The University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) at Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus sought an advanced visualisation technology partner several years ago and plumped for Virtalis.
The ActiveWall at VEC in Daresbury proved to be such a draw to University of Liverpool students and academics alike that they wanted a Virtual Reality (VR) facility of their own. The resulting VEC@Liverpool facility sits within the Harrison Hughes Building in the School of Engineering. Now Virtalis has additionally partnered with VEC and University of Liverpool’s digital innovation centre in its London campus in Finsbury Square.
What is VEC?
The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) is a University of Liverpool initiative in partnership with the Northwest Aerospace Alliance, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (Daresbury Laboratory), BAE Systems, Morson Projects and Airbus. The Centre provides a focal point for world class Virtual Engineering (VE) business, research, education and skills development, best practice demonstration and knowledge transfer for the aerospace sector.
As VEC’s objective is to use VR to improve products and processes and share that knowledge with business, its VR facilities were designed to allow it to draw on advanced 3D visualisation, full immersive tracking and real-time user interaction through virtual touch.
“Complex engineering solutions are easier to understand in 3D. More intuitive interaction with virtual models leads to speedier communication between different groups of people. Virtalis was able to display technical competence, a great depth of support and value for money.”
Dr Antony Robotham, former executive director of the VEC
VEC in Liverpool
VEC@University of Liverpool is located within the Industrial Design Department, which is based within the Faculty of Engineering. Students use VR to solve real life business conundrums as part of the Industrial Challenges which are built into Industrial Design.
The VR suite is also shared with other disciplines, such as Psychology and Architecture whose courses are enhanced by virtual engineering, simulation and visualisation.
“Industrial design researchers at the University of Liverpool are using Virtalis systems to help design and evaluate interactive elements of product interfaces, such as controls, input devices, displays, and feedback sources. This is seen as a natural extension to using VR for visual product appraisals, and reflects an industry need to simulate, and thus refine, the intended operation and user experience of new design concepts without recourse to physical prototypes.”
Owain Pedgley, senior lecturer in Industrial Design at The University of Liverpool
VEC at The University of Liverpool in London
Combining Virtalis’ technological know-how alongside the technical and academic expertise from the University VEC@London is a premium VR facility and professional development experience.
The University of Liverpool in London campus caters exclusively for postgraduates and those pursuing Continuing Professional Development Programmes. All the London courses are delivered by University of Liverpool staff and partners, and benefit from the University’s research, but allow the University to additionally foster its links with London-based employers, professional institutes and policy-makers based in the capital.
“Our VEC@London facility is multi-disciplinary, though there are core subjects, including architecture, urban planning and industrial design. By working closely with Virtalis, we are exposing our students to VR technology for them to take into their research, as well as their future working lives. We know that VR is a safe place to take risks!”
Lynn Dwyer, interim Head of Business Development within the Virtual Engineering Centre and The School of Engineering at The University of Liverpool
Virtalis Technology at VEC
VEC’s at Daresbury’s main visualisation room boasts a bespoke, 13m2 screen, two-channel ActiveWall, optically tracked and linked to a pair of ActiveSpaces to allow people to be simultaneously fully immersed and interacting. The ActiveWall also incorporates a haptic device, which facilitates virtual manual assembly simulation. As well as Visionary Render and partner software, Virtalis supplied a suite of Virtalis VR device drivers, exporters and adaptors.
VEC@Liverpool, has an ActiveMove running Visionary Render software alongside an Oculus Rift-based ActiveSpace.
VEC@London has a 4k ActiveWall and adjacent ActiveDesk. The Virtalis ActiveWall features a Christie Digital Boxer 4K projector and an ART 6DoF tracking system. The adjacent suite for VR desktop working contains both a zSpace and an HTC Vive-based ActiveSpace. In addition, Virtalis has provided student licences of its Visionary Render and GeoVisionary software.
Formula Student is an international competition in which top engineering students design, build and race a single seat racing car. Formula Student attracts entries from universities all over the world, because it is seen as a valuable project that blends academic work and learning with the development of practical engineering skills.
Virtalis co-sponsors the University of Liverpool’s Formula Student Team who use Visionary Render software in VEC’s Virtual Reality (VR) laboratories at Daresbury. Liverpool’s Formula Student team consists of third and fourth year Mechanical Engineering students,
The University of Liverpool’s Velocipede Team (ULV Team) is using Virtalis technology in its bid to break the male and female world records for the fastest human powered vehicle. The ULV Team is called ARION and is the first UK University team to attempt the land speed record.
“We’ve been using the Virtalis ActiveWall 3D/VR display system at the Virtual Engineering Centre to improve our prototype designs. We’ve been able to do so much without having to make a prototype, making the process faster and cheaper. Using Virtalis’ Visionary Render software, we’ve visualised the air streams over ARION1 modelled in Computational Fluid Dynamics and visualised areas of high stress interrogated using Finite Element Analysis. VR quite literally opens up a whole new dimension. At 1:1 scale, your design becomes more intuitive and seems more like an actual object.”
Patrick Harper, lead ergonomics engineer for ULV Team
The ActiveWall at the VEC proved to be such a draw to University of Liverpool students and academics that they were keen to have their own Virtual Reality (VR) suite. Virtalis has recently installed an ActiveMove and Visionary Render software in the new VEC@Liverpool facility, which sits within the Harrison Hughes Building in the School of Engineering.
“The University was keen to establish a VEC@Liverpool on campus, close to the students and where they are developing designs for their final year projects, such as Formula Student and Liverpool Velocipede ARION 1 Land Speed Bicycle challenge. In addition to supporting the undergraduate curriculum and familiarising students with the development of Virtual Labs and VR software such as Virtalis’ Visionary Render software, the VEC@Liverpool was established to support PhD students and researchers to develop bespoke Virtual Labs to assist with their studies and research challenges.”
Lynn Dwyer, business manager at VEC
The University of Liverpool is in the process of embedding VR into the curriculum. In particular, students will use VR to solve real-life business conundrums as part of the Industrial Challenges which are built into Industrial Design.