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Ceremony marks handover of Exeter’s new VSimulators facility

Distinguished guests have gathered to participate in a special ceremony, to mark the handover of a new building that will house the University of Exeter’s pioneering VSimulators experimental facility.

The special ceremony, held on Wednesday, 29th January 2020 at Exeter Science Park, celebrated the University being officially handed the new, purpose-built engineering building from contractors Morgan Sindall Construction.

The bespoke building will host an array of cutting-edge facilities for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, including VSimulators – a multi-disciplinary research platform funded by a £4.8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

VSimulators offers a state-of-the-art, world class facility, combining virtual reality (VR) technology capable of immersing up to nine occupants simultaneously in headset projected VR scenarios.

A 4×4 metre, custom designed motion platform, linked to the VR scenarios, enables users to perceive realistic motion as they move around in a virtual world, while optical and inertial motion capture systems and an array of force plates will record their experiences.

Due to open in May, VSimulators will be used by academics and industry to support multi-disciplinary human factors research and innovation.

It offers research, commercial and training opportunities within a range of disciplines including civil and structural engineering, architecture, psychology, healthcare, human movement science, creative industries, data analytics, entertainment and sports science.

Guests at the special event included representatives from Exeter Science Park, the University of Exeter, University of Bath and University of Leicester.  They were joined by contractors Morgan Sindall Construction, NPS, LHC and Harrison Barron Smith.

Professor Ken Evans, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences said: “This outstanding new facility will act as a pivotal centre of excellence for the College’s world-leading structural engineering research and V-Simulators will bolster Exeter’s already burgeoning reputation for research and innovation in the field.”

Paul Cockram, area lead and operations manager at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “The University of Exeter’s ambition for new facilities has been at the heart of the delivery of this project and we’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work collaboratively with the university to bring this unique vision to life.

 “We’re pleased to be handing over the new building on schedule, which will provide a stunning new home for the university’s engineering, mathematics and scientific researchers. As a centre of excellence, the new facility will open up new opportunities for research and innovation, helping to further bolster the University of Exeter’s world-leading reputation as a critical thinker in this field.”

Dr Sally Basker, CEO of Exeter Science Park, said: “Exeter Science Park helps innovative science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical, or STEMM, companies to deliver extraordinary growth.

“The University of Exeter’s exciting and distinctive new VSimulators facility at Exeter Science Park further strengthens our STEMM offering. This world-class facility will encourage collaboration and foster innovative products and services. We are pleased to see the building reaching this important milestone.”

Hugh McCann, Estates Business Partner at the University of Exeter added: “This is an exciting new facility for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, and the University as a whole. I am delighted that we have taken delivery of the new facility, and look forward to marking the launch of the VSimulators facility later this year.”

James Brownjohn, from University of Exeter, and Principal Investigator for VSimulators, said: “We are delighted that the building for the VSimulators facility has now been handed over to us so we can get started on some exciting pilot projects with academic and industry partners to try out its capabilities before the major facility launch takes place in May 2020.

“I would like to thank Morgan Sindall Construction and all our project partners for their hard work in ensuring the building and facility were constructed and installed on schedule. It is particularly impressive considering the complicated logistical work required to install our state of the art motion platform and other equipment in the VSimulators chamber.”

The £4.8 million grant awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council also funded a complementary VSimulators facility at the University of Bath, which opened in October 2019 and uses an environmentally controlled room with projected virtual reality mounted on a motion platform. This is mainly used to study human factors in the built environment – particularly tall buildings.

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We understand that it’s a tough time for everyone at the moment and our priority is to ensure the health and wellbeing of our colleagues, clients, partners, suppliers and the wider network. We have already put in place the infrastructure to enable us to continue operating the park and providing support and advice during this challenging time so that we are able to continue with business as usual.

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