On 16th April 2018 Bristol VR Lab had the pleasure of hosting a launch event to remember. We were lucky enough to host a myriad of marvellous minds from an array of awe-inspiring organisations. Amongst our most distinguished guests was the Mayor of the West of England Combined Authority – Tim Bowles, and members of the Local Enterprise Partnership to who we’re forever incredibly thankful to for granting us £295k funding.

WECA Mayor Tim Bowles opens Bristol VR Lab by the cutting of Nano Simbox virtual molecular ribbon.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

The afternoon kicked off with a few words from Bristol VR Lab Director Ben Trewhella, Verity McIntosh of Pervasive Media Studio/Watershed, Martin Boddy of University of the West of England, Nishan Canagarajah of University of Bristol and WECA Mayor Tim Bowles.

Shunning normal opening traditions, Bristol VR Lab was declared open by Tim Bowles as he and BVRL’s El Knight and Dan Page donned HTC Vives and worked together to cut apart a virtual polyethylene ribbon. Dave Glowacki gave a running commentary of the multi-participant experience created especially for the event as an expansion of Interactive Scientific’s Nano Simbox.

Verity McIntosh, Pervasive Media Studio Managing Producer talks about the history of Leadworks building.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

A group of attendees surround the stage as managing director Ben Trewhella kicks off the afternoon with a few words.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

BBC TV and radio presenter Dave Harvey was in attendance at the event shooting several pieces on our residents and doing some live links for Points West. Bristol VR Lab also had coverage in the hard copy of Bristol Post a couple of days after the event. All in all it was a resounding success and we’d like to extend a huge thanks to everyone that helped Bristol VR Lab get both the space and the event up and running.

Bristol VR Lab is enabling small businesses, startups and individual content creators to access and pool their collective knowledge and skills, promoting growth and innovation and working within a University-led Research and Development community to develop future products and services.

From left to right: Nishan Canagarajah, Jen Stein, Ben Trewhella, Lynn Barlow, Guy Orpen, WECA Mayor Tim Bowles, Martin Boddy, Andrew Calway, Verity Mcintosh.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, commented: “The Bristol VR Lab is a fantastic new facility for businesses and education providers in Bristol and the West of England. It will generate jobs, improve skills and accelerate business growth for creative content and technology companies. It will enable the early adoption of new immersive technologies and this will positively impact multiple sectors in our region. The West of England is already firmly established as one of the most significant and innovative digital tech centres in the world. The new VR Lab, along with the many other exciting tech innovations such as our 5G test-bed, will ensure our region continues to lead the way for years to come.”

  • To provide a focal point and convene knowledge around VR / AR
  • To accelerate commercial development by providing access to skills, resources and a supportive community network
  • To provide a common ground where academia and industry can co-design innovation, catalyzing new insight and research activity
  • To highlight the cluster strength and position Bristol as a centre of excellence of VR / AR at both national and international level

Specifically, the research at Bristol VR Lab looks towards the future of content and production for next generation technology – the kinds of production teams needed, the specific creative technical skills that production teams will require, and the kinds of stories producers will be able to tell across emerging immersive platforms, from Virtual to Augmented to Mixed Reality.

The facility is building upon Bristol’s existing expertise in film and television, game design and software and hardware development, as the city continues to strengthen its existing creative community around new technologies.

Bristol VR Lab residents Biome Productions show off a poster for their new exclusive JAUNT VR documentary on the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

Tom Scott, Verity McIntosh, Lord-Lieutenant of the County and City of Bristol Peaches Golding OBE, Rustam Stolkin.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol says: “As one of the leading digital hubs in the country Bristol has a wealth of academics, practitioners and companies working with cutting edge technology such as Virtual Reality. It’s therefore fantastic to see the Leadworks building being used to further research into this area and help develop the industry in Bristol. We are proud of how we are bringing together people from different disciplines and I’m confident that this innovative drive within the city will ensure we continue to attract new investment by major players, for example as an ideal location for Channel 4 outside of London.”

The founding partners of Bristol VR Lab, University of West England, University of Bristol, Watershed and virtual reality developer Opposable Group, have developed several aims for the Bristol VR Lab including:

“The market for Virtual and Augmented Reality is forecast to grow exponentially over the next five years. In delivering the vision of the Bristol VR Lab it will position Bristol as a centre of expertise in VR & AR and will create significant commercial opportunities and new businesses – providing competitive advantage in improved understanding, resource and exposure through the work of the Lab” said Ben Trewhella, Director of the Bristol VR Lab, Managing Director of Opposable and founder of the VR World Congress event.

Residents Stuart Gallop and Shahriar Abdullah and Richard Godfrey, founder of rocketmakers and partner of Bristol VR Lab.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

BVRL Resident Rachel Godfrey demonstrates her 360° accessibility tours.
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

A view that is shared with the Lab’s founding partners including cultural and digital media centre, Watershed, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England:

Verity McIntosh from Watershed says: “Virtual and augmented reality represent a fantastic opportunity to design experiences and connect with audiences in new ways. As one of the founding partners, we at Watershed are excited that Bristol VR Lab is bringing together an active community of makers and researchers from a broad spectrum of disciplines to explore and shape the future of this emerging medium.”

BVRL Resident Nick Inoue shows WECA Mayor Tim Bowles original haptic chair design Substrike
Photo credit: @JonCraig_Photos

Prof. Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Bristol, says: “We are also proud to be a founding partner of the Bristol VR Lab and look forward to collaborating with partners in the region to create a centre of excellence in VR and AR research and enterprise.”

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at UWE Bristol commented: “We are delighted to be a founding partner in the creation of Bristol VR Lab, working with other stakeholders to get this exciting initiative up and running.  VR and AR applications are going to be massively important in the future across a whole range of sectors from cultural and entertainment experiences through to engineering, design, building and infrastructure, health and many others.  The VR Lab is just the start of what I am sure will be an increasingly important vehicle for driving research and innovation, growing the relevant skills and supporting real world applications with economic impact for the region.”

Bristol VR Lab is open for startups, researchers and organisations seeking to explore immersive technologies commercially.  For information on future activities, members, company residents or partners, please contact [email protected].