Visit to Sheffield Hallam University

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Last week I took a trip to Sheffield Hallam University’s campus for an extensive tour, including meeting with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Husbands. I was taken to the University’s Cantor Building to meet with some of the Game Design students in their PS4 lab, as well as to speak with Sumo Digital’s Business Development Director, Ian Richardson.

Sumo Digital is the biggest independent game development studio headquartered right here in Sheffield, which has grown since 2003 from a 15-person studio to a developer employing over 300 people across three sites. They’ve worked on major titles including LittleBigPlanet 3 and work in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University. It was useful to meet Ian and discuss the digital economy, and what reforms are needed to help the games industry and digital/tech firms in general.

The University have been carrying out research on virtual reality hardware, and I got the chance to try out the PlayStation VR system now available commercially. While its most obvious uses so far have been in gaming experiences, VR has implications way beyond that.

For example, another department of the University works with people with prosthetic limbs, and has been able to use VR to allow people to practice using their new prosthetic limb before it is fitted. This reduces costs to the NHS from those who would reject a prosthetic limb, and is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of VR’s potential medical uses.

We spoke about some of the challenges faced by the digital industries and the University – which include recent changes to the HE sector and cuts to bursaries.

Sheffield’s digital economy continues to be strong, and it’s good to see Sumo Digital and Sheffield Hallam helping to put our games industry on the map.