Dr. Florian Soyka


Picture of Soyka, Florian, Dr.

Florian Soyka

Position: Research Scientist  Unit: Alumni Bülthoff

I was always driven by a general and very broad curiosity to understand the naïve question: “How does the world work?” Therefore, I chose to study physics at the University of Bonn and later moved on to the University of Stuttgart. I did my diploma thesis in experimental physics on critical Casimir forces in colloidal suspensions with Prof. Clemens Bechinger.

During my studies I became interested in neural networks and human perception. For my PhD in neural and behavioral sciences, I moved to the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen where I got the opportunity to use psychophysics to investigate self-motion perception utilizing the CyberMotion Simulator. In addition to experimental work, I developed numerical models based on the vestibular system describing our findings. During that time, I was part of the European Union project SUPRA - Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, working on modeling perception of airplane pilots. Following my PhD, I developed motion cueing algorithms in the WABS project at the MPI. The goal of the project was to use human perception models in order to improve motion cueing for driving or flight simulators.

After spending nine months traveling New Zealand, I returned to Tübingen and worked as a PostDoc in the Space and Body Perception Research Group led by Dr. Betty Mohler. In her group I worked in the European Union project VR-HYPERSPACE, in which we researched how passenger comfort in airplanes could be increased in the future. The project used the latest findings from neuroscience and psychology combined with state-of-the-art virtual and mixed reality technologies in order to change the perception of space and of oneself while flying. During the project I worked on motion sickness and presence in virtual reality (video link) as well as on restorative properties of virtual environments (see Projects). To this end I used psychophysiological measures in conjunction with questionnaires. Furthermore, I led the development of a virtual underwater world which was combined with resonant breathing techniques in order to study relaxation in virtual reality. On our underwater world website you can try out the relaxation tools we developed.

I am grateful for all that I have learned during my journey from physics to psychophysics and most recently to psychology. Now, I feel that it is time to apply this knowledge and I am currently searching for new challenges in the area around Stuttgart.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have questions.

Experiencing Virtual Reality during Simulated Flight


F. Soyka, M. Leyrer, B. Mohler, H. Bülthoff



We are part of the VR-HYPERSPACE EU project ( investigating the use of virtual reality (VR) in airplanes in order to create positive illusions of spacious environments and comfortable bodily postures.



We are specifically looking at the influence turbulence has on the experience of VR. We are interested in motion sickness and the feeling of presence.



Participants experience a virtual environment through a tracked head mounted display (HMD) while being seated in the confined CyberMotion Simulator cabin (see Figure). During the experiment the simulator produces high-frequency turbulence motions. We assess motion sickness and presence through questionnaires and physiological measures like bodily sway, heart rate and skin conductance. We compare a condition in which the virtual environment (VE) reflects visually and auditory the physical turbulence to conditions in which the VE is not influenced by the turbulence.


Initial Results

Preliminary results from a pilot study suggest that people feel more present and less motion sick in the condition in which the VE is coupled to the physical motion. A concept demonstrator was presented at IEEE Virtual Reality 2014.


Initial Conclusion

Our experiments indicate that people can experience VR during a simulated flight without getting severely sick or losing immersion. This represents an important finding for future use of VR in any kind of vehicle.


A) Virtual Beach Environment B) Participant wearing a tracked HMD C) MPI CyberMotion Simulator producing turbulence motion

VR Setup


Restorative Virtual Environments


Florian Soyka, Chris Ferguson, Joe Smallwood, Anna Wellerdiek, Betty Mohler



Imagine you are mentally fatigued and want to relax to ‘recharge your batteries’. Previous research has shown that certain environments are better suited for this task than others. In this innovative project users control a virtual reality underwater environment with their gaze aiming at creating a restorative experience.



Participant’s cognitive performance (backwards digit-span, BDS and attention network task, ANT) was measured before and after a 10 minutes virtual reality (VR) intervention. The VR either presented a slideshow of city pictures, nature pictures or an interactive underwater environment. Throughout the experiment physiological signals (skin conductance, heart rate and breathing) were monitored.


Initial Results

We found small improvements in BDS scores for all conditions and no improvements in ANT scores. Heart and breathing rate as well as skin conductance decreased during all VR conditions indicating restoration. Nature pictures were judged more relaxing than city pictures.


Initial Conclusion

Previous studies found improvements in cognitive performance after presenting pictures of nature, but not after showing city pictures. We could not find this effect in our modified VR setup. Furthermore our interactive underwater environment resulted in similar behavior compared to simply showing pictures of nature or city environments. Further research is needed to better understand why we could not find restorative effects with our setup.


Virtual Underwater Environment


Surname, First Name

Soyka, Florian


Bad Godesberg, Germany

Date of birth







12/2013 – 06/2015

PostDoc in the in the Space and Body Perception Research Group of Betty Mohler
at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen



PhD: "A Cybernetic Approach to Self-Motion Perception"


07/2009 – 01/2013

member of the Graduate School of Neural & Behavioural Sciences, Tübingen


10/2008 – 10/2012

PhD student in the group of Prof. Bülthoff (MPI for Biological Cybernetics)

psychophysical research about self-motion perception


05/2008 – 08/2008

research assistant in the group of Prof. C. Bechinger


04/2007 – 04/2008

diploma thesis “critical Casimir effect in colloidal suspensions”
at the 2. Institute of Physics, University of Stuttgart in the group of Prof. C. Bechinger


10/2005 – 04/2007

University of Stuttgart: continuation of study of physics


10/2002 – 09/2005

University of Bonn: study of physics

intermediate certificate (Vordiplom) in Sept. 2004


02/1992 – 06/2001

grammar-school „Städtisches Siebengebirgsgymnasium“, Bad Honnef

certificate of overall maturity for higher education


10/2012 - 04/2013

Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics

developing advanced motion cueing algorithms for the WABS (Wahrnehmungsbasierte Bewegungssimulation) project


06/2006 – 04/2007

Institute for Technical Optics, Stuttgart

programming of an interface software for a holographic tweezer


10/2005 – 12/2005

internship at the Moscow Aviation Institute

molecular dynamics simulation


04/2003 – 10/2003

Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn

processing of survey-data









12/2013 - 09/2014

VR Hyperspace - EU Project


10/2009 – 10/2012

SUPRA (Simulation of Upset Recovery in Aviation) EU Project



German Federal Ministry of Education and Research Grant -
Validation of the innovation potential of scientific research (VIP): „Wahrnehmungsbasierte Bewegungssimulation“ (WABS)

References per page: Year: Medium:

Show abstracts

Books (1):

Soyka F: A Cybernetic Approach to Self-Motion Perception, 96, Logos Verlag, Berlin, Germany, (2013). ISBN: 978-3-8325-3335-9, Series: MPI Series in Biological Cybernetics ; 34

Articles (6):

Soyka F, Bülthoff HH and Barnett-Cowan M (August-2015) Integration of Semi-Circular Canal and Otolith Cues for Direction Discrimination during Eccentric Rotations PLoS ONE 10(8) 1-14.
de Winkel KN, Soyka F, Barnett-Cowan M, Bülthoff HH, Groen EL and Werkhoven PJ (November-2013) Integration of visual and inertial cues in the perception of angular self-motion Experimental Brain Research 231(2) 209-218.
Soyka F, Bülthoff HH and Barnett-Cowan M (July-2013) Temporal processing of self-motion: modeling reaction times for rotations and translations Experimental Brain Research 228(1) 51-62.
Soyka F, Robuffo Giordano P, Barnett-Cowan M and Bülthoff HH (July-2012) Modeling direction discrimination thresholds for yaw rotations around an earth-vertical axis for arbitrary motion profiles Experimental Brain Research 220(1) 89-99.
Soyka F, Robuffo Giordano P, Beykirch K and Bülthoff HH (March-2011) Predicting direction detection thresholds for arbitrary translational acceleration profiles in the horizontal plane Experimental Brain Research 209(1) 95-107.
Soyka F, Zvyagolskaya O, Hertlein C, Helden L and Bechinger C (November-2008) Critical Casimir Forces in Colloidal Suspensions on Chemically Patterned Surfaces Physical Review Letters 101(208301) 1-4.

Conference papers (4):

Soyka F, Leyrer M, Smallwood J, Ferguson C, Riecke BE and Mohler BJ (July-2016) Enhancing stress management techniques using virtual reality, ACM Symposium on Applied Perception (SAP '16), ACM Press, New York, NY, USA, 85-88.
Soyka F, Kokkinara E, Leyrer M, Bülthoff HH, Slater M and Mohler BJ (March-25-2015) Turbulent Motions Cannot Shake VR, IEEE Virtual Reality (VR 2015), IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, 33-40.
D'Cruz M, Patel H, Lewis L, Cobb S, Bues M, Stefani O, Grobler T, Helin K, Viitaniemi J, Aromaa S, Frohlich B, Beck S, Kunert A, Kulik A, Karaseitanidis I, Psonis P, Frangakis N, Slater M, Bergstrom I, Kilteni K, Kokkinara E, Mohler B, Leyrer M, Soyka F, Gaia E, Tedone D, Olbert M and Cappitelli M (February-2014) Demonstration: VR-HYPERSPACE - The innovative use of virtual reality to increase comfort by changing the perception of self and space, IEEE Virtual Reality (VR 2014), IEEE, Piscataway, NJ, USA, 167-168.
Soyka F, Teufel H, Beykirch K, Robuffo Giordano P, Butler J, Nieuwenhuizen FM and Bülthoff HH (August-2009) Does jerk have to be considered in linear motion simulation?, AIAA Modeling and Simulation Technologies Conference 2009, Curran, Red Hook, NY, USA, 1381-1388.

Technical reports (2):

Barnett-Cowan M, Soyka F, Zaichik L, Groen E, Ledegang W and de Mena M: Analysis of perception data and motion perception criteria, SUPRA D4.2, 7th Framework Program EU IP 233543: Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, (2011).
Beykirch M, Soyka F and Barnett-Cowan M: Evaluation of the baseline perception models and required amendments, SUPRA D4.1, 7th Framework Program EU IP 233543: Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, (2011).

Posters (6):

Soyka F, Robuffo Giordano P, Barnett-Cowan M and Bülthoff HH (January-2012): Reaction Times for Self-Motion Detection, 22nd Okulomotoriktreffen Zürich-München, Zürich, Switzerland.
Soyka F, Barnett-Cowan M, Robuffo Giordano P and Bülthoff HH (October-2011): Integration of Translational and Rotational Vestibular Cues for Direction Detection during Eccentric Rotations, 12th Conference of Junior Neuroscientists of Tübingen (NeNA 2011), Heiligkreuztal, Germany.
Soyka F, de Winkel K, Barnett-Cowan M, Groen E and Bülthoff HH (October-2011): Integration of visual and vestibular information used to discriminate rotational self-motion, 12th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2011), Fukuoka, Japan, i-Perception, 2(8) 855.
de Winkel K, Soyka F, Barnett-Cowan M, Groen E and Bülthoff HH (September-2011): Multisensory integration in the perception of self-motion about an Earth-vertical yaw axis, 34th European Conference on Visual Perception, Toulouse, France, Perception, 40(ECVP Abstract Supplement) 183.
Soyka F, Beykirch K, Robuffo Giordano P and Bülthoff HH (August-2010): Predicting Change of Vestibular Direction Detection Thresholds from Acceleration Profile Differences, XXVI Bárány Society Meeting, Reykjavik, Iceland, Journal of Vestibular Research, 20(3-4) 279-280.
Soyka F, Beykirch K, Robuffo Giordano P and Bülthoff HH (July-2010): Predicting Vestibular Direction Detection Thresholds for Translatory Motions, RIKEN Brain Science Institute Summer School 2010, Tokyo, Japan.

Theses (2):

Soyka F: A Cybernetic Approach to Self-Motion Perception, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen, (January-2013). PhD thesis
Soyka F: Critical Casimir Effect in Colloidal Suspensions, Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany, (April-2008). Diplom thesis

Popular Scientific Articles (3):

Soyka F and Bertenbreiter S: Interview über das SUPRA EU Projekt, Campus Intern(August-2010) 2010, 16-17.
Soyka F: Flugtraining der besonderen Art, Reutlinger General Anzeiger(December-2009).
Soyka F: Flugtraining der besonderen Art, Reutlinger Tübinger Fernsehen(December-2009).

Talks (8):

Soyka F (June-4-2014) Keynote Lecture: Virtual reality comfort illusions based on self and space, Symposium Comfort in Transit, Delft, The Netherlands.
Soyka F (November-2012) Abstract Talk: Modeling Self-Motion Perception based on the Vestibular System, 13th Conference of the Junior Neuroscientists of Tübingen (NeNA 2012), Schramberg, Germany 13.
Soyka F, Barnett Cowan M, Robuffo Giordano P and Bülthoff HH (June-22-2012) Abstract Talk: Temporal processing of self-motion: Translations are processed slower than rotations, 13th International Multisensory Research Forum (IMRF 2012), Oxford, UK, Seeing and Perceiving, 25(0) 207-208.
Soyka F, Barnett-Cowan M, Robuffo Giordano P and Bülthoff HH (June-2012) Abstract Talk: Translations are processed slower than rotations: reaction times for self-motion stimuli predicted by vestibular organ dynamics, 27th Bárány Society Meeting, Uppsala, Sweden(0151).
Soyka F (February-2011) Invited Lecture: Measuring and modeling changes of direction detection thresholds for different acceleration profiles, 21st Oculomotor Meeting, München, Germany.
Soyka F (August-12-2009) Invited Lecture: Does jerk have to be considered in linear motion simulation?, AIAA Modeling and Simulation Technologies Conference 2009, Chicago, IL, USA.
Soyka F (April-2008): Lateral Critical Casimir Forces between Colloids and Focused Ion Beam Patterned Substrates, Condensed Matter Seminar, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research.
Soyka F (February-2008): Lateral Critical Casimir Forces between Colloids and Chemically Patterned Substrates, DPG Spring Meeting, Berlin.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 18.11.2014