5M Virtual Reality center Launched in Portsmouth

The Centre for Creative and Immersive XR has received more than 5m in funding in Virtual Reality, including a 3.6m government grant. It’s packed with cutting-edge – and expensive – industry tools, and it’s inviting organizations to use its “one-stop-shop” to create their material and explore what’s available to consume.

In return, the university gets to prepare its students using real-life projects. Tools utilized by video game creators and filmmakers to create top-quality virtual content are now unrestricted to businesses and charities at the multi-million-pound center, which pitched on 4 May.

Its impressive kit list contains a WhiteLight SmartStage. The 3D sets can range from 360-degree images to complete digital worlds, computer-generated by the latest rendition of the Unreal graphics engine – used to build the scenery in Disney’s Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian, among many others.

Other studio areas incorporate motion capture and photogrammetry, where anyone (or anything) can be scanned in 3D. One of the more ambitious projects underway is a complex scan of nearby Southsea Castle, a distinguished 500-year-old fort on the seafront constructed for Henry VIII.

The absence of feeling stays an issue in Virtual Reality, but there is some innovation, like the Tesla suit – a kind of wetsuit packed with sensors developed to trigger sensations on the skin, like the feeling of rain or wind.

Business Director Pippa Bostock told the BBC one of the benefits of working with extended reality is sustainability, enabling firms to host and attend events rather than travel digitally.

Extended reality is also a valuable training tool and was trialed for recruits to the RAF last year. The Royal Navy is already operating with the new center on creating training programs in VR.

It may feel to some industry watchers like extended reality has been on the verge of becoming the next big forte for several years – but never entirely smashed it. Early VR headsets were expensive and clunky, and the computer power required to process the vast graphics was beyond average PCs.