We have built a brand-new Visualisation Lab at the Transport Systems Catapult and which is now open for business.
This is a very exciting time for us as this facility is the UK’s first commercially accessible Virtual Reality environment, packed full of the latest technology. The new lab plays host to a core set of VR technologies as well as technology that has been leant to the lab for experimentation. This means that we have the very best and latest hardware to experiment and develop new applications with.
Our Omnideck multi-directional treadmill has now been now dropped into the floor and we have built a dedicated ceiling rigging to enable the mounting of specialist tracking equipment. We currently use the OptiTrack system to track Omnideck user’s movements within VR, but we will also be able to accommodate new tracking systems that emerge with new technology. We have also installed a 7.1 surround sound for full immersive/directional audio.
Whilst the Lab was being designed and built, we have been working hard to build our understanding of various visualisation tools and their applicability to the Transport Industry. We have been engaging with the gaming industry which is moving at an incredibly fast pace, as well as companies in and adjacent to the transport industry, to find out how this new technology can be applied to solve challenges in the transport industry.
Initially we built a virtual Milton Keynes of the future which was showcased at the Imagine Conference. This demonstrator allowed visitors to don an Oculus Rift and walk around our simulated Milton Keynes alongside our LUTZ pathfinder pods. This was a great project that opened our eyes to the possibilities and current limitations of VR.
The completed Visualisation Lab now forms part of the Intelligent Mobility Modelling and Visualisation capability which is one of 6 unique assets described in the TSC’s Technology Strategy. We hope that we can provide the right environment and creative inspiration to help businesses find that new, novel or lucrative idea that propels them to new heights in the field of Intelligent Mobility.
It’s often hard to convince people that you’re working hard when you’re working with gaming technology. Using technology developed for recreation will always be perceived as a toy, but more and more people are starting to recognise the potential of “serious gaming”. For instance, Education, Health and Safety and other industries that sometimes struggle to engage with people, are turning to VR experts who can transform an educational activity into something fun and engaging.
We have successfully demonstrated the benefits of using off the shelf, or soon to be publicly available technology and hope to inspire others to do the same. You no longer need to spend £100K+ to build a VR tool. Today, you only need a few thousand pounds to get into VR and the price point will continue to drop as the market evolves.
In the long run, our aim is to provide technology that will enable interested parties to recreate all forms of transport, virtually. We believe VR has the potential to immerse people to a greater extent than any other screen based system can achieve. We have recently bought a vehicle simulator, that we have been using to run driverless car simulations in VR and we will soon be building a VR Bicycle simulator – so there are exciting times ahead for the team!