Virtual reality headset

By Professor Murray Pittock,
Pro Vice-Principal (Special Projects), University of Glasgow

In a world of rapidly changing technology and evolving visitors, how can visitor attractions and tourism businesses continue to successfully engage visitors and exceed their expectations? While creative uses of technology are increasingly important, people and skills also play vital roles. Interface, together with the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions (ASVA) will explore these challenges in their Immersive Experiences: AR, VR and Visitor Expectations in the Attractions Sector, at the St. Mungo Museum, Glasgow on 1st October. Guest speaker Professor Murray Pittock, of the University of Glasgow, offers his thoughts on these technologies in this guest blog.

Last October, a blog appeared on this page about the Scottish Heritage Partnership, a project which was funded by UK Research and Innovation under the Audiences of the Future strand of the UK Industrial Strategy. After a successful launch event at Scotland House London in March 2019 and an information event at Holyrood the following week (following which the National Galleries and Museums both requested copies of the report, among other providers), the project’s findings will form a central part of the Interface-Immersives for Attractions workshop at the St. Mungo Museum in Glasgow on Tuesday 1 October. In addition to gaining audience insights, the event will explore how VR and AR technologies engage audiences and consider what the next steps are, both for the tourism and heritage sectors and for the visitors.

The technology moves even more quickly than the appreciation of its possibilities, and the advent of Oculus Quest (released on 21 May 2019) has brought VR without a PC more fully and realistically to its users and audience than ever before. However, shortage of high-quality content remains an industry and consumer issue, and visitor experiences and cultural heritage organisations have a significant capacity to fill, both in terms of their holdings and their reach. Another obvious application is education, and here the University of Glasgow’s Innovate UK funded Mobius project, led by Fiona Macpherson and Neil McDonnell, promises to bring the virtual classroom to a new and data-rich level, making new ways of teaching possible, from medicine to the arts.

The University of Glasgow’s new campus development includes a £113m Research Hub, due to open in 2021. This will include major VR/XR project development and showcase facilities, including space for our existing and new projects and for industry engagement, in a central 108 square metre space. This will provide leading-edge research and innovation capacity in Scotland, supporting Glasgow and Scotland’s leading position in digital and the cultural and creative industries. The strategy group for this, which I convene, will commence meeting this autumn. With nearly 20 researchers and eight current or recent major funded projects in VR/Immersives, this is an exciting time to be engaging with a critical growth area in digital education, consumer support and entertainment.

Professor Murray Pittock FRSE is Pro Vice-Principal at the University of Glasgow. He chairs the Kelvin Hall project for the University and plays a leading role in the University’s interaction with the Creative and Cultural Industries internationally, most recently in organising the Glasgow and Dublin: Creative Cities Summit in Ireland.


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25 September 2019

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