ARC XR: Mixed Reality research leadership at the University

The Advanced Research Centre (ARC), opening in Spring 2022, will house diverse teams within the same building, exposing individuals and research areas to each other and increasing opportunities for cross-disciplinary working.

As well as providing collaboration facilities for the entire University research community, it will be home to academics working on global challenges across five broad themes: Creative Economies & Cultural Transformation, Digital Chemistry, International Development, Quantum and Nanotechnology, and Technologies Touching Life. Facilities which can be used by cutting edge research in these areas include a nationally leading Visualisation Suite on level 2, subdivisible and extending to over 1oo square metres in all.

The opportunities offered by this space extend not only to supporting world-leading research, but also to defining new opportunities in the nature of research arising from visualisation technology. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality-now increasingly all categorised under the banner of XR- are the technologies of the moment, and are already changing lives and ideas. The PwC Report Seeing is Believing estimates that $1.5 trillion can be added to the global economy by XR in the next decade. Much of this will be driven by fresh research and innovation.

With two-thirds of all UKRI Audiences of the Future projects awarded in Scotland coming to UofG in 2018-19, we have a nationally leading position in research associated with this technology. In 2019, a VR/XR Strategy Board (now simply ARC XR) was established by Professor Murray Pittock as Pro Vice-Principal to bring together XR researchers across all Colleges to build a community and to begin to plan for optimal utilization of the nationally leading research space in ARC, which now engages some 40 researchers across UofG. More recently, Dr Neil McDonnell has established an Operations Board to populate this space and plan for its equipment needs, while the Immersive Experiences ArtsLab (co-directors Neil, Rachel Opitz, Iain Findlay-Walsh and Johnny Briggs) has developed a programme of speakers and (in 2021-22) training for staff working with XR technology. The new ARC XR website, prepared by Sarune Savickaite in Psychology, with support from External Relations, is imminent.

Perhaps the most high-profile recent project in the ARC XR space has been Project Mobius, launched at edify.ac -one of the 21 UK XR development to watch, according to Immerse UK. The Edify development was funded by Innovate UK, the Scottish Government and other partners, and has already been shortlisted for THE and Scottish KE awards, as well as establishing projects based on its technology worldwide through the Win-a-Lab competition. Edify’s breakthrough technology includes the delivery of By-Proxy VR experiences by Zoom as well as via the traditional headset technology. Thanks to our partnership agreement with Edify, all staff and students across UoG have access to the platform at no-cost for the coming two years, enabling an extraordinary new mode of learning in any subject area. (Those interested in familiarising themselves with edify, and using it in their teaching, should contact neil.mcdonnell@glasgow.ac.uk directly.)

Other key projects include the ERC ViAjeRo, a five-year award with EE/Computer Science on XR motion sickness mitigation, the Glasgow-Sydney XR Motion Sickness partnership, the EPSRC ‘Novel Interactions for Mixed Reality’ project with Mark McGill in Computer Science, Logitech and other partners, the Khami/McGill Facebook project on Facilitating Parental Insight and Moderation for Social VR, The Simmons Lab on Autism, Perception and VR and Sketchfab (Craig Daly, Life Sciences). Recent and now completed projects include EMOTIVE (Professor Maria Economou, Hunterian/School of Humanities: winner of the Best Arts and Culture Collaboration 2021) and the Scottish Heritage Partnership (Audiences of the Future, with Glasgow Life, National Library of Scotland and National Trust for Scotland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D_jU1cj3V4), which was launched at Scotland House London in 2019 by Andrew Chitty, Director of the Audiences of the Future and Creative Industries Clusters for UKRI and has led to the implementation of new XR policy and practice by the Scottish Parliament, National Trust for Scotland and other stakeholders. Other colleagues are working on XR in Immersive Sound, Anxiety and Cultural Immersion among other projects.

ARC XR is an extraordinary resource for the University, and for Scotland. The Operations Board has been convened to support the ambitions of colleagues in pushing the boundaries of what XR means for us now, and what it might mean for us in the future. The primary goal is for the space to be used for good work from the very first day.

If your work would benefit from the use of ARC XR, or from the guidance and support of the Operations Board, please reach out to Neil McDonnell or to your College or PGR Representative on the board. 


First published: 9 July 2021