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Virtual becomes reality as Bradford secures 3m Euros to lead pan-European project


The University of Bradford, leading a partnership of international universities and commercial organisations, has secured nearly 3 million euros to conduct a four-year research project that could transform how we create, interact with and use virtual reality.

The project will see nine universities, two national museums and six commercial partners from all over Europe investigate how the human brain perceives and reacts with materials and their appearance in dynamic situations, and enables us to perform both simple and complex tasks intuitively, from drinking tea to operating complicated machinery.

The research will involve brain imaging, computational modelling, and examining real and virtual stimuli for vision and touch.

The project, which involves the recruitment and training of a network of doctoral researchers and mass participation research, will deepen our understanding of how we react with materials, and will examine how virtual reality can convince people that they are looking at the real thing.

This could have implications for how games and films are created, enable virtual reality to replace in some cases the actual development of prototypes and impact on design and computer graphics. The network of partners will contribute experts in the fields of psychology, computer graphics, neuroscience, industrial design and public outreach.

The network funding, from Horizon 2020, is the first ever awarded to the University and the application achieved one of the highest scores, 98.2 out of 100, from the reviewers.

The project will involve a series of public participation activities, including at two of the partners, the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford and the National Gallery in London, particularly for families and schools.

Marina Bloj, Professor of Visual Perception at the University of Bradford, network coordinator and project leader, said: “Understanding how the human brain performs dynamic, multisensory integration is a key challenge with important applications in creating digital and virtual environments. Communications, entertainment and commerce are increasingly reliant on ever more realistic and immersive virtual worlds that we can modify and manipulate.

“Here we bring together multiple perspectives to address the central challenge of the perception of material and appearance in dynamic environments. Our goal is to produce a step change in the industrial challenge of creating virtual objects that look, feel, move and change like the real thing.”

Academic partners are: University of Bradford, University of Cambridge, Technische Universiteit Delft, Universidad de Zaragoza, Justus-Liebig Universitaet Giessen, Bilkent Universitesi, Universitaet Ulm, University of Southampton and University of Newcstle upon Tyne.

Commercial partners are: National Science and Media Museum, LEDMOTIVE, Schlenk, National Gallery, ARUP and Allegorithmic.

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