Hull-based gaming firm plans to take on the world

Louis Deane, VISR Co-Founder and Director
Louis Deane, VISR Co-Founder and Director
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A YORKSHIRE-based computer game development firm is aiming to overtake its rivals in New York, London and Tokyo.

VISR, an incubator business growing with the support of the University of Hull’s Enterprise Centre, has attracted the attention of international tech giants Google and Microsoft, for its clever application of mixed and virtual reality technology, and its gaming capability.

It has been selected from 2,000 hopefuls to become one of 14 Mixed Reality Partner companies worldwide by computer giant Microsoft, helping it to develop new applications for its HoloLens mixed reality headset technology.

VISR also beat off competition from 20,000 other companies to be one of only 360 selected for the Microsoft Ventures accelerator programme globally, giving its team access to state-of- the-art technical expertise and facilities.

A spokesman said: “Google was so impressed with what the business’s self-confessed computer geeks can do, they are now developing and manufacturing most of the software and hardware for its ‘Google Cardboard’ virtual reality headsets, which allow people to enter imaginary worlds by inserting their mobile phones into cardboard headsets and entering a code.”

VISR is based in the university’s enterprise centre, and the team has access to the resources of university departments including computer science. Several members of the VISR team are Hull graduates.

VISR co-founder Lindsay West said he is on a mission to make Hull a globally recognised hub of tech excellence, and create opportunities for local talent.

“As well as growing our business globally, we are passionate about repaying the university’s goodwill, by providing talented local people with an opportunity to make careers in our amazing industry,” he said.

“Hull has been at the forefront of gaming and virtual reality technology for decades,” he said. “The University of Hull was developing virtual reality as far back as the 1980s and it was the first in the UK to introduce degrees in computer science and gaming.

“But its reputation for high tech scientific innovation goes back even further than that, with the invention of the LCD (liquid crystal display) technology we take for granted these days.

“Back in 2009, I was part of the World Trade Centre Association for the Hull & Humber region, which was looking to put Hull on the map for specific areas of expertise. Over time, renewables became one area of focus, followed by international trade. Then, given the university’s history of innovation, I realised that computer science needed

to be the third, and got more involved in that,” he recalled.

He developed a mentoring programme for University of Hull graduates, called Platform – where he used his experience of running a successful family business called Garthwest – to help improve their business skills.

This resulted in Mr West’s co-founder and director Louis Deane, who is also a Hull graduate, approaching him in 2014 to launch VISR as a collaborative business venture.

Together, they developed their own cardboard headset using expertise from Garthwest, which manufactures corrugated cardboard items, including point of sale displays for major Universal Studios blockbuster films.

Lindsey Nicklin, the university’s enterprise centre manager, said: “We’re incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved.”

For more information about the enterprise centre, email l.nicklin@hull.ac.uk.

HULL-based VISR is working with some of the giants of international gaming and software development.

Lindsay West of VISR, said: “For hundreds of years, human beings have inhabited a 3D world but have only been able to represent it visually in 2D; from the first cave paintings to modern works of art and computer games.”

Last year, Microsoft launched its HoloLens headset, which enables wearers to view images in 3D. VISR has been selected by Microsoft as a partner for developing new applications to enhance Hololens’ commercial applications.