Building a Japan-UK network to focus on location-based VR experiences

Myself and others have been awarded ESRC/AHRC funding to build a Japan- UK knowledge exchange network focused on location-based Virtual Reality (VR) experiences for children, which has a growing demand in a range of sectors that include entertainment, education and health. It builds on emerging research findings that suggest that context specific VR is evolving as the next generation of immersive experiences and thus has raised questions around how best to create an experience that crosses physical and virtual spaces.

The network will use some of the existing ways in which location-based VR experiences are emerging as a starting point to identify what further research and development needs to be undertaken in this area. These include:

Projecting the VR narrative into the physical environment, i.e. Marshmallow Laser Feast’s Ocean of Air:

Physical props and virtual stories, i.e. that undertaken by the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio which “was established to examine how virtual reality, 360˚ film, augmented reality and other emerging technologies can widen and enhance the NT’s remit to be a pioneer of dramatic storytelling and enable audiences to stand in other people’s shoes.

Or by Punchdrunk who start a story on one platform and then continue it within a technology enhanced physical set:

“The Oracles is a cross-platform experience, developed for local primary school children in Haringey that unfolds over several weeks. Playing a tablet game in the classroom introduces pupils to the world of Fallow Cross, and reveals a call to adventure from the Oracles. Alternating between gameplay and visits to Fallow Cross, the pupils must recover the missing objects to restore protection to the village.” (Punchdrunk)

Haptic feedback systems that allow users to get physical responses from objects placed in virtual spaces.

Multiplayer experiences that can be used by teams with one person in VR and the other’s out of VR, such as those developed for the PSVR platform.

The Network funding will be used to link key stakeholders working in this area, join up knowledge, begin exploratory research, and establish the best methodologies for studying children’s use of VR. This will be done by undertaking a series of knowledge exchange activities to identify what is known and establish the most essential areas of research and development that need to be taken forward in order to produce engaging and safe location-based VR experiences for children.

This work builds on prior studies and development undertaken by the core network members that includes:

2. Experimental methods to explore children’s learning and interest when making for and with VR and 360° film as part of the MakEY project (Deborah Rodrigues & Dylan Yamada-Rice).

Virtual world created for the MakEY project by Rodrigues

3. Experimenting with how narratives can be told across physical and virtual spaces in different but connected ways so that both domains are equally engaging (Kota Isobe):

Work in Progress by Kota Isobe

4. Haptic feedback systems built into VR controllers that provide realistic haptic perception based on perceptual illusion (Takuji Narumi).

Haptic Feedback system by Takuji Narumi

5. Children and VR (CVR) research into children’s engagement and interaction with a range of content and devices (Yamada-Rice)

6. Multiplayer location-based VR experiences (Hashilus)

Work by Hashilus

Core Network Members

Royal College of Art: Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice (PI), Angus Main and Dr Eleanor Dare

Glasgow School of Art: Prof. Steve Love

RCA x IIS Tokyo Design Lab

Hashilus Japan: Akihiro Ando

Location-based VR Association Japan: Kei Miyoshi

University of Tokyo: Prof. Adrien Verhulst, Prof. Takuji Narumi

University College London: Dr John Potter

WEARVR: Andrew Douthwaite

Extended network: Dubit, StoryCentral, Immotion VR, Site Gallery, XR Games, Gluck Workshops, RCA Information Experience Design, RCA Digital Directions.

To learn more about the network or get involved please contact



Associate Professor Immersive Storytelling.

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