Virtual reality tests launched by Transport Systems Catapult


Transport interchange and station operators are being invited to save potentially millions of pounds by testing the passenger impacts of planned schemes in a new visualisation laboratory from industry innovation hub the Transport Systems Catapult.

The 'Vis Lab', in Milton Keynes, operates 3D virtual reality technology to create an immersive environment of the kind originally introduced to train soldiers by placing them in typical battle conditions.

Users wear headsets that enable them to 'walk' freely in any direction through simulated buildings and along potential access routes, and assess likely passenger reactions in advance of schemes being finalised.

The Catapult's principal modelling technologist, Martin Pett told Transport Network: 'Simply moving a single, originally badly placed, static directional sign across a station can cost £10,000 a time; moving an LED information sign, with all its associated electrics, will cost much more'.

The system can be used to check proposed station layouts and signage and ticket machine design and location for optimum accessibility for disabled travellers, including those in wheelchairs.

Several train operating companies have already expressed interest in using the Vis Lab, Mr Pett said.

Technology suppliers will also be able to access it to test their planned solutions before committing themselves to building costly prototypes.

Another role will be to monitor pedestrian interactions with self-driven, electric-powered passenger-carrying 'pods' due to be trialled in public spaces in Milton Keynes, under the management of the Catapult, as part of the UK's Autodrive programme.

The first of the three planned pods was officially unveiled in February 2015.


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