The University of Leeds' Centre for Immersive Technologies will look at ways to uses virtual reality and other technology to change society for the better
Virtual reality and immersive technologies will revolutionise the future of research and learning at the University of Leeds .
The university will launch its new Centre for Immersive Technologies today, harnessing the power of virtual reality and other tech to 'revolutionise' areas including health , transport , education, productivity and culture.
The university already uses driving and truck simulators - today (Thursday) it will unveil the largest pedestrian simulator in the world.
The centre will also use robots in healthcare research and use VR to train surgeons in developing countries, and look at how VR can be used in schools to improve learning.
The pedestrian simulator - Virtuosity's Highly Immersive Kinematic Experimental Research (HIKER) lab - allows participants to interact with virtual urban environments and vehicles without the need to wear any VR equipment.
The new centre at the University of Leeds will feature the largest 4K pedestrian simulator in the world
Virtuocity’s three simulation laboratories – driving, truck and pedestrian – will be connected to create a single “multi-player” environment enabling researchers to address complex questions including how driverless vehicles will interact with their passengers and with pedestrians.
Professor Richard Romano, chair in Driving Simulation and academic lead for Virtuocity at the University, said: “Immersive technologies are already at the heart of a range of University research.
"As part of the new centre, Virtuocity provides the technology and expertise to explore and test real-world scenarios using human-centred design methods to inform the future of urban mobility, transport and city planning.”
The University already uses a truck simulator to test real-life scenarios
The technology will also be used in cultural projects, including a virtual Holocaust Memoryscapes project, allowing schools, museums and artists to give people access to cultural resources which are beyond public reach.
Immersive technology to help people lead more environmentally-friendly lifestyles will include technology that lets decision makers virtually experience the outcomes of difficult choices, and will also help companies produce virtual prototypes to accelerate product testing and design.
Working alongside public and private sector partners, the new Centre for Immersive Technologies aims to create positive changes across society.
Virtual reality will be used in cultural collaboration projects between schools, artists and museums
Over 80 researchers from a range of University subjects will focus on five priority areas – health, transport, education, productivity and culture.
The centre is being coordinated through six academic leads and has a poet and two artists ‘in residence’.
Mr Coleman Fung, VR entrepreneur and founder of the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership at the University of California, Berkeley, is giving a keynote speech at the launch today.
Mr Fung said: “Immersive technologies have enormous potential beyond gaming. They will revolutionise the ways we engage with one another and the world around us. How we learn and work, how we experience arts and sports events, how we take care of each other, how we inspire and motivate kids and, most important of all, how we improve lives.
The power of VR will be used to enhance learning
“To realise all these possibilities, we need co-investments and collaborations from academia, governments, and industry. Therefore, it’s tremendous that the University of Leeds is taking the lead on this pioneering effort with the research centre.”
Professor Mark Mon-Williams, from the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology is director of the new Centre for Immersive Technologies. He said: “Immersive technologies are a game-changer that will impact on every area of our lives, transforming how we live, work and play.
“This new centre will help ensure that the next technological revolution is harnessed for the benefit of society. By working with a wide range of partners, from technology companies and hospitals to museums, we are ensuring that the work carried out by researchers in Leeds is making a real difference to the world.”
Mr Coleman Fung, VR entrepreneur and founder of the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership at the University of California, Berkeley, is giving a keynote speech at the launch
The Centre for Immersive Technologies will be based within the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics at the University of Leeds. It will help connect world-leading researchers with partners from the public and private sectors to accelerate innovation and place people at the heart of the new immersive technology revolution.
In addition to the academics who have joined the Centre, two artists in residence have been appointed, Christophe DeBezenac and Dave Lynch, and a poet, Dr Kate Fox, who recently completed her PhD at the University. Their goal is to spark conversations between different practices, prompting researchers to ask critical questions and take fresh approaches, while the artists are inspired to create exciting new pieces of work.