Use of neUrophysiological interfaces and tactile-assisted virtual reality to promote occupational InclusiOn

Using virtual reality to promote professional inclusion

The equal professional participation of people with special needs (e.g. people on the autism spectrum or attention deficit disorder) enriches collaboration through diverse perspectives and strengths. However, difficulties in social interaction often lead to the failure of professional life plans despite high cognitive abilities. Innovative technology-supported training measures can take a preventive approach at this point and strengthen interpersonal skills through learning experiences in a protected setting. UFO therefore develops an immersive multimodal innovation, development and experience space in which emotional experience qualities and regulative strategies can be experienced in the interaction with pedagogical agents by means of VR, neurosensors and tactile actuators. The functionality of the developed infrastructure will be tested under conditions suitable for everyday use and the transfer to realistic environments will be prepared. The technology thus has high potential for social application.

The UFO project aims to ensure occupational participation in the case of socio-emotional support needs and build up targeted competencies in the perception and interpretation of emotional states. A novel training system is being developed in the consortium that captures brain signals and converts derived emotional states into tangible sensory perceptions. These are made "palpable" by a tactile output and enable understanding of the counterpart's sensitivities. A virtual environment provides a safe training space that can precisely support the target group's needs. The approach contributes to social awareness and promotes empathy and mutual understanding.

NIRx fNIRS (functional diffuse near infrared spectroscopy)/EEG- cap using passive EEG-electrodes
NIRx fNIRS (functional diffuse near infrared spectroscopy)/EEG- cap using passive EEG-electrodes

The technical innovation of the project lies in creating a "tactile sensory extension" that makes sensitivities tangible. In all phases of the technology development, the later target group takes an active role to ensure effective support in everyday professional life.

UFO is designed as an open and modular infrastructure consisting of wearables and software to enable people with socio-emotional disabilities to experience support in their daily lives (see Figure 1). The modular components will be published as "open source" and will also be available for external developments to the project.

  • Carrier system with tactile actuators
  • Serves for the transmission of information of emotional states
  • Coding / individualization of the transmitted information
  • Interfaces for data transmission and communication
Figure 1 from the project application: Modular implementation of the generic components into the overall system.
Figure 1: Modular implementation of the generic components into the overall system.


Scientific publications emerging from the project context
  • Hoffarth, E. I. & Zinn, B. (2023). Eine Interviewstudie zu den Unterstützungsbedarfen und -potenzialen von Virtual Reality für Personen im Autismus-Spektrum. In B. Zinn (Hrsg.), Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality und Serious Games als Educational Technologies in der beruflichen Bildung (S. 203-234).

  • Tagalidou, N., Bareiß, L., Moll, E. & Vukelić, M. Comparing daily lives of autistic adults with neurotypical peers: A mixed-methods approach. (under review)

  • Tagalidou, N., Vorreuther, A., Bui, M. & Vukelić, M. (2024, July 8-12) EEG-signatures of somatosensory stimuli in autistic adults [Conference presentation abstract] 5th International Neuroergonomics Conference, Bordeaux, France. (under review)

Project-related dissertations
  • Evelyn Hoffarth: Analyzing neurodiverse learning experiences with eye tracking in virtual reality (working title)

Project Team

Area of Responsibility


Network partners Project task Role in implementation chain 
University Stuttgart (LLiS, BPT, IAT)
  • Requirements analysis & target group participation
  • Derivation & development of virtual scenarios
  • Project management, transfer to Living Labs
  • Empirical studies with psychological and neuroscientific methodology
  • Coordination and development of application-oriented experimental paradigms
  • Research (study implementation, scientific evaluations and publications)
NIRx Medizintechnik Ltd.
  • Development of neurophysiological interfaces (-integration), machine learning & signal analysis
  • Hardware, software developement
Sensovo Ltd.
  • Development of tactile wearables from user-friendly carrier material
  • Software for relevant tactile actuators
  • Hardware, software developement
Auticon Ltd.
  • Requirements definition & deriving virtual scenarios based on experiences from coaching consultants in AS
  • Application partner
Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO
  • Evaluation, transfer assurance and future concepts
  • Algorithm development for real-time recognition of user states
  • Development of neuroadaptive interfaces
  • Research


Operating Time

09/2021 - 08/2024

Project Funding

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with project sponsor VDI-VDE-IT within the funding priority "Interactive Systems in Virtual and Real Spaces - Innovative Technologies for the Digital Society".

UFO - News and Updates

UFO - Contacts at LLiS

This image shows Maria Wirzberger

Maria Wirzberger

Jun.-Prof. Dr. rer. nat.

Professor for Teaching and Learning with Intelligent Systems | Spokesperson of the Stuttgart Research Focus IRIS | Co-Director of the AI Software Academy

This image shows Laura Bareiß

Laura Bareiß


Research Assistant in the UFO Project

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