Virtual Reality? For Real! A Education Innovation Project

The Faculty of Sciences' 2017 education innovation project Virtual Reality (VR) offers a unique way of turning abstract concepts and phenomena into something concrete by means of direct sensory experiences. Read about he project's findings below.

What is Captain Einstein?

The Faculty of Sciences experimented with its own VR creation Captain Einstein: it is a virtual speed-of-light boat tour that allows you to experience relativity theory 'from within'. 

Contrary to popular belief, special relativity is not particularly hard to understand from a mathematical point of view. Rather, the biggest challenge is understanding the specific physical meaning of the theory's abstract concepts. For that reason, the Faculty of Sciences in collaboration with LUCA School of Arts and the cross-media company Fisheye created a virtual boat tour through Ghent's historic city centre, a dreamworld in which light only travels at 20 km/hour. A dreamworld like that rescales different relativity phenomena to a more human scale. The direct VR experience makes it possible to build on this new intuition on relativity. 


Captain Einstein is used in the context of science communcation and outreach and was succesful as a VR demo at a dozen festivals in Belgium and the Netherlands. Over 2500 people viewed the 360° clip through VR glasses. It remains a concept that appeals to broad audiences, be they young or old, science-minded or not. After viewing the clip, people are able to ask questions, often resulting in animated discussions.  Based on these experiences, the Faculty of Sciences developed an accompanying website,, where the video clip is explained to a broad audience. 


You can find Captain Einstein on YouTube:

In less than a fortnight, the Faculty of Sciences had scored over 90.000 views. YouTube supports 360° clips since 2015. You can easily watch them on pc or smartphone, with a VR viewer (e.g. cardboard) or not, which is also useful for a limited distribution of 360° clips by means of a private link (e.g. to a student group).

How to Use VR / Captain Einstein in a Class on Relativity Theory?

At the Faculty of Sciences, we naturally used Captain Einstein to explain Relativity Theory (third bachelor Physics and Astronomy, Master of Engineering Physics).

  • All students watched the video with a VR viewer at home or during a break in class.
  • This was followed by a discussion and exercise session, partly in class, partly as homework.


  • During those exercise sessions, students tried out various VR viewers. Based on these experiences, a physics education paper was written specifically aimed at university lecturers and students of Relativity Theory. This way, the video can also be used at other higher education institutions.

Where to Find Other VR-projecten?

In general, the Faculty of Sciences estimates that VR can indeed be a new important teaching aid, but only in addition to classic teaching methods with direct student-teacher interaction, books and (digital) boards. The VR world is evolving very quickly, both in terms of hardware and in terms of software. That is why it is interesting to follow a specialized news site such as VR focus. Other interesting VR/AR applications in the higher education sphere are:


Want to Know More?

Please contact The Faculty of Sciences has an HTC VIVE (high-end VR set) and laptop with strong graphics card available for loan. 

Last modified June 24, 2021, 5:31 p.m.