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31 Jul 2019

National Space Centre begins work on 'reality lab' to attract new audiences

The UK's National Space Centre (NSC) in Leicester is building a new laboratory for the creation of virtual, augmented and mixed reality media, which it says will extend its capacity to deliver community engagement and attract new audiences.

The Extended Reality Laboratory (or XR Lab) has been funded by the Inspiring Science Fund – a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK Research & Innovation, and Wellcome.

Support has also been awarded by the Local Growth Fund from Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and The Garfield Weston Foundation.

The lab, which is due to open by Christmas, will house workstations and a stereoscopic test dome. It will be the base of the new NSC Creative Academy, giving young people the opportunity to work with industry experts to further their scientific interest, either recreationally or as part of their formal studies. Fulldome storytelling studio NSC Creative, which has produced shows that are currently showing in 660 theatres across 70 countries, will also use the XR Lab facility.

Perfect Circle is responsible for design, surveying and project management, while Woodhead has the construction contract.

The National Space Centre's community engagement programme includes visitors from schools and further education, as well as industry and communities local to Leicester. It said it intends engaging with around 3,600 socio-economically disadvantaged young people from Leicester, of whom 50 per cent will be female, to ensure its programmes and workshops are available to visitors from all backgrounds.

Kevin Harris, chair of the LLEP, commented: "Not only will this new facility be a great asset for students and young people, it will also open up space-related opportunities to communities within Leicester and Leicestershire."

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