optimal parameters for frame rate, latency, and drift in VR systems
  • Perceptual training
  • Comfort and VR sickness
  • Psychophysical experiments
  • Design of VR human subjects experiments

Learning outcomes

After the course you will

  • have knowledge in human physiology and human perception in relationship to VR
  • understand common perceptual flaws of modern VR systems related to resolution, latency, frame rates, tracking, lens aberrations, drift and jitter
  • be able to critically assess a given VR system or experience and recommend improvements
  • be able to formulate a hypothesis about a VR experience, create such a VR experience in Unity3D, and design a human subject experiment testing the hypothesis.

Course material

Online material in the Lovelace learning environment: (under the headline VR Systems and Humans/FITech).

To earn credits in this course, you’ll need a laptop and access to a VR headset. Whether you decide to buy one or borrow it doesn’t matter; the key is having access to a VR headset for your assignments. Remember, understanding VR is impossible without firsthand experience. Examples of headsets we use in our on-campus courses include Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift. However, students have made it work with various other headsets. As long as you can connect Unity with your headset, you’ll be good to go.

Teaching schedule

You can start the course at any time of the year and complete it at your own pace. The application period for this course is continuous. When you’ve finished your work, simply let the teacher know, and you’ll receive your grades.

Completion methods

  • Four quizzes
  • Four programming assignments
  • Final exam online (1-4 ECTS credits)
  • If you also complete the final project, you’ll receive 5 ECTS credits
  • Your credit count will depend on the tasks you complete, and your grade will be marked as “passed”. When you’re ready to receive grades for your completed work, please inform the teacher. Keep in mind that evaluating the course project, which is a requirement for the 5 credits, may take several days to a few weeks.

More information in the University of Oulu study guide.

You can get a digital badge after completing this course.

Responsible teacher

University of Oulu
Anna LaValle, University lecturer

Further information about the course and studying

University of Oulu
FITech contact person Oulu

Contact person for applications

FITech Network University
Fanny Qvickström, Student services specialist
Start here
Start here
ICT studies
Game development,
Software engineering,
User interfaces and usability
Course code:
Study credits:
1–5 ECTS
0 €
Course level:
Teaching period:
Continuously on-going
Application start date:
Application deadline:
Continuously on-going
Host university:
University of Oulu
Who can apply:
Adult learner,
Degree student
Teaching method:
Teaching language:
General prerequisites:
An HMD headset is required.
Course suitable for:
Anyone with an interest in VR technology.
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