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Virtual Reality

Psychology has long steered the development and understanding of virtual reality. The table is turning with virtual reality being increasingly used as a psychological tool. Unlike the real world, virtual stimuli can be exactly controlled and repeated. However, unlike a traditional psychological experiment, virtual reality can easily stimulate all of the senses together and be combined with simulations that provide richness of experience approaching every day real world scenarios. VR thus offers to bridge the gap between ecological validity and controllability.

Avatar mediated social interaction – We immerse people in virtual reality in which they interact with each other through life sized avatars. This allows social human (Verbal and non-verbal communication and the role of objects and the environment) to be studied in new ways. By changing which non-verbal cues are transmitted or how faithfully they are delivered, allows us to study their relationships. Ultimately we are interested in what builds trust, rapport and feelings of togetherness.

Virtual Reality and Mental Health – VR can be used to understand, diagnose, treat and offer relief from mental health problems. We are currently researching three avenues within this:  neuroscience of exposure therapy; prosthetic acceptance; and dementia.

Virtual Reality and Cognition – Attention, emotion and executive cognitive function are closely linked in the brain. Virtual reality displays allow attention to drawn via many senses and for some, from many directions or parts of the body. Doing so with emotive stimuli is well known to create reactions as if real. Measures include psychophysiological, neural, behavioural and self report. For example, we can integrating tracking of eyes and posture, neural imaging and video to measure subject’s reaction to stimuli, while asking them about their experience through questionnaire and interview.


EU fp7 CROSSDRIVE – Giving scientists, mission planners and engineers the impression of beaming onto the surface of Mars from their respective countries, to plan Rover exploration.

VR Mental Health – Three PhD studentships are sponsored to investigate the use of Virtual Reality in Mental Health. Their respective areas of study are neuroscience of exposure therapy; prosthetic acceptance; and dementia.


EPSRC Eye catching – Supporting communicational eye gaze between people in different physical locations who move around together within a simulation.

EU fp AVATARS – Emotional modelling in virtual humans.

EU fp Platform for Network Games – Massive multiplayer gaming

EU i3net Cohabited Mixed Reality Information Spaces – A parrot on your shoulder points out people to intercept or avoid as you walk through a crowd, and make appointments for you with people you have yet to meet.

EPSRC HIVE Huge Interactive Virtual Environments – How can audience participation scale up in richness and number?

D.J. Roberts, A.J. Fairchild, S.P. Campion, J. O'Hare, C.M. Moore, , R. Aspin, T. Duckworth, P. Gasparello, F., Tecchia 2015, 'With you – an experimental end-to-end telepresence system using video-based reconstruction' , Selected Topics in Signal Processing, 9 (3) , pp. 562-574. doi: 10.1109/JSTSP.2015.2402635

A.S. García, D.J. Roberts, T. Fernando, C. Bar, R.B. Wolff, Janki Dodiya, Wito Engelke, Andreas Gerndt: A Collaborative Workspace Architecture for Strengthening Collaboration among Space Scientists. in proceedings of IEEE Aerospace, Montana; 03/2015, doi: 10.1109/AERO.2015.7118994.

S. Greuter & D.J. Roberts: Controlling viewpoint from markerless head tracking in an immersive ball game using a commodity depth-based camera. Simulation 07/2014; 2014(1-10).

D.J. Roberts, J.P. Rae, Tobias W Duckworth, Carl M Moore, R.A. Aspin: Estimating the gaze of a virtuality human. IEEE transactions on visualization and computer graphics. 04/2013; 19(4):681-90. doi: 10.1109/TVCG.2013.30.

D.J. Roberts, R.B. Wolff, O. Otto: Supporting a Closely Coupled Task between a Distributed Team: Using Immersive Virtual Reality Technology.. Computing and Informatics 01/2005; 24(1):7-29.

We invite applications for PhDs in the following themes: Avatar mediated social interaction; Virtual Reality and Mental Health; and Virtual Reality and Cognition.

Professor David Roberts:

The team

Ms Elaine Beaumont

Dr Sharon Coen

The Psychology of Media Communication

Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall

Dr Peter Eachus

Dr Adam Galpin


Prof Laurence Kenney

Rehabilitation Technologies and Biomedical Engineering

Dr Sue McAndrew

Prof David Roberts

Sam Royle

Dr Ben Short

Our team also include staff from other schools in the University:

John O’hare (Computer Science)
Ian Drum, Terrence Fernando and Simon Campion (Built Environment)

External Steer is given by Albert (Skip) Rizzo from University South Carolina.

PhD Students/staff are: (VR Mental Health) Alex Landowska, Andrew Hodrien and Godson Ahamba; and telepresence: Simon Campion, Allen Fairchild and John O’hare