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Observations and Recommendations

The information acquired during the survey is included in the appendices of this report so that interested readers are not disadvantaged in distilling their own conclusions. From our experience of conducting the survey we make the following observations.

Looking at the number of groups involved in different application areas reveals that there is a considerable spread of applications. Further analysis shows that this is matched by a diversity of systems and approaches used -- no clear preference of hardware and software or coordination of effort is evident. Nearly everyone is working independently and in different ways. Even where three or four groups report that they are interested in the same areas, such as CAD, architectural walkthrough, or medical imaging, there is little evidence of coordination or common approaches. In Appendix we show a matrix indicating reported cooperation between different groups. It can be seen that the degree of interaction is relatively small.

Quite a high number of the respondents are working with few resources, and with only modest effort available. VR for demanding applications requires high-performance graphics and few groups have this. PCs are the most numerous hardware platform, but even among groups using Silicon Graphics many of the machines are Indys with only modest graphics speed. Most of the laboratories abroad whose work is reported in the literature are better equipped.

Much of the work in progress is concentrated on applications. The diversity of applications and systems suggests that there must be considerable duplication of effort in solving underlying problems. There seems relatively little activity devoted to these underlying system issues and software architectures. As long as VR is supported in a piecemeal manner in the U.K., this duplication of effort seems destined to continue.

A common plea is for more funding on VR research. VR requires an interdisciplinary approach, combining computer science, psychology, and application skills, and finding sources of funding for this kind of interdisciplinary research is very difficult.

At the present time, three of the world's leading VR companies are based in the U.K., and yet the overall picture across the country is that of enthusiastic but fragmented efforts, usually with minimal resourcing. If we are to to remain competitive and build upon our current strengths then the clear recommendation must be that of better coordination and funding for the research that will be needed.

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