Bristol VR Lab gets funding to get underway

£295,000 Local Growth Fund support given to develop one of the UK's first VR and AR experimentation lab for startups and SMEs
7th November 2017

The people who brought the South West the incredibly successful VR World Congress are now behind a brand new incubation space for companies wanting to explore the possibilities of virtual reality or augmented reality technologies. The Bristol VR Lab is a collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England with Watershed and Opposable VR, and its partners include the BBC, Bath Spa University and We The Curious.

“This investment establishes Bristol and the South West region as a key player in the emerging technologies of virtual and augmented reality”

 

Opening in the new year, the lab will be a dedicated immersive tech co-working space, one of only a few in the UK. It’s been made possible by Local Growth Fund support to the tune of £295,000  from the West of England Joint Committee.

Ben Trewhella, Bristol VR Lab director (pictured right), says: “This investment establishes Bristol and the South West region as a key player in the emerging technologies of virtual and augmented reality. It builds upon a tradition of companies including Aardman, Airbus, the BBC and Sony developing the future of entertainment and business in the area, and secures the city as a focal point for future generations entering the high tech industries.”

The team are busy getting the space ready for its planned January 2018 opening, although you can book a visit to see the space now by registering your interest at the Bristol VR Lab website.

Dan Page, one of the Bristol VR Lab team who looks after events, community and marketing (pictured left), tells us, “We’re in a pilot stage at the moment, so although we have three residents signed up they are also helping us create the space. They’ve kindly agreed to be used to test the facilities, to iron out any kinks and ensure everything is as ready as possible for when we open officially.”

Immersive tech

The plan is to fit out the lab with the equipment needed to test or create the latest in immersive experiences. Dan says, “We have a fun shopping list, but it will include mo-cap suits, portable backpack PCs (for VR on the move), 360 cameras, Vive trackers and the latest VR consoles and headsets. However, we want to spread the funding over 3 years to ensure we always have the latest equipment for the entrepreneurs in the lab. We also often get to test pre-release gear due to the relationships we’ve garnered via Opposable, and people will benefit from those connections.”

Dan tells us they are already experimenting with some of the equipment: “We’re currently mapping out the space in the lab  to make a multiplayer alien-killing VR arcade experience based on Opposable’s game Salvaged, which is a fun thing to do as an R&D project! It has a serious side though, as this lets us explore the challenges of converting spaces into immersive experiences.”

A floorplan diagram of new coworking space Bristol VR lab

Spaces available: Plan of the space where you can develop a new VR or AR
business venture 
– or go on a virtual reality alien-killing spree once the
mapping of the area is complete

 

Professor Steve West, interim Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said of the lab: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support this innovative project using Local Growth Fund money. This is an innovative project that will stimulate economic growth, support business investment and create jobs. Importantly this is about exploring opportunities VR potentially provides for education and a range of industry sectors which are concerned with immersive and simulation technologies.”

Who should be a member?

Are you thinking your company could benefit from this, then Dan and the team are keen to hear from you: “We are looking to bring in anyone who is working in immersive realities technology. This is a really broad field, so we don’t really know who to expect, which is really exciting. We’re looking forward to see who comes through the doors, as this is a big leap into the unknown for us as well.”

You can see more and register your interest at the Bristol VR Lab website, and follow the latest developments there by following them on Twitter here: @bristolvrlab