Donald  Degraen

Donald Degraen

Universität Duisburg-Essen
Mensch-Computer Interaktion
45127 Essen, Germany
donald.degraen (at)

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I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Duisburg-Essen in the Human-Computer Interaction Group led by Prof. Dr. Stefan Schneegass.

Previously, I was a postdoctoral researcher in the Ubiquitous Media Technology Lab led by Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger where I completed my PhD. Through the DISTRO-ITN, I am part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie network.

During my time as an early stage researcher, I had the pleasure to intern with Prof. Dr. Bernd Bickel at the Institute for Science and Technology, and with Prof. Dr. Tim Weyrich at the University College London. Previously, I was a research fellow at the Intel Visual Computing Institute, and the Expertise Centre for Digital Media.

I hold the degree of Doctor of Engineering (Dr.-Ing.) from Saarland University, a Master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction from Hasselt University, and a Bachelor's degree in Applied Informatics from the Hogeschool PXL. A long time ago, I was a teacher, professionally developed software, and started out as a system administrator.


My research lies on the intersection of haptic perception, fabrication technologies and Virtual Reality (VR). Specifically, I aim to improve the design of tactile experiences for VR. My approach starts by investigating the different tangible features used in configuring our real-world physical environment. This allows me to create tools and methods for building visuo-haptic perception in VR. During my PhD, I built fabrication methods for replicating and procedurally generating haptically-varying surface structures, studied user-centric haptic design processes, and investigated the use of everyday objects for enhancing VR interaction.

Besides this, I investigate methods to improve interaction in virtual environments and explore the world of living media interfaces.


Currently, I am supervising 6 Master and 1 Bachelor theses. A total of 2 Bachelor and 10 Master theses have been completed under my supervision, some of which contributed to publications. I actively motivate and work with students to publish their work, which has so far resulted in 5 publications (42%). During my time at the UMTL, I had the privilege to supervise 9 research assistants (HiWi), 3 teaching assistants (Tutors), and 1 high school intern (praktikant).

Completed Theses

  • Simulating Slipperiness of Ground in Virtual Reality using Everyday Materials (Serdar Durdyyev, Master, collaboration with Martin Feick)
  • MetaReality: Exploring the Possibilities of Dynamic Metamaterials for Visuo-Haptic Texture Perception in Virtual Reality (Fabian Hupperich, Master, collaboration with Martin Feick)
  • Influencing Tactile Properties of 3D-printed Artifacts through Spray Painting (Ashima Jinda, Master)
  • VRySmart: Multipurpose Integration of Smart Devices in Virtual Reality (Akhmajon Makhsadov, Master, collaboration with André Zenner)
  • EcoMeal: Gamified Eco-Feedback for food products using a virtual Vegetable Patch (Elena Werny, Master)
  • Human Actuation for Haptics in Virtual Reality (Ziqian 'Charlie' Chen, Master, collaboration with Bruno Fruchard)
  • Look at those hands, are they small hands? (Osama Haroon, Master)
  • Hakoniwa: Enhancing Physical Gamification using Miniature Garden Elements (Marc Schubhan, Master)
  • Tangible Gamification (Tobias Sander, Master, collaboration with Max Altmeyer)
  • Understanding Autonomous Device Behavior in a Social Internet of Things environment through Personality Traits (Latifa Abdullayeva, Master)
  • FamilyFlower - an Artificial Flower to foster Distant Family Connections (Hannah Hock, Bachelor)
  • A Dynamic Passive Haptic Feedback Device for Texture Interaction in VR (Anna Reindl, Bachelor)

Invited Talks.


SPIN Lab, UBC, Vancouver, Canada (virtual)

HCIE Lab, MIT CSAIL, Cambridge, USA (virtual)


Mensch und Computer 2019, Hamburg, Germany

German Pre-CHI Event, Oldenburg, Germany


miLAB, Tel Aviv, Israel


CeBIT, Hannover, Germany

Summer/Winter Schools.


SPP Winter School 2023, Varel, Germany


SPP Winter School 2022, Borkum, Germany


SPP Winter School 2021, Virtual


ACM-SIGCHI sponsored summer school on Intelligent User Interfaces in the Era of IoT and Smart Environments, Haifa, Israel


SIGCHI Summer School on Computational Fabrication and Smart Matter, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Academic Volunteering.

Organizing Committee

  • ACM Games: Research and Practice (Associate Editor)
  • UIST 2022 co-Social Chair
  • UbiComp 2021 co-Tech Chair
  • EPO4VR 2020, 2021 co-Organizer
  • German HCI Core team 2017 - 2021

Program Committee

  • MUM 2021, 2022 Long and short papers
  • CHI 2021, 2022 LBW
  • MuC 2021 Short Papers
  • MUM 2020, 2021 Poster track
  • IMWUT 2020, 2021, 2022 Distinguished Paper Awards


  • CHI 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
  • UIST 2020
  • DIS 2018, 2020, 2021
  • MUM 2020
  • MUM 2021 (Poster Track)
  • INTERACT 2021 Full Papers
  • INTERACT 2021 Short Papers
  • ISWC 2021 Notes & Briefs
  • ISS 2021 Papers 2021 Summer
  • IEEE VR 2018
  • IEEE AIVR 2020
  • MobileHCI 2019, 2022
  • IMWUT 2017 Nov
  • OzCHI 2021 Papers
  • TVX 2017
  • Springer MTAP Journal 2016
  • Springer Nature Scientific Reports 2020



Computer Graphics and Digital Fabrication Lab with Prof. Dr. Bernd Bickel, IST Austria


Digital Reality Lab with Prof. Dr. Tim Weyrich, UCL



MindTrek 2021 Best Paper Nomination for Hakoniwa: Enhancing Physical Gamification using Miniature Garden Elements


CHI 2019 Honorable Mention for Enhancing Texture Perception in Virtual Reality Using 3D-Printed Hair Structures



CHI 2021 Special Recognition for Outstanding Review

INTERACT 2021 Highly Useful Paper Review


Throughout the years, I have been involved in different lectures, seminars, and courses at different universities and colleges.

Saarland University.

Seminar "Virtual Reality Game Development using a Rock Climbing Treadmill" (SS 2022)

Role: Co-lecturer together with Felix Kosmalla, Maximilian Altmeyer, and Florian Daiber

Current commodity Virtual Reality (VR) hardware allows for free, even wireless roaming, however, it is still confined by a finite tracking space. To overcome this issue, past research has introduced different methods for vertical locomotion, ranging from walking on a treadmill to interaction paradigms such as teleportation. Recently, researchers have integrated rock climbing on a physical wall into VR experiences. The space available is naturally confined by the dimensions of the wall. Building upon this, we implemented a VR system for vertical locomotion on a rock climbing treadmill.

In this seminar, students will have the opportunity to use this platform as a virtual reality rock climbing exergame environment. The aim of the seminar is to develop exergames using this platform in small groups of students. This entails a conceptualization phase of a game that should be aligned to one of the topics outlined below. After initial feedback, the games should be developed. For this, we provide physical access to the climbing wall itself and VR hardware that can be used on DFKI premises. A simulator will be made available for remote work.

Proseminar "Recent Topics in HCI" (WS 2019/2020)

Role: Co-lecturer together with Frederic Kerber, Felix Kosmalla, and André Zenner

Das Gebiet der Mensch-Computer Interaktion (Human Computer Interaction - HCI) ist ein ständig wachsender Forschungsbereich. Dies wird vor allem durch die kontinuierliche Entwicklung neuer Technologien im Bereich der Maker Szene & des Prototyping (3D Drucken, Lasercut), von VR&AR (Oculus Rift, HTC Valve, Google Glass, Holo Lens), Full Body Input (Eye Tracking, Gestenerkennung), Wearables, 3D Tracking (kinect) erheblich gefördert.

Dieses Proseminar verfolgt zwei Ziele: (1) Erlernen und Erproben von wissenschaftlichen Präsentationstechniken, (2) Tiefere Einblicke in ausgewählte Forschungsthemen im Bereich Human Computer Interaction (HCI) vermitteln

Lecture on Interactive Systems (SS 2019)

Role: Teaching Assistant to Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger

This course introduces technical concepts, software paradigms and hardware technologies of modern interactive systems. Their application is illustrated using seminal and recent examples from graphical user interfaces, mobile interfaces, ubiquitous computing (internet of things), augmented reality, and physical interfaces.

Seminar "Sensing Virtual Reality: Practical Seminar on Dynamic Passive Haptics" (WS 2018/2019)

Role: Co-lecturer together with Florian Daiber, Felix Kosmalla, and André Zenner

This seminar explores a novel technique to provide haptic sensations during a VR experience, called Dynamic Passive Haptic Feedback (DPHF). The practical seminar will introduce the concept of DPHF and explain how to design and prototype VR controllers that provide dynamic passive haptic feedback to a VR user. Participants will develop a novel DPHF controller for VR in groups during the semester - from concept to working prototype - using digital fabrication techniques, Arduino and Unity VR programming, as well as tracking systems.

Seminar "Making Virtual and Augmented Reality great again!" (WS 2017/2018)

Role: Co-lecturer together with Marco Speicher, and André Zenner

In this seminar, small projects will be conducted within the field of Mixed Reality (VR/AR) applications. The goal of this seminar is to design and implement multiple Mixed Reality (VR/AR) micro-projects in groups focusing on problem-solving in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). We will be given preference to the game engine Unity3D.

Hasselt University.

ATHCI: Actuele Trends in de HCI (2015 - 2016)

Role: Teaching Assistant to prof. dr. Kris Luyten, and Prof. Dr. Johannes Schöning

During this graduate level course, advanced Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) topices were combined with recent trends in HCI. Students were tasked to perform literature research for a specific topic and completed small research projects in collaboration with the teaching staff.

TTUI: Technologieën en Tools van User Interfaces (2013 - 2015)

Role: Teaching Assistant to prof. dr. Kris Luyten, and Prof. Dr. Johannes Schöning

During this graduate level course, a technical approach was taken to introduce students to existing tools and toolkits for creating different interfaces on various platforms, e.g., multi-touch interfaces, or 3D user interfaces.

Geoinformatica (2014 - 2016)

Role: Teaching Assistant to Prof. Dr. Johannes Schöning

During this graduate level course, students were introduced to the field of geoinformatics.

PXL University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

System Analysis and Design (2013)

Role: Lecturer

In this undergraduate lecture, students were taught conceptual system modeling methods, such as FCO-IM (Fully Communication Oriented Information Modeling) for system design, object oriented analysis approaches, such as functional modeling using Data Flow Diagrams (DFD), and system development methodologies.

Data Modeling in SQL (2012)

Role: Lecturer

In this undergraduate lecture, students were taught data modeling techniques using SQL (Structured Query Language) to organize and manipulate data in a RDMS (Relational Database Management System). Practical use-cases were implemented using the Oracle SQL Developer environment.

PCVO Limburg.

Network Management in Linux (2012-2016)

Role: Lecturer

In this undergraduate lecture, students were introduced to network management and system administration of Linux environments ranging from local setups to distributed server environments.