The extended realities (XR) of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) are an emerging research frontier. They constitute a new 3D medium in which the physical limitations of the real world can be set aside. The possibilities are vast and dizzying. The commercial prospects of XR have the largest tech companies in the world investing heavily, none more so than Facebook, which changed its name to Meta to reflect its focus on creating and colonising this new XR domain. It calls this the metaverse.
If Meta is right – and I think it is – the next decade or so will see the rise of a whole new domain of information and interaction that is essentially spatial. The changes in our lives and society that will result will be extensive and well worth studying on their own, but XR and the metaverse are not just a new topic to study, they are already a means by which research is conducted and a mode of dissemination. Like the printed word and the internet before it, this new medium of information exchange will go from the novel curio many perceive today to one of the ubiquitous tools of our future work.
In 2022, XR research mainly lives in silos within organisations: it’s typical for some research groups or departments to have a lab or an occasional headset, but there’s rarely any joined-up institutional thinking about how to create an environment fit for the research we want today and will need tomorrow. This must change if we’re to understand and shape our extended future reality.
At Glasgow, we’re tackling this head-on. Our £116 million Advanced Research Centre (ARC) will be the creative and collaborative heart of research at the University of Glasgow. Right at its centre sits our dedicated XR space – ARC XR – one of the biggest XR spaces in the UK. ARC XR will be a central resource for researchers to push research boundaries and explore new collaborations.