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The Potential of VR for UK Higher Education

Survey of Activity in the UK


Roger Hubbold of the University of Manchester presented the results of a survey of UK activity in the VR area. There have been 2 studies supported by AGOCG - one towards the end of 1994 and this one in the autumn of 1995.

The second survey attracted 58 responses (51 in 1994) and the results are given in AGOCG Technical Report 27 which should be obtained for more details.

35 of the respondents were from Universities, 14 from vendors and the rest from other types of research groups and users. Many of the groups are small (39 having 1-5 people) though larger groups are starting to form in some institutions. Most have been in existence for less than 3 years and most come from a background in Computer Science, Engineering or Psychology.


Many people are working on applications, perhaps reflecting the increase in industrially sponsored work. Human factors, software architectures and development of peripherals are also major areas of interest. Data visualization and VRML have emerged during the last year as new areas of activity. There was a wide range of specific application areas reported including: education and training; information visualization; construction planning and scheduling; driving/flight simulation; CAD/CAM; medical simulation; virtual retailing/marketing.

Respondents were asked what they saw as the perceived benefits. The main ones were: increased and improved human-computer interaction; better visualization of information; a sense of "presence"; more rapid prototyping; improved simulation.

Hardware and Software

During the last year there has been a considerable increase in the use of Silicon Graphics machines. Superscape remains the most popular package with dVISE/dVS in second place. Many people are still developing their own software. An increasing number of sites now have immersive facilities.


The respondents reported that the UK has so far conducted research of excellent quality in the field of VR and its applications, and that it is ideally placed to become the world leader if sufficient funding and support is forthcoming. Many respondents specifically requested increased and targeted funding for academic/industrial collaboration. The need is for a multidisciplinary initiative along the lines of the now closed Joint Council Initiative (a joint activity between the then SERC, ESRC and MRC). This needs to be medium to long term project funding.
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