Students and academics are set to benefit from the introduction of cutting-edge extended reality technology at a Scottish university.

Extended reality (XR) merges augmented and virtual reality technology to create immersive new ways of interacting with computer-generated 3D images and simulations.

The University of Glasgow has partnered with EON Reality, a global leader in augmented and virtual reality-based knowledge, to establish a new EON-XR Centre on campus.

The new facility will aim to find  ways to expand the learning experience offered to students across the university’s four colleges with new technologies.

Students will have access to augmented reality (AR) software on their mobile devices and virtual reality (VR) headsets to bring lessons to life in new ways.

Engineering students, for example, will be able to visualise and interact with the inner workings of machinery in virtual space, while medical students could gain new insight into how organs function.

In addition to accessing EON Reality’s ‘knowledge metaverse’ – an online repository of thousands of existing learning tools created with other partners – lecturers will be able to develop their own lessons for students. Learners will also have the chance to build, use and share their own designs.

The partnership was officially unveiled on Friday 1 October at an event at the university’s student union reading room.

Professor Frank Coton, the university’s vice principal (academic planning and technological innovation), said: “We are delighted to be partnering with EON Reality on the establishment of this new Centre.  Despite being an ancient university, Glasgow has always embraced the opportunities that new technologies offer to enhance student learning.  XR technology will become a significant feature of the future global learning landscape and this partnership will allow us to help shape that future.”

Dan Lejerskar, founder of EON Reality, added: “It’s an honour to partner with an institution like the University of Glasgow, as they helped to set the standard for what high-level education means both today and in years past. Now, we can help launch them into the future with EON-XR and our other solutions. The University of Glasgow is an absolutely legendary academic institution and will make an incredible addition both to our global network as well as the knowledge metaverse.”

Learners at the university’s partner campuses at the Singapore Institute of Technology and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) will also benefit from access to the XR system.

Professor Muhammad Imran, dean of Glasgow University UESTC, said: “The benefit of exploiting XR technology goes beyond the pandemic needs of enabling learners to learn from their homes. It will enhance the learning experience even in face-to-face classroom teaching by helping learners to have better visualisation and the ability to repeat the experience of learning/training of specific skills in functionally safe environment.”

As the partnership develops, Professor Imran and his team will also use the university’s Urban Testbed, funded by The Scotland 5G Centre, to explore how the high-end digital connectivity that 5G communications technology provides can help create a seamless XR experience.

Paul Coffey, chief executive of the Scotland 5G Centre, said: “The end user experience of XR technology is highly dependent on the resolution and quality of immersive video/graphics as well as agile responses to users’ actions. Consequently, high-end digital connectivity solutions like 5G have a prominent role in improving the user experience and uptake of the XR technology.  5G will be a game changer for augmented and virtual reality, and will enable many new use cases and applications. Scotland 5G centre is keen to explore the role of 5G to enhance the experience of XR technology for its users.”