By Professor Murray Pittock

THE opening of the new Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre (ARC) at the University of Glasgow heralds a new era for research in the city.

By housing diverse teams of research staff within the same building, the ARC will expose individuals and research areas to each other on a daily basis in an open and flexible environment, changing both practice and perception.

Perception lies at the heart of how we think. A key development of the ARC is the nationally leading facility in visualisation technologies, ARC XR, which it establishes in Glasgow.

Extended Reality (XR) is an all-encompassing term for immersive technology, including Virtual Reality (VR). With the ARC XR, the university now has the facilities to complement its leading position in immersive technology research, a place which can bring in local and global partners to reimagine how we see reality and thus how we interpret it.

Our researchers will work with other universities, the public sector, government and industry to transform how we perform various tasks in our day to day lives using leading-edge research.

Glasgow’s digital companies, such as the Soluis Group, have been involved in our work since the beginning. With investment in XR rising rapidly UK-wide and one of our industrial partners identified as a top company in the field by Immerse UK, the possibilities – from medical modelling to the permanent digital exhibition, from virtual tourism to transformational experiences in both a medical and a recreational sense – are profound.

Visualisation technology is set to capture an increasing share of the annual $15 billion venture technology market, with the UK already third in the world in this field. XR comprehends both Virtual Reality (VR) with its headsets and immersive gaming and Augmented Reality (AR), which is now widely used as an enhancement, for example in car satnav systems.

Because it changes how we see, XR changes how we think. Though we use it in games and experiences – and sometimes just through a QR code – XR is more than a game.

Already XR encompasses the range of human activity from computer games to medical research, and there are major funded projects across the university in areas including the virtual classroom, autism, life sciences, motion sickness, privacy and surveillance and visitor attractions.

ARC XR researchers can take advantage of a nationally-leading 18x6m visualisation facility on Level 2 of the ARC, which can be divided into three research areas. This new space is one of the largest XR studios in the UK it will provide unique opportunities in Scotland to push the boundaries of XR research. As well as housing University of Glasgow researchers and students, this is a space open to external partners, charities, museums, galleries, organisations and businesses.

XR can and will change the way we see the world and how we think, and problem solve in every area. Now its opportunities can be explored as never before in a space which can change lives.

Professor Murray Pittock is Pro-Vice Principal and Chair XR Strategy Board at the University of Glasgow and is the current Scottish Knowledge Exchange Champion