Case Study - University of Northampton


University of Northampton

The state-of-the-art, 3D visualisation facility at The University of Northampton’s NVision Centre is the largest project Virtalis has ever undertaken. It combines the UK’s first five-sided ActiveCube, two ActiveWalls and a 512 core HPC cluster.


The three Virtalis ActiveWorks systems will give the University advanced visualisation facilities with powerful capabilities, all underpinned by high performance computing from SGI and projection equipment from Christie Digital. The incredibly high resolution Virtalis ActiveCube is the only one of its kind in the country and provides the ultimate immersive experience for the user. For bigger groups, the 6m x 3m tracked ActiveWall, powered by Virtalis immersive display software, generates an inspiring 3D stereo experience for up to 75 people at a time for group design and project reviews, teaching sessions and product launches. The smaller ActiveWall is tucked away in the basement and is intended for sensitive research, product design, marketing and small scale customer presentations.

Virtalis has supplied many software packages, adaptors and drivers. These include various CAD packages from PTC, Dassault and AutoDesk, as well as Virtalis’ specialist Virtual Reality (VR) software, StereoServer, its Virtalis Visionary Framework and its landscape visualisation software, GeoVisionary.

“The main reason we chose Virtalis is because they have the experience and expertise to support us while we develop our offering, not just with their immersive displays, but in developing specialist software applications that will benefit our students and the wider business community.”
Stuart Wayne, NVision’s Manager

generichsmall_kingsleypark1highresHOW THE SYSTEMS ARE USED

The Kingsley Park building is a Victorian Grade II listed former school and the main ActiveWall and the ActiveCube were to be situated in the main hall. The complex process to put the ActiveCube on top of the ActiveWall required close liaison and carefully planning and execution. The kit was lifted and manoeuvred into the hall once windows were removed, platforms built and cranes brought in. The whole project was completed in under two months.
Already the NVision team is attracting research projects from organisations keen to tap into the Virtalis technology. One completed project enabled the analysis and optimisation of how architects and builders can use Virtual Reality (VR) to collaborate to create more sustainable buildings. The Northampton team, which includes 3D specialist modellers, has begun defining and developing VR offerings for discrete markets.


Higher Education Innovation Funding has been received to create a VR planning tool for the redevelopment of a major sporting venue in the county. The site project team is looking into every permutation and even planning details like landscaping and signage. A later development is to potentially market debentures for individual seats for stands or boxes that do not yet exist.

The systems have been used by FMCG product manufacturers and designers of retail environments. One well-known company has already booked the NVision Centre for its top secret work twelve times in the last few months. It is using the ActiveCube and ActiveWall to analyse the impact of different companies’ products on the shelves. The NVision developers have successfully managed to translate that organisation’s in-house visualisation software on to the Virtalis system, so the immersive experience can be savoured to its greatest extent.

generichsmall_virtoolssmall1Some projects have come from the most unexpected areas, such as the SME play area designer, who was able to make on-the-fly modifications to its proposed redevelopment of a local Leisure Park once stakeholders had explored it virtually. A project NVision is bidding for is the exciting regeneration of a city centre. The virtual model already developed has attracted rave reviews and has brought people together from diverse disciplines.

“With reductions in public funding and a general need in the economy to offer similar outcomes with fewer resources, businesses will have to think creatively about how they can achieve this. Virtual Reality is one tool that can save money and I see great opportunities for NVision to deliver value in this area.”
Stuart Wayne, NVision’s Manager


Many SMEs from the East Midlands have seized on the selling power of Virtual Reality and held their product launches at the NVision Centre. An especially memorable one was a manufacturer that had created a new range of door furniture. NVision’s developers were able to capture much press coverage by enabling the exploration of this new range virtually. They even mounted the virtual door of 10, Downing Street with the new range of hinges, letterboxes, knobs and knockers. Once through the famous portal, the media discovered that the Prime Minister’s hall had been transformed into a virtual show room, with plinths displaying the new range.


Grants for the prestigious £11 million NVision Centre have been secured in the form of matched funding from the East Midlands Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund, with further financial support from Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd.

There is so much interest in the Virtalis technology at the NVision Centre that the University is continuing to host regular open days themed around different market sectors for businesses from Northamptonshire, Rutland, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

“During the next five years, we expect to bring the power of Virtual Reality to over 500 small and medium businesses in the East Midlands. The University saw the acquisition of the impressive Kingsley Park building for its School of Science and Technology as an opportunity to enhance our knowledge transfer opportunities with businesses which, as a result, creates opportunities for our students.”
Stuart Wayne, NVision’s Manager

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