Call for PhD applicants — VR and cognitive science projects

Object recognition and binding in VR

Do you have an interest in exploring human perception, mental states of consciousness, and mental health using the latest cutting edge virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies? Our Virtual Realities Exploration team is seeking additional HDR candidates to join in current projects. Programs last 3-4 years and are based in Melbourne, Australia, with an anticipated workload of 30 hours per week as part of a Higher Degree Research PhD program in Psychological Science.

Forecast to be a multi-billion dollar industry within less than half a decade, VR has often been contained to visual perception studies and basic phobia interventions, at least in the lab — although its applications are now well saturated in the gaming and real estate industries. Now, more intricate applications/software and advanced, more compact hardware has allowed us to delve deeper into the human mind with these exciting new technologies.

Requirements

  • A 4th year honours degree in psychology or equivalent with 1st class honours (e.g., Distinction average), preferably from an Australian university in the past 8 years
  • A creative mindset
  • Self-motivation and critical thinking skills
  • Some ITS skills preferable

A limited number of scholarships are available

Embodied cognition and perception in virtual worlds

Current projects

Assessment

Alex is working with Nesplora in Spain to test out cognitive faculties from sustained attention, to task-switching, to working memory (WM) function in VR. Immersive environments will be essential for preemptive diagnosis of mental decline (and potential intervention). New and cutting-edge embodied cognition (EC) tasks will facilitate identification of developmental disorders as well as providing technologically-assisted support for Alzheimer's sufferers.

As a cognitive scientist, my main area of interest is in exploring how perception and other cognitive functions are altered in VR — exploring virtual simulations as a canvas for human experience can help us better understand binding errors, predictive coding, and perceptual anomalies, and that's just scratching the surface. I also work with a team of clinicians and researchers to explore psychological assessment and potential intervention with the assistance of VR-based technologies.

We are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world – Bill Gates

Self-help v clinical intervention

With dozens of new VR apps and simulations developed and tested each month, it is only a matter of time before personal development enthusiasts take to adopting these scenarios for self-growth and self-treatment. A lack psychology and counselling-related guidelines for best practice and treatment approaches, and a lack of awareness in Australia about VR-aided therapies and their mechanisms has highlighted a major research gap that needs to be addressed.

Click here for an example of one of our student projects

Health-risks

Although for a large proportion of users, VR games and simulations are safe both physically and psychologically, we have yet to explore the broad range of factors that may influence perception, mental state, and adaptation to reality post-VR that could influence certain groups of people.

Shorter term projects: Shorter projects may also be available for 3rd year students moving into a 4th year honours project in an APAC-accredited psychology stream. (Note honours admission is competitive and normally requires at least a HD average grade).

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