child playing VR game

PhD student Alexandra Sierra wins the Laval Virtual Europe 2021 award for educational empathic Justin Beaver applications

Published: 21st July 2021 Last updated: 01st November 2021

Alexandra Sierra of the Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences (TSHD) won the Laval Virtual Europe 2021 award 2021 last week out of sixty projects of diverse countries for her Virtual Reality ‘Justin Beaver Stories project’. In a previous experiment, Sierra and her team developed an empathic VR video game with a beaver that plays in nature. The game aims to stimulate awareness for animals and protection by playing his life and feeling his joys as well as his troubles. Now, she is developing a friendly version of this experiment through a virtual reality film to be used by children and the general public.

For Laval, she showed a new version of this immersive technology, hologram in mixed reality, where users can interact with Justin. Justin is capable of voice interaction, making interactive stories and smart conversations about science topics, nature, or describe objects/animals of a place as a guide tour animal, virtual instructor, or virtual animal.

Laval Future Europe awards yearly prizes to universities and laboratories for projects exploring VR/AR representing the future of innovation. The jury consists in scientists and professionals. The award gave recognition and support for this type of research with a mission that children and people could improve their empathy towards animals and nature using technology.

Alexandra Sierra: “I am incredibly happy to win this award! It is the result of more than five years of my doctoral research at Tilburg University. We had the support of researchers and developers from The Netherlands and Colombia. Together, we have explored the possibility to foster empathic and emotional reactions towards animals and nature in the virtual worlds using different technologies. We believe that future investments in this research, from immersive technology and artificial intelligence, will allow our virtual animals to have their own brain for increasing their natural responses and generate more interactive stories. Then, Justin Beaver can be a great ally in teaching children and young people and inspiring environmental awareness and love of science.”

More information

You may contact Alexandra Sierra at or visit the following web pages:

Website of Alexandra Sierra

Virtual reality film of Justin Beaver

The animation of Justin Beaver Stories