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UAL announces the development of world-leading Virtual Production lab

A VP garment
  • Written byKatie Moss
  • Published date 06 June 2023
A VP garment
© Reimagining the Experience of Fashion: the Business of Fashion, Textiles & Technology, AHRC funded Creative R&D Partnership led by University of the Arts London

University of the Arts London (UAL) is excited to announce the development of a specialist Virtual Production (VP) and XR Lab facility - via its Fashion Textiles and Technology Institute (FTTI) - creating capacity for innovative, transdisciplinary practice-led research in VP/XR textiles and dress.

The new FTTI lab will be located at UAL’s new East Bank campus (2023). The campus will form part of a new powerhouse for research, innovation, creativity and learning through a novel collaboration between world-leading universities, cultural bodies, industry and local communities.

To address this nascent and specialist field of textiles and dress, the university will bring together a unique range of technical skills and digital expertise across UAL's colleges, institutes, and research centres. The specialist lab will drive forward an ambitious research agenda, build capacity to meet wide ranging sector needs, and support significant growth potential for the UK's creative and cultural economy.

Research opportunities will enable development of novel XR experiences including the potential for digital access to historical textile and dress archives and applying these assets into screen and real-time spaces. For example, cultural institutions and museums such as the V&A are exploring the potential for archive-informed clothed characters in hybrid live and online experience contexts.

Exploration of these possibilities will create new markets for the creative and cultural sectors, driving the build of skills to serve them. However, UK-wide research-led capacity and skills in this field are limited, hindering access and advanced development beyond traditionally associated practices and disciplines, which this UAL VP/XR facility will also address.

The multi-million-pound project was awarded by AHRC’s Creative Research Capability and is part of UKRI World Class Laboratories Fund – which helps research institutes and universities to maintain and improve facilities and ensure UK researchers have use of world class laboratories, equipment, and digital resources.

It follows the success of prototype R&D, resulting in an installation ‘Made in Code: Reimagining the Experience of Fashion’, that took place at the V&A in March 2023. It combined state of the art markerless motion capture, garment simulation, cloth rendering and display technology to showcase the potential of real time digital media in wide ranging fashion contexts.

We’re thrilled to announce the development of UAL’s specialist VP and XR lab facility. Through a multi partnered collaboration our recent installation, Made in Code at the V&A, highlighted the appetite for this technology within the industry and amongst the public. These technical advancements, paired with ambitious research and development planned for the longer term, will present a world of opportunities – not only to the fashion and wider dress and textiles sectors, but also for the UK’s cultural and XR industry more broadly.

— Professor Jane Harris Director of UAL’s Fashion, Textiles and Technology Institute
This significant investment for the development of UAL’s world-leading VP and XR lab at our new East Bank campus is fantastic news for our university and presents plenty of exciting possibilities for the UK's cultural sector. We are looking forward to seeing the outcomes of this project. VP and XR is an emerging field, and our ongoing research and innovation within this area highlights UAL’s unique position to contribution to the knowledge economy within the sector and ultimately shape creative industries worldwide.

— David Mba Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise at UAL
This crucial support for UK research infrastructure is part of the package of support provided by government so that our research and innovation communities can carry on with their essential work notwithstanding the delay to association with Horizon Europe. The investments, made across the UK, will provide UK researchers with advanced equipment, facilities and technology, and help maintain the UK’s position as a leader in research and innovation. This support will ensure the UK is an attractive place for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate.

— Professor Christopher Smith UKRI International Champion