£5m Virtual Reality center launches in Portsmouth

I’m in a large and colorful wooden-floored room. There’s a man standing next to me, and a bird is at my feet. Suddenly both the man and the bird disappear. It sounds like the start of a surreal dream, and in a way it is, because none of it is real. I was actually standing on a high-tech digital stage at Portsmouth University.

Tools used by video game developers and movie makers to create top-quality virtual content are now available to businesses and charities at the multi-million pound centre, which launches on 4 May.

The Centre for Creative and Immersive XR (extended reality – an umbrella term for all types of digital reality, from the immersive VR viewed in headsets, to AR games like Pokemon Go, in which graphics are posted over the real world as seen through a smartphone camera) has received more than £5m in funding, including a £3.6m government grant.

It’s crammed with cutting-edge – and expensive – industry tools, and it’s inviting organisations to make use of its “one stop shop” to both create their own material, and explore what’s available to consume it on. In return, the university gets to train its students using real-life projects.

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

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