Professor Robert Stone BSc (Hons) MSc FCIEHF CPsychol AFBPsS FIoN

Professor Robert Stone

School of Engineering
Emeritus Professor, eXtended Realities (XR) & Human-Centred Design

Contact details

School of Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I’m a Human Factors specialist (since 1980) and a “veteran” of the international Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality community (since 1987).

Having held a Chair in Interactive Multimedia Systems at the University of Birmingham between 2003 and 2019, I am now Emeritus Professor in eXtended Realities and Human-Centred Design and Director of the Human Interface Technologies Team.

I first experienced VR in 1987, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, during a major space telerobotics project for the European Space Agency. In 1993, whilst researching VR and telerobotics at the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Centre and following an appearance on the BBC’s 9 O’Clock News, I established the world’s first industrial VR team, launching a countrywide collaborative VR initiative, wholly funded by industry.  During that time, I specialised in human-machine interfaces and telepresence for advanced robotic vehicles and manipulators and developed the world’s first haptic feedback glove Teletact.

For many years I was the Scientific Director of a small British VR company, until, in 2003, I decided to join academia with the goal of introducing real-world lessons learned, stakeholder experiences and the importance of “impact” into VR research and teaching.

My research has taken me from Royal Navy vessels conducting close-range weapons and missile trials to underwater operations onboard submarines and rescue submersibles; and from search-and-rescue helicopter missions to operating theatres and medical units throughout the world.

Today, I work closely with the Defence Medical Academy on the use of VR and MR for the training of future military medics.


  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (FCIEHF), 2003
  • Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society (AFBPsS), 1989
  • Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), 1989
  • MSc (Ergonomics), UCL 1981
  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, UCL 1979


From 1980 to 1989 Bob was involved in defence human factors research, later in the role of group leader at British Aerospace’s Sowerby Research Centre in Bristol, UK.  In 1989, Bob left BAE to join the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Research Centre in Salford, supported by the DTI and a range of industrial shareholders.  There he formed a team of human factors and software specialists in order to develop VR technologies for sophisticated mobile and manipulative robots, including the Teletact I and II Gloves - the world’s first tactile feedback glove systems for VR and telepresence applications.  After a successful 3 years of R&D, the Robotics Centre became commercial (Intelligent Systems Solutions Limited) and, following an appearance on the BBC’s 9 O’Clock News in January, 1993, he brought together (initially) 12 companies to fund the world’s first industrial collaborative project addressing the commercial uses of VR.  VR Solutions was launched as a company in its own right in October, 1995.

During his time in industry, Bob undertook research into the rôle of human factors/ergonomics in the implementation of VR, with regular contributions to VR applications projects in the fields of defence, surgery, heritage, engineering and health and safety aspects of VR.  He was the Research Director of the UK Human Factors Integration Defence Technology Centre for over 6 years (during its existence between 2003 and 2012), and it is from within this Centre that many of his team’s projects originate, covering human-centred design and evaluation methodologies for applications as varied as close-range weapons training and support for surgical and mental health therapies, submarine safety awareness, IED search and disposal training and unmanned systems operation, including the use of low-cost drones for remote sensor data visualisation.

His early medical research led to the development of a world-first laparoscopic cholecystectomy basic surgical skills simulator, MISTVR.  MISTVR was marketed for over 10 years by Mentice of Sweden and was adopted by the European Surgical Institute (Norderstedt, Germany) in 1998 as a de facto training technology for keyhole surgery training.  Today, he works closely with the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and a number of hospital trusts, researching the use of VR for post-operative restoration and rehabilitation programmes for military and civilian patients in Intensive Care and a unique Mixed Reality solution for the training of future defence medics deployed as part of Medical Emergency Response Teams.

In 2011, Bob was awarded the MoD Chief Scientific Advisor’s Commendation for his contributions to Defence Science & Technology, the highest award given to an individual by that Governmental Department.  In July 2017, Bob and his University team were awarded the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network Innovative Team of the Year Award, in recognition of their achievements in VR for healthcare applications.  In 2019, the team was awarded the “Innovation in Medicine and Health” Award at the Inaugural West Midlands Tech Awards, and in 2020 the Innovation Award from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors for Mixed Reality research in defence medicine.


Research interests

  • Digital and Virtual Heritage
  • Human Factors and Simulation-/VR-Based Training
  • Virtual Scenes of Nature for Cognitive Restoration and Physical Rehabilitation
  • Mixed Reality Techniques for Defence Training

Current projects

  • Mixed Reality for Battlefield Advanced Trauma Life Support Training
  • Various Informal Projects Investigating “Healthcare from Virtual Heritage”


Stone, R.J., Lamb, D. (2022).  Blending the Best of the Real and Virtual: A Future Concept for Preparedness Training in Healthcare and Beyond. International Review of the Armed Forces Medical Services. 94(4). pp. 7-15.

Hanes, L., Stone, R.J. (2019). Applying Constrained Virtual Environments to Serious Games for Heritage. International Journal of Serious Games. 6(1). pp. 93-116.

Stone, R.J. (2019).  What Lies Beneath: Virtual and Augmented Reality Techniques for Maritime Heritage.  In Abberley, W. (2019, Ed.),  Underwater Worlds: Submerged Visions in Art, Science and Literature. A collection of essays based on the 2015 conference of the same name; Cambridge Scholars Publishing.  pp. 208-238.

Stone, R.J. (2018).  Blending the Best of the Real with the Best of the Virtual: Mixed Reality Case Studies in Healthcare and Defence. in Jung, T. & tom Dieck, M.C. (Eds., 2018) Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Empowering Human, Place and Business. Springer International Publishing. pp. 277-294.

Stone, R.J. (2012).  Human Factors Guidance for Designers of Interactive 3D and Games-Based Training Systems (Second Edition); Human Factors Integration Defence Technology Centre Publication (pdf).

View all publications in research portal

Languages and other information

Basic French and German

Media experience

I have considerable national and local media experience, going back to the late 1980s, I have written numerous articles for newspapers and trade/popular magazines and have taken part in radio interviews and numerous blogs. I even had my own BBC radio programme (BBC Radio Bristol) between 1984 and 1985

Alternative contact number available for this expert: contact the press office


Virtual reality; simulation and “serious games”; augmented reality; “mixed” reality implementations (e.g. for command and control) ; evaluation of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) interactive technologies; wearable computing; innovative interactive technology design and demonstration; human factors and human-centred design; rapid development of concept capability demonstrators; novel applications of drone (quadcopter/hexacopter) and other remotely operated technologies; and sensor data visualisation for human interpretation and interaction.

Policy experience

Experienced in delivering outward-facing, high-impact research partners in defence, healthcare, heritage and telerobotics / telepresence.