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Everything you need to know about Virtual Environments…

Posted 10 May 2023

Digital Catapult has been driving digital adoption across the UK for almost a decade. In the past ten years our technology experts have supported a range of organisations both small and large, private and public to harness the power of emerging digital technologies. 

Working on hundreds of digital adoption projects across the UK we have learnt that while providing expertise and guidance on how to implement specific technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, and distributed ledger technology, we’re increasingly seeing the most impact happen when multiple technologies are applied in combination at a market level. More frequently, our projects and programmes are demonstrating tangible outcomes when tech such as 5G and immersive technologies, or AI and blockchain, are used together to help solve critical business issues. As a result, Digital Catapult is focusing on three areas where a combination of technologies can have tangible benefits in the real world: Digital Infrastructure, Supply Chains, and Virtualisation. 

These three ‘application’ areas act as a framework for Digital Catapult to direct our tools and talent towards. Focusing on driving technology deployment in these three applications areas will be critical for ensuring Digital Catapult’s innovation activities help drive growth across the UK economy into the future.

What are ‘virtual environments? 

Virtualisation is the blending of the digital and physical worlds to create virtual environments. Virtual environments find new ways for us to interact with data, create new paradigms for creative expression, and drive business efficiencies.

Digital Catapult’s virtualisation activities cover everything from creating unique immersive experiences for consumers, to building connected digital worlds that allow industries to manipulate and interact with real-world data. 

How will our activity in virtualisation impact the UK economy?

Digital Catapult’s work in virtualisation sits at the cutting-edge of media production and the experience economy. We support the UK creative sector through metaverse and immersive applications, both locally and remotely. We are leveraging new transformative production techniques such as virtual production and the remote testing of applications and experiences for Film and TV content creation in distributed digital environments. Our work to virtualise media and experiences is building the skills of the future for the independent production sector.

Virtualisation also involves the application of data integration, simulation, haptics, advanced visualisation and synthetic environments to model, understand and connect physical and digital worlds. 

In an industrial context, Digital Catapult is driving adoption of virtualisation techniques by supporting the development of the technologies that make up and connect digital twins. The development of “digital twins”, which model real world objects into virtual environments using augmented or virtual reality, will help solve industrial and societal challenges. This will allow new ways for us to interact with data layered over and embedded into the physical environment. By strengthening the technologies that connect digital twins (for example using augmented reality connected to a 5G network) we can underpin the formation of an interconnected real-world and enterprise “metaverse”, offering new applications, platforms and capabilities applicable to multiple sectors. These large scale connected digital twins form ‘cyber physical infrastructure’, you can find out more about cyber physical infrastructure here

How is Digital Catapult driving innovation for virtual environments? 

Digital Catapult is playing an active role in boosting the development of cross-sector national capability in virtualisation. Our work is playing a critical role to virtualise services for design, manufacturing, production, distribution and discovery of new hybrid experiences.

Transforming the future of advanced media production

Building on the UK’s rich arts and culture sector Digital Catapult is currently creating the virtual production facilities of the future. Across the UK we are developing new cutting-edge studio facilities that provide independent media production companies with equipment, space and technology that they would otherwise not be able to access.

Our StudiosUK project is leading on the design, procurement, set up and operation of 5G enabledAdvanced Media Production Studios.These studios, equipped with a state-of-the-art LED screen, camera tracking and motion capture infrastructure, are leading the way for research and development of advanced production methodologies, hands-on training, hands-on experimentation, training and skills development to address gaps that exist today in the creative industries. The VPTS are contributing to creating the world’s first fully functioning virtual production research facility to anchor the UK’s leading expertise. 

A driving factor for Digital Catapult’s work in the creative sector is to make the UK the best place in the world to create immersive content – our work in virtualisation is propelling the UK’s iconic arts and culture sector into the future. 

Fostering innovation for the West of England’s creative industries

From a legacy built on dreams of engineering and invention stretching back well over 200 years, the West of England is now recognised as one of the most innovative regions in the UK, with an award-winning reputation for creative media, film and television production.

Digital Catapult is currently working with the University of Bristol and a range of other partners on MyWorld. MyWorld is a five year project that will build on the production, technology and research strengths of the Bristol and Bath creative cluster to create a globally unique proposition for screen-based media. 

MyWorld will forge vital connections between world-leading academic institutions, creative businesses and tech companies including Netflix, Tencent and BT to facilitate knowledge sharing and creative excellence, and is playing a pivotal role in creating research and development pipelines into production, accessible facilities and a framework for talent development, driving investment in the UK’s creative industries.

Digital Catapult’s work to accelerate the application of technologies that enable virtualisation is critical to secure the UK’s position not only as a leader in technology but also as a powerhouse in the creative industries. Digital adoption is a must for all industries moving forward, virtualisation unlocks avenues for growth across the traditional sectors, paving the way for the UK to carry-on the legacy of its already iconic creative sector. 

Creating smarter digital twins 

Digital Catapult is committed to driving new business models for digital twins. Virtualisation holds vast potential for industry to slash inefficiencies and increase safety. Creating virtual models or digital twins of physical infrastructure, allows for industry stakeholders to act quicker and have a better understanding of where inefficiencies and wastage in their infrastructure are coming from. 

The creation of virtual environments is key for the development of digital twins. Developing sophisticated digital twins allows us to understand and manipulate digital supply chains and digital infrastructure.

Design Smarter Digital Twins is a 5 year project to build the UK’s first dedicated digital twinning and cyber physical infrastructure centre to support industry adoption of digital twins and complex cyber physical systems, with a focus on high fidelity and real life industry challenges. We will be working with industry partners Thales, Artemis and Spirit as well as academic partners, Ulster and Queens Universities. Based in the Belfast Innovation District, the facility will become part of a national capability in both digital twins and cyber physical systems for the UK.

These projects display the breadth of market applications for virtualisation technologies. Blending the physical and digital worlds has huge implications for both consumers and producers, creating new experiences and environments to interact with information. 

What’s next for Digital Catapult?

From device evolution and mass market adoption of augmented reality, to open standards in telecommunications, and human-centric technology and design, Digital Catapult’s expert technologists allow us to stay ahead of the curve in understanding which technologies and opportunities are most likely to be adopted commercially in the near term. 

As a new financial year approaches and with the recent news of our increased funding from Innovate UK, Digital Catapult looks forward to supporting organisations of all sizes in adopting and deploying technology across these three application areas. Discover the other application areas below. If you would like to find out how your organisation can benefit from Digital Catapult’s bespoke business support and technical guidance make sure to subscribe to our newsletter here