University of Birmingham representatives with members of the National Marine Aquarium team

Academics from the University of Birmingham are to work with researchers at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth in a bid to create new types of virtual reality technology aimed at enhancing visitor experience.

The University and the aquarium have enjoyed a partnership since 2004, exploring how advanced visualisation techniques can be used to better understand Britain’s coasts.

Together they have already created a virtual reality representation of Europe’s first artificial reef, which also allowed the public to explore a 3D shipwreck in real-time by piloting a virtual remotely operated vehicle using a gaming hand controller.
The projects saw the team develop new software techniques in artificial life, which studied and simulated the behaviour of biological organisms and systems.

The purpose of the artificial reef was to investigate and predict how natural environments survive, reproduce, colonise and evolve, plus how they may be affected by environmental changes brought about by climate change, extreme weather events or pollution.

Now the partnership is entering its next phase and will see the Aquarium and University exploring the possibilities of how technology can add to the visitor experience, as well as potentially improve visitors’ wellbeing.

Mark Duchesne, General Manager at the National Marine Aquarium, said: “At the NMA we are committed to investing in projects which will allow us to better understand and preserve marine life.

“The University of Birmingham is a centre of academic excellence, producing ground-breaking technology, which we have been delighted to harness in Plymouth.

“Virtual and augmented reality provides a unique lens through which to explore otherwise hidden marine environments, making them not just accessible to experts but to all our visitors, as we all have an important part to play in protecting our oceans.”

Professor Robert Stone, Director of the Human Interface Technologies at the University of Birmingham, added: “Our partnership with the NMA has allowed us to develop unique virtual reality software to illuminate new lines of marine research.

“The technology we are using is developing rapidly and we look forward to exploring uncharted marine realms with the NMA in the years to come.”

For further information or interviews contact:

  • Emma McKinney, Press Office, University of Birmingham, at +44 (0)121 414 6681
  • Angharad Tye-Reeve or Mel Bradley at McKenna Townsend, on +44 (0) 1425 472330
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The National Marine Aquarium is a registered charity committed to promoting a sympathetic understanding of the sea through programmes of education and research
  • For further information about the visit National Marine Aquarium website.