Een minderheidskabinet van VVD en CDA gaat bezuinigen op de basisbeurs, meldt het ANP. Studenten zouden straks nog maar drie jaar studiefinanciering krijgen en voor het vierde jaar geld moeten lenen.

De VVD wilde de studiefinanciering oorspronkelijk inruilen voor een sociaal leenstelsel. Het CDA was daar fel op tegen. Om de toegankelijkheid van het hoger onderwijs niet in gevaar te brengen, was het volgens deze partij beter om trage studenten een hoger collegegeld te laten betalen. Of er van dat voorstel iets is overgebleven in het concept regeerakkoord, moet nog blijken.

Twee weken geleden werd al bekend dat de studiefinanciering de komende twee jaar niet met de inflatie wordt verhoogd.

New products that look high-tech and of good quality should sell well, if, that is, the price is not too exorbitant. But according to dr. Ruth Mugge of the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, products that look modern and sophisticated may trigger conflicting feelings in consumers.Mugge recently received a Veni grant, worth a maximum of 250,000 euro, from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) that will allow her to continue her research for three years. In total seventeen TU Delft researchers received Veni grants this year.

The dean of Industrial Design Engineering, Prof.Dr Cees de Bont, believes that in the years to come his faculty will receive this grant much more often. “The NWO created a category for interdisciplinary science this year, and most of our projects are interdisciplinary. Our applications were set aside in previous years because they were not technical enough, nor did they fit under the category of humanities.”

Mugge found that people may perceive a novel product appearance as user-unfriendly and complicated. “It’s really interesting”, she says. “In an experiment I exposed groups of test subjects to two washing machines. Both machines were exactly the same except that one was painted black, which is quite out of the ordinary. The people thought that the black and novel washing machine was more high-tech and hence they feared it might be more complicated to use.”

The way people evaluate the functional attributes of products simply by looking at their external characteristics is something that is hardly being studied, says Mugge: “Designers work by intuition. They don’t fully understand the way consumers think.” With her new grant she plans to investigate these interactions more thoroughly.

The designer partly elaborates on some of her previous studies of the personality characteristics that people use to describe specific products. A Volkswagen Beetle is ‘cheerful and friendly’, while one could describe a Volkswagen Touareg as ‘dominant and tough’.Based on these perceived personality characteristics, consumers may have expectations about the product’s functional attributes. A Volkswagen Touaregs personality for example may elicit positive expectations about the power of its engine.To assess product personality based on product appearance during the design process, Mugge and some of her departmental colleagues developed a 20-item scale, which they published this year in the scientific magazine, Design Studies.

“We tested the scale by letting people describe eight vacuum cleaners, which are typical utilitarian products, and eight cars, which are much more symbolic products that people use to enforce their identity. The spread of characteristics was what we hoped for. Not all cars and vacuum cleaners were for instance as cheerful or tough as one another.”Look outside and you see cars, trees and buildings, and like everybody else you see it all exactly the same in 3D. At least that’s what most people think. The truth is that everybody perceives shapes differently.

“There are many different phenomena and techniques that come into play for people to see 3D”, explains dr. Maarten Wijntjes, the other TU Delft industrial designer to receive a Veni grant. “Occlusion for example. You see that a car is parked in front of a tree and this makes you realize that the tree is furthest away. Then there is disparity - the slightly different images that each of your eyes sees, which helps you to see depth. And there are reflections from objects combined with your knowledge of the direction of the incoming light.”The ways that all these factors help people to create 3D images is poorly understood, according to Wijntjes. He doubts whether people see shapes and images optimally in 3D films while wearing the accompanying glasses, as this technique mostly relies on disparity. Other factors may be just as important, he believes. His research must result in greater insights that could be useful for the movie industry.

Wijntjes wants to make an experimental set up with abstract three-dimensional shapes obtained with a 3D printer. He will know the exact 3D structure of these shapes. With two lasers he will then pinpoint two spots on the shape and ask people to say which spot is furthest away. He will do the same experiment with recognizable objects, such as a bunny rabbit, which should make it easier for people to judge the distances. “I’m very curious to see the outcome”, says Wijntjes, who believes this subject area has never before been investigated.