Freek Teunen started out at the University of Twente in 2013 with the Bachelor’s in Creative Technology. An enthusiastic, creative and passionate young man, Freek embraces all kinds of technologies in order to fulfil everyone’s innovative dreams. Wheelchair-bound visitors to the Efteling theme park can now experience the park’s famous Droomvlucht (Dream Flight) ride for themselves, thanks to Freek’s graduation project: ‘high tech, human touch’ in a nutshell.
Freek Teunen knew exactly what he was doing when he joined the Bachelor’s in Creative Technology at the University of Twente back in 2013. “The last thing I wanted was to stare at a computer screen all day,” Freek explains. “I wanted to actually build things and this programme offered me the chance to be creative while exploring my interests in business and high-tech innovation. The bachelor’s combines computer science and electrical engineering to create new solutions that can be made and used by people in society. It offered me the opportunity to pursue my interests while collaborating closely on projects with amazing students. The lectures give you what you need to complete really great assignments, but you also have to discover a lot for yourself as you go along. I like this way of studying. The focus on experimental work and self-discipline produces enthusiastic, hardworking students with an entrepreneurial dream. I’m happy to be one of them!”
“You learn how to approach a project, make a plan, create prototypes and then test those prototypes with your target group. In real life, no new product or idea can be marketed without testing it before it enters production. These essential skills make you an expert in creative technology, and of course that makes you a very interesting prospect for innovative companies.”
Freek always dreamed of working in a fantasy theme park. So when the Efteling came up with an innovative project, he jumped at the opportunity. “The project came to life at a meeting between the Efteling and the University of Twente. Once we understood what they had in mind, we came up with a research project designed to bring the Droomvlucht experience to disabled visitors who were unable to go on the ride themselves. Bringing Droomvlucht to wheelchair-bound visitors can be done using different technologies. Not only did I enjoy working on the project, but I was happy that it gave me the chance to contribute to society. I had to travel back and forth between the park and the university, so I was very lucky to find a welcoming host family who lived near the park and let me stay with them for a couple of days a week. I worked on my graduation project passionately and decided that immersive Virtual Reality (VR) technology was the way to go. VR has the power to make you feel like you are in the attraction, not just in a room staring at a screen. The final prototype was tested with a response group of wheelchair users and then on-site at the theme park.”
“This way of working was new to the Efteling, from operating with such small prototypes to working with a UT student. However, they were very enthusiastic about our target-group experiment, because it enabled them to see how disabled visitors responded to the concept in real life. I am very grateful for the chance to work with the Efteling and they gave me all the opportunities and help I needed to achieve my goal. Not only did I have the chance to meet interesting new people within the organisation, I also got to work with them. Jaap den Bleker, for example, who later became the project leader when the park gave the go-ahead to do the project for real. I became a member of the team, making sure that everything went according to the results of our experiments before the attraction opened on 12 April 2018.”
Since graduating in 2018, Freek has been focusing on expanding his two companies: Freaks and Beards and PlaygroundVR (https://www.playgroundvr.nl/). Freaks and Beards uses prototypes and experiments to achieve innovation. Clients who benefit from its knowledge and expertise include Conrad, Dutch broadcaster KRO-NCRV and also the Efteling. “With PlaygroundVR we want to bring the outside playground to the hospital bed, so that children can still play while they are in hospital. To channel all my time and energy into these two companies, I decided to halt my master’s programme for the time being. Exciting times ahead,” Freek smiles. “Let’s see how far my dreams can take me!”
The Dutch online newspaper nu.nl made a reportage about Freek’s project and the new Droomvlucht attraction (in Dutch).