A University of Birmingham Professor has received a hand-written letter from Sir David Attenborough to congratulate his student’s work in Virtual Reality (VR) technology
Professor Robert Stone has described the letter from Sir Attenborough as making his ‘31 years in the field worthwhile’ and congratulates his MSc student Elza Matthew, whose work the letter is referring to, as well as palliative care specialist Sheila Propert who developed the initial ‘script’ for this VR project.
Sir David Attenborough is a well-known English broadcaster and naturalist, made particularly famous for the numerous documentaries he has created for the BBC, in which he studies natural life on earth. Since joining the BBC in 1952, Attenborough has become a household name and a firm favourite among the British public. In the letter, Sir Attenborough expressed his pleasure at seeing ‘all these extraordinary advances in virtual reality’ being ‘developed in such a worthwhile way’.
Professor Stone has dedicated much of his professional career to the study of VR. He is a member of UoB’s department of electronic, electrical and systems engineering and holds a chair in Interactive Multimedia Systems, as well as being the Director of the Human Interface Technologies Team. Professor Stone was one of the first Europeans to experience the NASA VIEW Virtual Reality system in 1987 and established the first industrial VR team in the UK’s Advanced Robotics Centre. Not only this, in 1992 he bought together an initial 12 companies to fund the world’s first industrial VR team at the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Centre in order to research the commercial applications of VR.
Professor Stone’s research into VR also extends into Russia, where in 1996 he was elected to become an Academician of the Russian International Higher Education Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Following this, in 2000 he was accredited by General Klimuk, Director of Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre as responsible for introducing VR into the cosmonaut space programme.
After winning a number of national and international awards for his VR and telepresence efforts, including three from the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors and a Ministry of Defence Chief Scientific Adviser’s Commendation for his contribution to Defence Science and Technology in 2011, Professor Stone and his team continue their research into the modern applications of VR here at UoB.