Insight  Education

Multidisciplinary creativity

in the arts and sciences

A look inside the School of Simulation and Visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art

Multidisciplinary creativity in the arts and sciences

A look inside the School of Simulation and Visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art

The School of Simulation and Visualisation (SimVis) at The Glasgow School of Art is one of five schools that combines academic study at Master's and PhD level with a broad range of research and commercial activities.

SimVis’ core areas of activity are primarily centred around the development of new technologies, tools, techniques and methodologies that support new media and digital content creation. In particular, our core research focuses are on user-centred design, haptics, motion capture, real-time interaction, photorealistic 3D visualisation, serious games and ambisonic sound.

SimVis has been very successful in winning industrial research contracts and research funding, including the BBC, the National Museums of Scotland, Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Funding Council, the European Space Agency, NHS Education for Scotland and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

SimVis was also the first art school-based research centre to be awarded a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Innovate UK.

Rich pictures: transcending preconceived notions of technology

A core element of our research approach is co-design. The approach we often use to support our co-design/co-creation activities is the rich picture method, which is a diagramming technique that is part of Soft Systems Methodology, to help to capture stakeholder's views non-confrontationally.

Rich pictures are a simple, but powerful, tool for addressing complex problems with diverse stakeholders and can support process improvement, especially in the kind of situation where it is difficult even to get a holistic understanding of what the problem actually is, let alone begin to identify ways of solving it.

Our method builds upon existing participatory design techniques to propose a way of transcending people’s preconceived notions of existing technologies, and encourage them to postulate future forms and uses of technology, by emphasising equally on their current technology interactions and activities.

In practical terms, a rich picture is a graphical representation of a situation, based on the principle that a ‘picture paints a thousand words’. A workshop format with key groups of stakeholders is normally employed to collect the user requirements we need to develop, for example, a prototype. There are three parts to each workshop we usually run:

Critique phase: A structured brainstorming session that focuses on existing problems related to the design task.

Fantasyphase: The participants envision a future free of the previously identified problems.

Implementation phase: A group discussion on the feasibility of the vision that resulted in the fantasy phase and the development of an action plan for the implementation of the vision.

Participants should include key stakeholders and influencers, as well as target end users. This ensures that whatever you design meets both end-user and organisational requirements.

Creating immersive media: a collaboration with ISO Design

An example of this approach is a current project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in collaboration with our industrial collaborators ISO design. The i-word, immersion, is increasingly in demand from commercial companies and organisations in visitor and cultural attractions. This can mean many things, including large video-mapped installations, 360 films, ambisonic sound or explorations into virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in-site specific contexts.

However, we find that there are a number of obstacles to its wider take-up: audience perception, technical constraints, the day-to-day operational concerns of managers, investment in technology and the demands of creating truly immersive media.

The School of Simulation and Visualisation Glasgow School of Art and ISO Design are undertaking an interdisciplinary pilot project in the context of a 'next generation of immersive experiences'.

Therefore, The School of Simulation and Visualisation Glasgow School of Art and  ISO Design are undertaking an interdisciplinary pilot project in the context of a 'next generation of immersive experiences' that takes a holistic view of the issues around practical design, development and deployment of an immersive experience.  

The focus of our project is on creating a prototype immersive exhibit using the Laocoon plaster cast statue in the Mackintosh Building at Glasgow School of Art as an exemplar.

Our proposed outputs as part of the project will be not only a digital AR/VR experience, but also a preliminary set of design standards relating to this technology, which will help mitigate real and perceived obstacles that currently obstruct deployment of this technology more widely throughout the sector and other sectors (for example training and manufacturing) for diverse user groups.

Studying at The School of Simulation and Visualisation

As well as internationally recognised research activities, SimVis currently offers two taught Master’s programmes in Sound for the Moving Image and Visualisation (with pathways in Heritage Visualisation, Medical Visualisation & Human Anatomy and Serious Games & Virtual Reality) as well as a range of opportunities for doctoral study. Undergraduate programmes in Immersive Systems Design and Sound for the Moving Image will start in September 2018.

The present complement of Master’s and PhD students is more than 70 and some 20 members of staff are employed at SimVis across its academic, research and industrial activities.

SimVis is based at purpose built, highly specified premises within The Hub at the Digital Media Quarter at Pacific Quay in Glasgow, where it continues to build on its success by developing new areas of research and commercial activity with a growing range of partners and research collaborators.

We are always keen to collaborate with colleagues in industry. For any enquiries contact Dr Steve Love.

About the author

Dr Steve Love’s primary research expertise is investigating the impact of digital applications and services on people's behaviour and lives. This is evidenced by his close working relationship with industry throughout his research career which seeks to ensure that his research has academic impact as well as social and economic impact.

He has been the principle investigator, project originator, project lead and project partner on research projects that have been sponsored by funders such as the AHRC, Innovate UK, the European Space Agency, the European Social Fund, BT, Orange, Sharp Laboratories Europe and Three. In addition, he is also a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Peer Review College and a Fellow of the Design Research Society.

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