Project Brochure: Our activity highlights

On Monday 26th March 2018 we presented our Developing Design Consultants of the Future project findings to key stakeholders at the University of Sheffield and the project Steering Board. To summarise the key activities we developed the brochure available through Issuu to communicate some of our activities.


“21st Century Design Skills for the Built Environment” Conference 11/12/17 – Recording Now Available


Following the successful design skills conference that took place in December 2017, we’re pleased to make available the recorded conference proceedings and presentations to our followers.

Please click on the image above to access the recording (2 hrs 31 mins).

FREE Conference: “21st Century Digital Design for Urban Planning & the Built Environment” Monday 11th December 2017 10am-2pm


The accessibility of immersive visualisation software and hardware is making the use of Virtual Reality more appealing to commercial organisations in the built environment industry.

With visualisations that can improve stakeholder understanding of design changes, it is speculated that cost savings during the design-build process could far outstrip the initial investment in technology.

With an increased interest in this technology within the urban design & planning industry, Higher Education establishments have a responsibility to ensure students preparing to enter the industry become aware of such technology – its application, benefits and drawbacks – as they are increasingly likely to come across its use in the workplace.

In response, the “Developing Design Consultants of the Future” project in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning are sponsoring a student facing conference featuring four key case studies from the built environment industry, demonstrating current uses of virtual and augmented reality as well as GIS data influenced design in urban design and planning:

  • Ian Bedford, Mott MacDonald “Visualisation from past to future”
  • Ryan Johnston, Transport Systems Catapult “Virtual worlds”
  • Elliot Hartley, Garsdale Design “Geodesign technologies and the future of urban design”
  • Troy Hayes, Troy Planning + Design “Using digital tools for smarter planning”

Join us for this conference by completing the booking form below.

Conference Booking Form

ESRC Festival of Social Sciences Round Up

On Friday 10th and Saturday 11th November 2017 we packed up our VR kits and took some student volunteers from our MA in Urban Design & Planning programme, down to the Winter Gardens in Sheffield.

We were showcasing the work of our postgraduate students from the 2016-17 MA in Urban Design & Planning cohort as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences, a national event demonstrating the best examples of social science research across Higher Education in the country.

The general public were invited to use our HTC Vive kits to experience first hand the full, human-scale 3D models our students’ created to demonstrate the urban evolution of 4 major cities: Edinburgh, Manhattan, Liverpool and Manchester.

ESRC Video Thumbnail.PNG

Video created and produced by Andrew Burdett, Journalism (Year 3)

We were looking forward a busy couple of days as our pre-booked sessions were almost fully booked up! Saturday, as expected, was a much busier day, attracting families and passers-by, curious of our strange futuristic set up. Whilst the adults who experienced the VR environment were generally cautious in their approach, we saw kids throw themselves into the experience, no holds barred! Many took pleasure in leaping from rooftop to rooftop without fear, though the immersive environment provided enough realism to keep them questioning whether they might dare stand close to the edge of the roof!

Insta Story

We attracted over 100 members of the public to engage with our work over the course of the two-days and spoke to many, interested in our application of virtual and augmented reality within architecture, urban design and planning, and beyond.

For more information about the project or to find out about our outreach work in schools please contact Bryony Olney or Bobby Nisha

ESRC Festival of Social Sciences: Urban Extravaganza 10th/11th November 17

As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences, come and visit our exhibit showcasing some of our students’ work in the Winter Gardens, Sheffield on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th November 2017.

As part of an evolving urban design postgraduate curriculum, students have seen augmented and virtual reality technologies  embedded into their learning experience. Urban Design students are exploring the use of virtual and augmented reality as both a tool for design and as a public participation tool for consultation, to emulate the emerging use of these technologies by the urban design and planning industry.

Book now to experience for yourself some of our students urban recreations through the medium of virtual reality!

Click here to book

Student impact: What do our students think?

Our students have worked hard over the last 6 months, to accommodate the use of virtual and augmented reality in their learning, teaching and assessment and have produced some fantastic results.

We wanted to find out their thoughts on the experience and what applications they see for this technology in their own careers and employability prospects.

With thanks to the following students for their contributions:

Nicholas Garside
Andreea Comanici
Charlotte van der Lijn
Chander Aggarwal
Ana Monsalve

Thank you also to Ralph Mackinder, Media Unit Manager (School of Architecture) for recording, producing and editing this short film.

Augmented Reality poster – find out where we’re up to

We’ve had a busy few months since we last posted and thought it about time we brought everyone up to date with the story so far.

Despite what the lack of blog posts might suggest, we’ve had an incredibly productive few months with our students and since the beginning of July we’ve attended a number of Higher Education conferences presenting about the project.

As is the nature of this project we have been innovating with our presentation techniques too.

170701 final poster

The image above is a digital version of a printed A0 poster we recently displayed at the University of Sheffield TELFest Conference on 7th July 2017. The poster has been digitally enabled with the augmented reality app Layar. This means that when you scan the poster using the mobile Layar app (available to download for Android or iOS here) the poster comes to life with videos, audio, models and all sorts of digital artefacts we’ve collected throughout the course of the project.

We wanted a really interesting way for the project to come to life for conference delegates, and in a way which embodied some of the technologies we have been encouraging our students to experiment with.

We were really pleased with the results and hope you enjoy finding out about the progress of our project through our poster too.


Give it a go and let us know what you think!


Job Opportunity for PhD Student

HEFCE Project

Developing Design Consultants of The Future; Embedding Virtual & Augmented Reality in Learning & Teaching

Would you like to work as a ‘Research Assistant’?

Job Opportunity for PhD Student

The Department of Urban Studies and Planning would like to employ a PhD student to work with to work with Dr. Bobby Nisha, Samuel Dent (Strategy, Projects and Governance) and Bryony Olney in undertaking a small project embedding augmented reality in learning and teaching. The objective for the project is to introduce the use of fully immersive virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology at various stages of delivery of urban design teaching to increase students understanding and appreciation of such key factors as space and volume, and how students can harness the benefits of the technology to engage in different ways with stakeholders.

The job will run from 30th June 2017 – 20th Dec 2017 will pay £13.71 per hour for what is expected to be at least 100 hours. The work will be spread out evenly so not to negatively impact on studies, although in line with the project plan there may be some fixed deadlines for evaluation the successful candidate will be asked to meet – These will be discussed with you following appointment.

The job:

The project will employ a PhD researcher to assist in organising a series of focus groups, interviews and data capture activities from student groups that will aim to understand the impact of VR and AR learning activities/assessments on PG students. The tasks will include supporting ethical approval, advertising and recruiting student participants, conducting focus groups, and some coding and analysis of data under the supervision of Dr. Bobby Nisha and Samuel Dent.

Typical responsibilities include the following:

  • Recruit student participants
  • Research and collect data through various methods such as Focus groups, structured interviews, or other project specific methodology like cognitive mapping.
  • Maintain accurate records of focus groups, interviews, safeguarding the confidentiality of subjects, as necessary
  • Request or acquire equipment or supplies necessary for conducting the focus groups/interviews
  • Summarize interviews
  • Coding data in line with established research framework.
  • Interpret, synthesizes and analyses data. (With assistance)
  • Manage and respond to project related email
  • Attend project meetings
  • Schedule, organize and report on status of research activities.



Subject knowledge and oral/written communication skills to discuss and document research progress. Ability to work independently, accurately and to problem solves technical and methodological issues that arise during the course of the research. Ability to apply sound research techniques, methodology and logical critical analysis when transcribing and coding data. Strong organization and interpersonal skills.

Dr. Bobby Nisha and Samuel Dent will manage the project tasks and provide necessary guidance to the student. Help in understanding the project’s aims and objectives will be provided, as will advice and guidance on how to undertake the key tasks of the role. The research assistant will be expected to work using their own initiative, but regular meetings with the project team will be arranged to set tasks and priorities, review progress and offer support. Experience in social research methods is essential, and a background in education studies, or sociology is desirable.


Subject to experience and skills, the student researcher will be paid a standard hourly rate under the University’s Casual Worker arrangements (see The rate would be consistent with roles where the worker applies ‘a detailed understanding of an area of work & its principles supported by relevant experience / qualifications’ (currently £13.71/hr).  The student researcher must be eligible to work under the Casual Worker arrangements.

As this is a paid position candidates must demonstrate eligibility to work in the UK, and that this post is suitable within any visa conditions, in line with University HR procedures.


Application Process

You can apply for this job by sending an email to Dr. Bobby Nisha and Samuel dent that includes a CV and a 500 word personal statement. Your personal statement should explain why you’re interested in applying for this job and what skills and experience makes you a suitable candidate.   The deadline for applications is Monday 26th June at 5pm

The interviews will take place on the 29rd of June.

All questions or queries relating to the job and the application process can be directed to Dr. Bobby Nisha and Samuel Dent.







Reflections on Student Collaboration: Student Insight (2)

Chander Kant - Chander Kant AggarwalChander Kant Aggarwal is a postgraduate student studying the MA in Urban Design & Planning with us in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at the University of Sheffield.

As a Student Ambassador for the “Developing Design Consultants of the Future” Project, Chander shares with us his experience of contributing towards the progress of the project so far.

The project “Developing Design Consultants of the Future” initiated by the University of Sheffield has immense potential and could be a turning point in the way design consultants perform at present. My engagement with this project introduced me to the various options to visualize an urban design or architectural project while at its design stage. It would not only improve the design process and outcomes for consultants but would also be beneficial for their clients. The possibility to visualize the project much before the implementation would encourage clients and enhance their trust for their designers. All this would be experienced using Virtual and Augmented reality, the platforms I am working on.

Virtual reality is experiencing the design by the physical walk through in real time produced by computer simulation. This experience is imitated by creating 3D models and using them with modern equipment like Head Mounted Displays (such as HTC Vive, Oculus etc.) or simply with Google Cardboard and a mobile. Augmented Reality is the easy way to see the 3D model over a plan and experience various spaces in relation to the plan. It can be simply achieved by creating a 3D model, linking to its plan by way of a tracker and finally hovering mobile/tablet over the plan to see it come to life in 3D.

There have been various online platforms enabling the 3D models created with different softwares to be visualized in VR or AR. I have been involved in testing several platforms and their compatibility with various 3D softwares. For the same, I used my previous architectural and urban design projects which helped me realize the practical issues and the need to rethink various elements. Thus, these will help save cost, time and labour on site if such issues are discovered and resolved much before its implementation.

In the present techie-scenario, the technology and the web services have made such experiences accessible at ease. Moreover at the University of Sheffield, with their huge services in this field, it should prove to be very beneficial for its students. Specifically, for students who find themselves in a difficult position to imagine 3-dimensional volumes, human scale, proportions and aesthetics, the use of VR and AR would support their design understanding. Once these get embedded into the learning and teaching methods for emerging designers, it would empower them and hence enhance a generation of designers.

I am glad to be associated with this emerging technology that adds to my architectural and planning background. Further, it would help me enhance my professional proficiency and provide me with a chance to bring a change as an Urban Designer. Architectural/urban projects relates not only to designers and clients but to common people and thus needs to be tested and tried in all ways before its physical transformation.  This project aims to upgrade the way a design project is developed and in my experience I found such inventiveness very crucial in the changing times.

Meet the Team

Every good project has a great team behind it, so in this blog post we introduce you to some of the key members of the inter-disciplinary project team.

The project team includes members from Urban Studies & Planning (lead Department), Computer Sciences, Engineering and Architecture.

 AMM Photo 1 Ana Maria Monsalve, Student Ambassador (Urban Studies & Planning)

As a student ambassador, I have been able to be part of the exciting process of testing 3D models in VR and AR. I have been in charge of exploring supportive software to improve the way we design the urban space. Thus, as a project assistant I have re-explored aspects of scale, proportion that before were not as approachable as they are with VR. Therefore, my purpose as ambassador consists of helping find new ways that will support students to present their ideas but also to encourage them to explore new tools that will make them more competent in their professional life.

 Bobby N Syed Mohamed Bobby Nisha, Project Lead & MA UDP Programme Director (Urban Studies & Planning)

As an Architect and Urban Designer, my approach to Design teaching begins from a position of respecting the self-expression and individuality of students to further inspire creative thinking. My research interest in Innovative models of design learning partnered me with Bryony Olney to explore the potential of virtual reality in Design learning and Teaching. As the programme Director/ module convenor my role is to embed the VR/AR technology in our design curriculum with learning tasks/assessment deliverables and create learning environments that acts as creative incubators in which learners are mentored, stimulated, provoked and engaged.

 BryonyHeadshot Bryony Olney, Project Lead & Learning Technologist (Urban Studies & Planning)

I ensure that the technical solutions we are employing are fit for purpose for teaching and learning, and offer students the best possible experience with virtual and augmented reality. This includes considering accessibility issues outside of the classroom, ease of functionality and use and maximum impact opportunities for learning. I have a hungry curiosity and interest in virtual reality, and my interest is very much grounded in the ease of usability and set up of any solution we use, as much from the teaching side as from the students!


 Chander Kant - Chander Kant Aggarwal Chander Kant Aggarwal, Student Ambassador (Urban Studies & Planning)

I am an architect and currently MA Urban Design and Planning student at TUoS with the dept. of Urban Studies and Planning. I have been working for the DDCF project as a Student Ambassador. It has been exciting to explore different interfaces of various virtual/augmented reality platforms to come up with their strengths and short comings. Experiencing architectural/urban design proposals in VR/AR helped me find generic problems a student could have while designing just in 2D plans. I am working with high hopes to upgrade the way consultants and clients visualize their projects.

 Michael Croucher Mike Croucher, EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow (Computer Science)

As part of Sheffield’s Research Software Engineering function I am providing a fully automated photogrammetry workflow which uses High Performance Computing facilities to turn a set of photographs of an area into a 3D model. Future developments will include making use of public cloud computing facilities and giving students more in-depth knowledge of what is possible when you combine simple computer programming with state of the art software and high performance computing facilities.

 Ralph-1000x500 Ralph Mackinder, Media Unit Manager (Architecture)

My Role on the project has been both Technical and Strategic. I’ve worked to develop the concept of virtual environments, from capture all the way to delivery of user experiences utilising the latest VR technology.  I’ve worked with project team members to develop a fast and efficient workflow that allows students to create photorealistic modelling that can be interacted with in a virtual reality environment. This photogrammetry-based approach combines my background in photography with an emerging specialism in VR and AR.  A really fun and challenging project to be involved in!

 IMG_20160812_162141 - Robert V Stacey Rob Stacey, Teaching Technician (Multidisciplinary Engineering Education)

 I have been responsible for the design and construction of a mobile virtual reality systems solution, enabling the virtual reality equipment to be used just about anywhere! I designed and built the entire system from scratch, from a rough sketch on a piece of paper to designing it in CAD, specifying the components required and, before making that virtual design a reality, building and piecing it together, making good use of the equipment available in the Diamond laboratories including the Laser cutters and 3D Printers.

 Samuel Dent Samuel Dent, Project Manager (Strategy, Planning, Governance & Change)

Samuel is a project manager in the office for Strategy, Planning, Governance and Change. Sam’s role is to support the project team to achieve their vision for the project, and maximise its impact, and support timely delivery. Sam has financial oversight of the project, supporting good governance and evaluation, and maximising the HE sector-wide impact and dissemination of the projects deliverables.