playful researcher & educator
Leiden University

I'm an assistant professor in the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS).

My research typically approaches academia in a playful manner, both in subject and in method. I believe that playfulness can be a valuable asset in academic work. This approach is central also in the Media Technology Master-of-Science program, where I lecture.

Media Technology LIACS My Publications Contact Me

Did you know that...?

  • I was listed in "Nerd 101", a list of the "101 most interesting technologists, inventors and tinkerers in the Netherlands".
  • I was a technical game producer for 13 seasons of Dutch TV show Wie is de Mol?, building games and challenges on locations worldwide.
  • I designed and wrote the original NMEA0183 open-source code that was later evolved by others into Arduino's TinyGPS library.
  • I gave a TEDx talk entitled "Academic Freedom for the Young".
  • Comedian Ricky Gervais ridiculed a scientific study of Wim van Eck and me.

My Research Interests


Human-robot interaction

Human interactions with various robots and the projection of apparent intention and affect onto the robot's behaviour and shape. Together with Peter van der Putten I share a specific interest in robots with unconventional behaviour. We compile examples on our "Bots Like You" page.

Game world grown from fungi and bacteria.

Bio-digital hybrid games

Exploring the integration of biological entities (micro-organisms, fungi, insects, ...) in digital games. For example, we grew real bacterial and fungal cultures to design landscapes for in games, and we let real crickets control the ghosts in Pacman. This is work that I do with PhD student Wim van Eck.

Pacman playing crickets

Animal-computer interaction

Identifying, implementing and testing digital systems that interact directly with animals. In particular, we investigate the potential of digital entertainment (games) for animals. For example, we discovered that an electronic game can lower stress-hormone levels in home-alone dogs.

Academic playfulness

How can playfulness be exploited as part of scientific research and its daily practice? Tinkering is an approach that is commonly considered playful.

My Teaching

These are my teaching achievements for Leiden University's Media Technology Master-of-Science program.

Thesis Supervision

Doing research together.

I supervise MSc theses of Media Technology students, and the occasional PhD thesis. MSc research projects are concieved by the graduating student and executed together with two thesis advisors.
Click on for a list of all the MSc theses that I supervised.

Richard Feynman

Creative Research

About playful & creative academia.

A course that combines an introduction into scientific research with the concept of creative research, actual scientific research that was brought about in playful or creative ways, in order to come to results that could otherwise not be envisioned or achieved.

Pioneers of Artificial Intelligence at the 1956 Darthmouth College meeting.

Research Seminar: Artificial Intelligence

A seminar-style course.

A seminar-style course about various sexy topics from the field of artificial intelligence. The topics include the question of whether machines can think, evolutionary computation, neural networks, computing with DNA, computers and emotions, artificial creativity, bio-digital hybrids, and more.

Project: Clear is the New Black

Semester Project

Create an exhibition experience.

I co-organize this annual project-course with other colleagues. Students work in groups towards realizing a product or installation for an audience. However, the process of researching while creating an audience experience is as important as the product itself. The project ends with a public exhibition in a gallery.

Ars Electronica Festival impression

Ars Electronica Festival

An inspiring study-trip.

All students go on a study-trip to the Ars Electronica Festival in Austria, the world's main forum of electronic art. Over four days they are faced with many sides of the electronic arts & sciences, as a source of inspiration and shared knowledge. Together with colleagues I supervise this study-trip.

Leiden University professors

Getting a PhD Position

An informative workshop.

How to get a PhD position is clouded in mystery. Is it about searching for jobs online, filling in application forms and recommendations letters? Or does the research tribe hunt for candidates and decide in more informal ways? In an afternoon, Peter van der Putten and me talk about how (we think) the game is played.

Googles Deep Dream project, 2015

Artificial Creativity

A historical computer science view.

Can we model creativity and could it be the result of computation? Are artificial intelligence and artificial creativity really different? Ever since people have considered intelligent machines, they have also considered whether machines could be creative. This lecture takes a historical computer sciences view on artificial creativity.

Old drawing of the human brain.


Mapping information to our senses.
// 2007-2016, with Edwin van der Heide

"Perceptualization" is the translation of signals and information to the human senses. This course studied how properties of our perception can best be used to convey information, dealing with perceptual resolutions, time, cross-modal effects, psycho-acoustic effects, etc.

Gouden Regen creature that marked it's terrain with strong scents.

Artifical Creatures

Workshop about minimal creatureness.
// 2008, with Peter van der Putten

What makes something a creature? Is there a required minimal ingredient? In a three-day workshop, we explored properties of creatures and students built single-aspect artificial creatures. Some of the resulting robots are legendary.

Photo finish picture

Time-Space Imaging

Visually mixing time with space.
// 2007-2010

Time-space images mix spatial and temporal scene properties across their spanning dimensions. Typical techniques to achieve this are slit-scanning, The Matrix bullet time, aliasing. In a three-day workshop, students learn about the technology and created their own warped images.

Gouden Regen creature that marked it's terrain with strong scents.

Tinkering in Scientific Education

workshop at the ACE2013 conference.
// 2013, with Fons Verbeek & Peter v/d Putten

Tinkering is a mode of scientific knowledge creation adopted by many. Likewise, tinkering as a mode of education is adopted by academic programs worldwide also. This workshop aimed to connect academics who do and do not yet tinker in education.

Short Bio

For my PhD diploma (Leiden University, 2001) I applied neural network techniques to data analysis problems in environmental epidemiology at the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). My Master's degree in computer science (Utrecht University, 1993) was obtained after specializing in neural networks for medical image processing. In 1992 I was an exchange student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA. I was born in 1968, should you want to know.

Since 2002 I'm an assistant professor within Leiden University s computer science institute (LIACS). I'm a member of their Media Technology MSc program's executive committee and lecture in the same program. My research is cross-disciplinary, combining computer science with other interests.

Outside the university's walls, I co-founded the LaserMaxx lasergame brand, a major brand of lasergames worldwide, for which I still design game technology. Through this work, I was a technical game producer for national TV-show "Wie is de Mol?" (2000-2014).

my LinkedIn

Other Activities

Public Speaking

Maarten Lamers speaking for ICTU

I regularly give public presentations about academic topics, typically those that combine research with a playful attitude. Among topics that I present regularly are:

Feel free to contact me with your request for a presentation.

LaserMaxx lasergames

LaserMaxx lasergames

Besides my work for Leiden University I work for LaserMaxx Lasergames, in their research and development team.