SURF XR on Tour | Exploring XR in education & research

The SURF Open Innovation Lab has been investigating the use of EXtended Reality in education and research in recent months. Read more about the results and findings gained during the XR Lab tour, in which we visited 17 locations. 

Map XR tour

Impact on the digitalisation of research labs 

The SURF Open Innovation Lab conducted a study into the impact of COVID-19 on the digitalisation of research labs. In this  research we interviewed over 30 key researchers and support staff across a wide range of research disciplines and types (wet-, field-, dry- and psychological) labs. This led to the initiation of 'XR on Tour'.

XR on tour

With the ‘XR on Tour’ the SURF XR team visited various institutions and events. The goal of the tour was to inspire and find potential new use(r)s of different forms of eXtended Reality (XR, i.e., virtual, augmented, and mixed reality), and strengthen connections with existing XR hubs or local communities. In addition, the tour promoted XR as a technology that can be beneficial to research and education in The Netherlands. 

Map XR tour
07-04-2022 ICT.Open Amsterdam
10-05-2022 SURF Research Week - day 1 Utrecht
12-05-2022 RuG XR Hub Groningen
31-05-2022 EPIC - day 2 Rotterdam
07-06-2022 VU Amsterdam Amsterdam
08-06-2022 Wageningen University Wageningen
16-06-2022 University of Twente Enschede
20-06-2022 Leiden University Leiden
27-06-2022 University of Delft Delft
28-06-2022 Eindhoven University of Technology Eindhoven
15/16-10-2022 SURF Onderwijsdagen Den Bosch

University of Amsterdam



Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht (HKU)


Hogeschool Windesheim

09-03-2023 ROC Friese Poort Drachten
21-03-2023 InHolland Immersive Experience Haarlem
collage XR tour

Challenges and new opportunities

From the XR on Tour came common challenges, key takeaways, and new opportunities. These are summarized below.   


These challenges were revealed through the many discussions and experiences had with the various institutions via the XR on Tour.  

  • There is a need for more platforms or places to find commonly shared simulations, applications, and content. Openly sharing simulations and equipment is not common or easy.  
  • Many members have privacy concerns regarding XR devices and their use in education. These worries are in response to XR capabilities for tracking eyes, voice, and movement of every user.  
  • Open sourcing of simulations is desirable for those who wish to share their work and create from other resources. Which parts of a simulation to share with a community may include models, source code, failed applications, assets, or even best practices.    
  • Integration into the classroom is often awkward and hazardous in small spaces. 
  • Scaling is difficult and cumbersome. How many headsets are needed in any single classroom or learning experience is an open debate.  
  • Managing headsets, which ones to purchase, and how to share the devices is an open discussion.  
XR on tour

Common Findings/Key takeaways

These key takeaways are the highlights from what the XR Team saw and concluded from the XR on Tour.  

  • The tour revealed how diverse the XR community is in use cases, demos, headsets, and challenges.   
  • The tour discovered on a national level, the shared obstacles and challenges institutions have regarding XR Technologies in research and education.  
  • XR teams in member institutions are often isolated, self-sufficient teams that are always excited to show and test what they are working on!  
  • More mature institutions have created a hub for XR to realize what is needed for development and capabilities in their institution.  
  • Virtual reality dominates the landscape of XR usage, but it’s good to keep an eye on both mixed reality and augmented reality. 
  • In order for XR technologies to continue to grow and be adopted amongst new users, interoperability between devices must be confronted.  
XR on tour

Next Steps and New Opportunities  

  • SURF has initiated a new XR Developer Network for anyone interested in sharing, creating and seeking assistance with XR applications and use. 
  • SURF and TUDelft Library hosted together the first ever National XR Day on July 5, 2023! Read more about the highlights of the National XR Day or watch videos of the presentations that were recorded.
  • New developments in network infrastructure may lead to the ability for both larger simulations, as well as more users in one simulation together.    
  • Responsible XR activities have been initiated by SURF to tackle the concerns of members in the application and use of XR in research and education.  
  • What is the future of artificial intelligence and XR technologies? New opportunities in exploring these technologies together can drive innovation for education and research.