Middle Passage Experience

Dr. Yovanna Pineda is the lead investigator of the Virtual Reality Middle Passage Experience, a serious simulation of the transatlantic human slave trade during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from Africa to the Americas.

Mission: Emotion & Memory

This MPE tracks the transatlantic slave trade during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Two research goals are analyzing how this VR/AR Middle Passage simulation affects participants’ emotional learning and memory. A teaching goal is for this MPE to serve as a tool to enhance the educational experience of college students learning about the Middle Passage and the history surrounding it. In collaboration with professors and students across departments at the University of Central Florida, Dr. Pineda designed and managed a VR/AR digital world of the Middle Passage Experience (MPE). 

Creators, Directors, and Consultants

The project’s research team are from History, English, Games and Interactive Media, Center for Humanities and Digital Research, Modern Languages and Literatures, and Africana Studies. 

Grant-writing Team

  • Dr. Yovanna Pineda, Coordinator of Undergraduate Programs of the History BA and Associate Professor in History Department
  • Dr. Fon Gordon, Coordinator of Africana Studies and Associate Professor in History Department
  • Dr. Emily Johnson, Assistant Professor, English Department
  • Dr. Amy Giroux, Associate Director, Center for Humanities and Digital Research

Consulting Team

  • Dr. John Murray, Assistant Professor, Games and Interactive Media
  • Dr. Ezekiel Walker, Associate Professor, History Department
  • Dr. Marie Leticee, Associate Professor, Modern Languages and Literatures Department
  • Dr. Rosalind Beiler, Associate Professor, History Department

 Learn more about the team at: https://chdr.cah.ucf.edu/mpe/index.html

In this interactive simulation, participants are first presented to a VR/AR version of Elmina castle in Elmina, Ghana. In the first scene, the participant is in line with other captives, women, men, and children, to board the ships headed to the Americas. One may interact with others while in line, though the majority of the interactive experiences take place on the ship.

Video clip from the beta version of the VR MPE, “Walking the Line” in the fort before being boarded and taken across the Atlantic Ocean.


Once on board, VR/AR participants must make choices. They may do a variety of things, including winning favor by cleaning the deck, make a friend, steal food, and so on. The ship stories are based on research obtained from visual and archival materials, the database slavevoyages.org, and the numerous primary accounts from African captives, creoles, elite, ship captains, and ship logs.


The feeling of being trapped without hope of escape and the conditions below the deck of the ship effectively convey the process of dehumanization. As I explained to my six-year old daughter, there was no consideration for families or humanity. Families and children were torn apart and forced to endure weeks to months of horrific conditions.

Video clip from the beta version of the VR MPE, below deck in the “The Human Cargo Quarters” after being boarded below the ship’s deck.

ILRN Poster Showcase, June 2020


We have presented this VR/AR to participants at the UCF Humanities show, academic conferences & showcases, the University of Central Florida, and in the local community at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. 


ILRN Poster Showcase, June 2020

Work-in-Progress Paper: “Context is Key in Immersive Learning Environments” by Emily K Johnson, Amy L. Giroux, and Yovanna Pineda, University of Central Florida.


Media Coverage of VR MPE

“Multimedia ‘Un(Continuity)’ Virtual Art Exhibition” by Matthew Moyer, Orlando Weekly, July 17, 2020. URL: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2020/07/17/multimedia-un-continuity-virtual-art-exhibition-opens-through-ucf-this-week

Ashley María Bermudez, “Virtual Reality Project Visualizes the Lives of African Captives,” NSM Today, February 18, 2020. URL: http://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/life/virtual-reality-project-visualizes-the-lives-of-african-captives/article_d4e6154e-510d-11ea-8c5c-83fb15eec06b.html

Tanner Pierce, “AVID Innovation Discovery Event Lets UCF Faculty Experience Augmented Virtual Reality, NSM Today, March 5, 2020. URL: http://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/news/avid-innovation-discovery-event-lets-ucf-faculty-experience-augmented-virtual-reality/article_cbf5494c-5a80-11ea-ae97-2b529c6a57cb.html

Zafirios Daglaris, “Digital history project featured at UCF Celebrates the Arts,” April 24, 2019, featured in https://news.cah.ucf.edu/news/history-projects-at-ucf-arts/