Video transcript: VR Research at the University of Leeds

Transcript for the video embedded on the Centre for Immersive Technologies work with us page.

[University of Leeds logo appears.]

[Aerial shot of campus, cuts to aerial shot of a modern building. A close up of an eye with moving shapes overlaid on it. Footage of many pedestrians crossing a road. Various people looing at data on screen. A child wearing a VR headset.]

[A researcher appears on screen. They are sat down and have a virtual reality environment behind them including a chair, controls and a screen showing computer generated footage of driving around a city streets from the perspective of the driver. Throughout the video, this footage changes as if someone is moving around the streets.]

[The researcher says:] So I first got interested in virtual reality 25 years ago when I was a PhD student and we were interested in why some children have problems interacting with the physical world. 

But it's quite difficult to do experiments in the physical world because the physical world obeys Newtonian mechanics so what we did is invested in a large virtual reality system their expensive piece of equipment the Medical Research Council supported us and buying that piece of equipment. 

Unfortunately what we found is that the virtual reality system caused people to have sore eyes and headaches and so we ended up doing research into why people got sore eyes and headaches and we were unable at that stage to use the technology to address the questions we were interested in. 
Then I came to Leeds and found that actually the virtual reality technology was starting to take off again and so have become very excited at the prospect of using the technology for the for what I wanted to do 25 years ago.

Footage of a person typing code into a computer, followed by a person exploring a room on a computer.


Well, Born in Bradford is just a fantastic research project. It's based in Bradford, which we like to think of as the city of research and the study is following the lives thirteen and a half thousand children.

Our goals are to understand what factors influence the child's outcome so we really want the children to grow up with good physical health a good mental health. We want them to have social emotional wellbeing. We want them to get good grades, a good educational attainment and we all truly want them to be able to get good sort of our jobs. 

So we're interested in whatever the factors that ultimately influence a child's outcome and the reason that we want to know what factors influence the child's outcome is that we can intervene and improve things for children that all children have the possibility of reaching their potential.

We're testing 20,000 children right now. So the logistics of these studies as you can imagine are great but the participants in the study; all the families, the community, and the children themselves are so enthusiastic and so wanting to contribute to our understanding of what makes for successful childhood development that it's just a joy to run the project.

So you can imagine that we're looking at every aspects of sort of children's lives so the sort of studies already made really fundamental contributions to our understanding one thing that we're really excited about is our identification or our ability to detect children who have got movement problems. 

Among things that we're finding is the movement problems that really have a profound impact upon the children's opportunities in life. So one of the things that we're doing is intervening. We're offering therapy to children in order to help them in tasks such as handwriting. We think that this will make a big sort of difference to their ultimate outcome in life. 

[Footage of young children wearing school uniforms playing outside. Cuts back to the researcher.]

[The researcher continues speaking:]

Things we really are interested in doing is looking at how children use information to control their actions and what virtuality allows us to do, is set up different virtual worlds and we can then see how children interact with those virtual worlds. And because those virtual worlds don't need to obey these normal rules of the physical world, then we can actually manipulate the information the children are using to carry out particular actions. 

So for example, you might want to look at what it is that allows the child to catch a moving ball. Now if we do that in the real world balls behave in a particular way. If it's a computer-generated ball we can have it behaving any way we want and that allows us then to start exploring how a child reaches out to catch a ball and by understanding that we can start to understand why some children have difficulty in these types of tasks. Then that allows us to start intervening and helping children to carry out tasks such as catching a ball and if children can throw balls and catch balls that's more likely to encourage them to participate in ball sports, which means that then they can be more active and hopefully you can start decreasing obesity and other problems. 

It's all about improving children's quality of life. So this is really work that we hope will benefit many future sort of generations of children, not just in Bradford but through cities and the whole of the UK, but also more globally so that we can really understand how we can support children during those critical early years in order that they fulfill their potential.

[Footage of child wearing a virtual reality headset, playing a baseball virtual reality game. Footage returns to the researcher.]

[The researcher continues speaking:]

Leeds is just so exciting right now for all of this virtual reality research. So there's all kinds of exciting aspects of this; so we have medical sort of students using virtual reality to hone their skills. We are working with lots of teams of surgeons who are using virtual reality to prepare for an operation and also to practice operations in a virtual world with a virtual sort of person rather than practicing in the real world on a real person. 

And that's just one example. We're also using virtual reality to design cities so we have a fantastic initiative within the University of Leeds called Virtuocity. What the virtuosity team are doing, is using these immersive sort of technologies to see how we can set up cities to encourage people to be able to walk, encourage more cyclists, to encourage driving behaviours that will actually decrease pollution. 

Then we have a national robotic centre here at Leeds and the robotic centre is looking at ways that we can use robots to help support people perhaps who have had a stroke. And again, the virtuality gives us very powerful tools allowing people to interact with those the robots in a meaningful and interesting way.

So you can see that virtual reality is just really impacting upon all these different sort of spheres. So it's been a very exciting time for us within the research field because of this new burgeoning technology.

[Footage of a person using virtual reality to simulate carrying out dentistry work inside a virtual reality mouth.]

So we think virtual reality is the next disruptive technology and we're pretty convinced that it's going to change the way we interact with computers and that's good

I think the current way we interact with computers is not healthy, so I end up with a sore neck and sore shoulders and sore back because I'm hunched over my desktop PC and from banging my fingers into some keyboard.

Virtuality offers much more naturalistic ways of interacting with visual displays so one of our big hopes is that we can actually allow people to interact with computers in a way that actually doesn't cause back pain, doesn't cause shoulder pain.

We're also hoping that it will set up ways that people can interact with our visual displays which are more comfortable on their eyes. So we're really sort of seeing this, as they're something which is going to change the whole space in which we work. 

One of the problems that we have right now again is we're very sedentary - so we sit down. The virtuality systems will allow us to work on our computers while moving around our work environment. 

So we're really sort of seeing it change every aspect of our lives. 

[Footage of a person wearing headphones and looking at a computer screen. Footage returns to the researcher.]

[The researcher continues speaking:]

All new technology has potential issues I think what's exciting about virtuality is that we've identified a lot of these problems up front and we've got great engineers and we've got great computer scientists who can actually engineer these problems out of the systems.

And if we can engineer the problems out of the system early in research, it might be one of a few examples where a technology has been introduced where we met the potential problems up front and we can actually circumvent those problems. So I'm actually excited about the impact of this technology to massively improve our health. 

There are concerns that if we just roll out the technology without taking into account any possible side effects, we might have some difficulties. But if we know what potential side effects are we can deal with those side effects in which case then we've got a technology that could actually help us live healthier lives.

[Footage of person wearing a virtual reality headset, playing a baseball virtual reality game. Footage returns to the researcher.]

The researcher continues speaking; So we're sat here at the University of Leeds where of course we're passionate about teaching, we're passionate about education and I think virtual reality will change the way that we educate our students.

Why should I sort of stand up, teaching brain anatomy using a flat two-dimensional screen when we can have students who can actually go in and explore the brain in three dimensions, pull the brain apart see which different bits of the brain connect to each other.

So just thinking about things in terms of educational content I think this will sort of change the world.

A couple of weeks ago we're in schools teaching children about virtual reality and allowing them to go back to Roman times and see what the world looked like in Roman times. They could explore jungles with dinosaurs in it. They could fly around the solar system so it just offers so much power in terms of communicating ideas and communicating information to schoolchildren, to undergraduate students, to postgraduate students. 

So I really think it's going to transform the way that we deliver education but it's also got a huge benefits in terms of the way that we can deliver health care messages.

So we have colleagues at the University of Leeds who work across the Punjab and are desperately trying to get health messages out across these remote regions.

Now there are few computers in these areas but also every other person has a smartphone, and so there are very, very cheap systems that can be used with a smartphone to turn it into a virtuality system.

It will allow far more powerful messages about antimicrobial resistance or importance of finishing a course of antibiotics, so we're really excited about the potential to use virtuality technology to get health messages out to low and medium income countries and hope to reduce some of the global inequalities that currently exist. 

[Aerial footage of the University of Leeds Parkinson Tower]

There's a number of driving studies that are happening across the university and they're using the power of simulation. The problem about understanding what information it is that people use to break or to steer around the corner is difficult when you have people driving real cars because there are real safety issues. 

Of course the power of virtual reality is you can have people driving around virtual cities, around virtual worlds and that allows us to have a look at what type of factors caused people to brake too late or steer too early or steer too late. And so we've got world-class researchers that are addressing these type of issues, helping us understand what are the factors that allow people to drive safely. 

That information is then being fed back into automatic driving cars, so those smart cars that we're starting to hear lots about.

So it’s about the use of virtuality in this domain – it’s very exciting, very powerful.

[Virtual reality footage of driving around streets. Footage returns to the researcher]

[The researcher continues to speak:]

So we've got the Cultural Institute - the newly formed Cultural Institute - who have brought together world-class artists who are really excited about using virtual reality to express different of cultural ideas. 

And the whole arts and humanities area of the University are very very excited about the potential for uses of technologies about the potential that exists to use virtualities in new and innovative ways to allow sort of expression of the human spirit and also the transmission of cultural information. 

One example is lots of museums have got lots and lots of pictures or artefacts but they only have a limited amount of physical space, so one of the advantages of immersive technologies is that you can go into the museum and it can show you in large numbers of the artefacts and pictures that exist through a virtual display rather than have them to it physically put out these items. 

It can just give you a virtual representation or it might be an augmented reality system where you're looking at a piece of art and it will be able to give you a narrative about the artist and show you some complementary pieces of the work so we can really harness those cultural experiences.

[Footage of child wearing a virtual reality headset, playing a baseball virtual reality game. Footage returns to the researcher.]

So the virtual reality system is going to have an enormous economic impact so the expected spend investment of virtuality over the next couple years is estimated to be twenty billion pounds around the world so it's absolutely enormous. It's going to have big, big economic ramifications and that's again why the University is so keen that we really have sort of the vanguard of this initiative logical revolution. But we also need to consider the social impact of these new technologies and so we have lots of social scientists within the University who are really interested to understand how the development of these systems is going to produce social change in order that we can understand what potential problems may occur and then mitigate against those issues.

[Footage of children wearing virtual reality headsets and playing games.]


[University of Leeds logo appears on screen with text that says (University of Leeds website).]

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