Trying out a VR headset

Interior of the new Bristol VR Lab / Image by Jon Craig

Bristol VR Lab opens

A landmark new facility establishing Bristol as a central development hub for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) skills and content officially opens its doors today.

We are delighted to be a founding partner in the Bristol VR Lab - a landmark new facility opening this week which establishes Bristol as a central development hub for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) skills and content.

Following an incubation period - supported by global giants including BBC, Airbus and Microsoft - 20 start-ups are now settled into the Leadworks building in Anchor Square (which some of you may recall housed the original Pervasive Media Studio). As part of the Bristol VR Lab they will be integral to creating an innovation centre which harnesses opportunities and stimulates skills around emerging immersive technologies.

The Bristol VR Lab will bring together small businesses 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.  Examples of projects that are currently in development include: a haptic chair developed by Dr Nick Inoue that sends infrasonic vibrations through the body as you experience sound and motion in VR, and GoVirtually, a new start-up company founded by graduate Rachel Godfrey that produces 360degree 3D virtual tours that seek to help people with autism break down perceptual and societal barriers.

Woman trying out a VR headset

Image by Jon Craig

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, says:

“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.”

The founding partners of the Bristol VR Lab, the University of West England, the University of Bristol, Watershed and award-winning Virtual Reality Developer Opposable Group provide a focal point and convene knowledge around VR / AR and this partnership highlights the cluster strength and position of Bristol as a centre of excellence at both national and international level. The Lab will build upon Bristol's existing expertise in film and TV, game design and software and hardware development.

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 VR. It’s therefore fantastic to see the Leadworks building being used to further research into this area and help develop the industry. 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.”

Verity McIntosh Watershed's Pervasive Media Studio Managing Producer 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.”

Ben Trewhella, Director of the Bristol VR Lab, Managing Director of Opposable and founder of the VR World Congress event, says:

“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 we will position Bristol as a centre of expertise and will create significant commercial opportunities and new businesses - providing competitive advantage in improved understanding, resource and exposure through the work of the Lab.”  

The Bristol VR Lab has been established with £295,000 Local Growth Fund support awarded by the West of England Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership, and follows the news by the Government to establish a 5G test-bed in Bristol, which will drive forward new 5G business opportunities for the region and UK.