Breathing Life Into VR

Discover how neuroscience may lead to a more immersive VR — and how VR is helping scientists and artists explore consciousness.

Photo Courtesy EPFL

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
Pier 17, Suite 800, San Francisco, California 94111 United States


February 6, 2020
6:00pm to 9:30pm



Join us for an evening at the intersection of neuroscience, art, and virtual reality, as we gather experts to explore how our body shapes our sense of self and guides our actions within real and virtual worlds.

After a keynote from Walter Greenleaf, Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, we will hear from speakers representing intersections of neuroscience and VR. Our speakers include neuroscientists from EPFL in Switzerland, who will discuss their latest research bringing together virtual reality, neurophysiology, and cognitive science to understand bodily self-consciousness. We will explore the role that our heartbeat plays in perception, how respiration links to action, and how these insights are driving human-computer interfaces. Artist Mélodie Mousset and EPFL scientist Bruno Herbelin will present their collaborative project, “Virandola,” a device that transforms breath into a tool for interaction.

This event takes place within our Sound & Vision exhibition, where we present two virtual reality pieces by Mélodie Mousset: HanaHana 花華 and Sing a Jellyfish. These experiences invite us to enter a world of digital synesthesia that blurs our sense of body and mind.


6:00pm – doors open
6:30pm – presentations and panel discussion
8:10pm – networking
9:30pm – doors close


Walter Greenleaf

Walter Greenleaf, PhD. is a neuroscientist and a medical technology developer working at Stanford University. With more than three decades of research and development experience, Walter is considered a leading authority in the fields of digital medicine and medical virtual reality technology. Walter is currently a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the Director of Technology Strategy at the University of Colorado National Mental Health Innovation Center, and Member of the Board of Directors for Brainstorm: The Stanford Laboratory for Brain Health Innovation and EntrepreneurshipIn addition to his research at Stanford University, Walter is currently Senior Vice President of Strategic & Corporate Affairs to MindMaze, and the technology and neuroscience advisor to several early-stage medical product companies and accelerator / incubator programs.


Bruno Herbelin
Bruno Herbelin is senior researcher in virtual reality and cognitive neuroscience in the laboratory of Prof. O. Blanke at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland). From 2012 to 2019, he was deputy director of the EPFL Center for Neuroprosthetics. From 2005 to 2009, he was Assistant Professor at Medialogy Department of Aalborg University, Denmark. He obtained his PhD from EPFL School of Computer and Communications in 2005 for his research work on virtual reality exposure therapy under the supervision of Prof. D. Thallmann (Virtual Reality Laboratory).

Oliver Kannape
Oliver Kannape divides his time between EPFL’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, where he is a Senior Scientist, and Swiss neurotechnology company MindMaze SA, where he is Science Coordinator. In his dual role he is interested in translating neuroscientific findings from basic research on sensorimotor control and corporeal awareness to advance neurorehabilitation in the clinic – an area where Virtual Reality and wearable technology are taking on a pivotal role.


Sophie Lamparter
For 10 years, Sophie Lamparter has been building interdisciplinary networks and collaborations in design, art, research, and technology. Before starting DART, she was Associate Director at swissnex San Francisco, Switzerland’s Innovation outpost in San Francisco. Her expertise is the digital creative industry. She was instrumental in building US partnerships and helped position several successful Swiss startups like Mindmaze, Artanim/ Dreamscape, or Faceshift. Being involved in scouting, presenting, match-making, scaling and funding of hundreds of projects and startups between Switzerland, Europe and the US, she knows it’s time for a new type of incubator dedicated to projects with an art and design focus.

Vangelis Lympourdis
Vangelis Lympouridis, Ph.D., is part-time faculty at the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC teaching the AR/VR and Mixed Reality course at USC Games, and a visiting scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts and the Creative Media and Behavioral Health Center. He has been working in digital health for more than a decade, in both the industry and academia. Most recently, he was the Chief Design Officer at Applied VR overseeing R&D and Production of a series of medical VR products for chronic pain, exposure therapy addiction and anxiety disorders, combining biofeedback with behavioral medicine and psychoeducation. He is currently an advisor and consultant to several technology and medical companies and is preparing the ground for a new venture in interactive media for pediatric use. As the founder of Enosis, he worked with Google and Queen to produce the Bohemian Rhapsody VR Experience, an interactive music VR piece for Google Cardboard. Vangelis holds a Ph.D. in Whole Body Interaction from the University of Edinburgh and has a diverse background in Fine Arts, Interactive Media, Design, and Engineering.

Mélodie Mousset
Melodie MoussetMélodie Mousset is a French artist based in Zurich, Switzerland. A pioneer in the field of art and new media, her practice extend across a number of mediums, including installation, performance, photography, sculpture and virtual reality. In Melodie’s whimsical and absurd composition or decomposition pieces, the body becomes a site for physical and spiritual exchanges with technology. Chris Kraus, renown writer and award-winning author of the best seller “I Love Dick”,  writes about Mousset’s work in the March 2019 issue of ArtReview: “I don’t think of Mousset as part of a lineage, unless it’s one of exceptionally original, anomalous artists who have the courage to pursue an idea as far as it will go. So, maybe Carolee Schneemann, Werner Herzog, Béla Tarr, Paul Thek, Bas Jan Ader, Jay DeFeo.” She studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, France; Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne, Switzerland; Royal College of Arts, London, and completed her Masters of Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, USA. Her work has been exhibited at institutions and galleries worldwide, including MOCA (Museum Of Contemporary Arts), Los Angeles; Kunst Museum Stuttgart; Bund Museum Shanghai; Zabludowicz Collection, London, The Metropolitan Art Society, Beirut, and SALTS, Basel. Mousset is a public speaker, and a visiting professor.

Hyeong-Dong Park
Hyeong-Dong Park is a cognitive neuroscientist working at prof. Olaf Blanke’s lab in EPFL, Geneva, Switzerland. Based on his interdisciplinary background across philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, he investigates neural mechanisms of consciousness. In particular, he is interested in how interactions between the brain and internal bodily organs (e.g., heart, lung) contribute to conscious experiences such as perceptual consciousness, bodily self-consciousness, and voluntary action.



This event is presented in partnership with Bertarelli Foundation, which tackles some of the greatest challenges in neuroscience and marine conservation. Based in Switzerland, it supports brain research at Harvard Medical School and Campus Biotech, a neuroscience center established in Geneva by the Bertarelli family, the Wyss Foundation, the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the University of Geneva. The program receives additional support from EPFL and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.

Event Photos