Florian Soyka

Alumni Group Virtual Reality
Alumni of the Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action
Alumni of the Group Cybernetics Approach to Perception and Action
Alumni of the Group Motion Perception and Simulation
Alumni of the Research Group Body and Space perception

Main Focus

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 with Prof. Clemens Bechinger.

During my studies I became interested in neural networks and human perception. For my PhD in , 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 . 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 - Simulation of UPset Recovery in Aviation, working on modeling perception of airplane pilots. Following my PhD, I developed motion cueing algorithms in the 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 Research Group led by Dr. Betty Mohler. In her group I worked in the European Union project , 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 () as well as on restorative properties of virtual environments (see ). 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 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

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.

Curriculum Vitae


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)

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