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Virtual Imperative Conference 2023

In November 2023 the York Virtual/Augmented Reality Research Group organized the hugely successful Virtual Imperative conference on the YSJ London campus. The group reached out to leading figures in the field of VR/AR and initiated an international call for academic papers. We were able to invite speakers and exhibitors from META, Imperial College London, Cinesite, TalentForTech, Leeds Beckett University, VoxarLabs, and the internationally renowned artist/designer April Greiman. 


The conference tickets were sold out, with attendees from the BBC, government agencies, the Police Federation, Channel Four, and faculty and postgrad students from many UK educational institutions. We received considerable support from York St. John University with the proceeding introduced by Professor Richard Bourne (Pro vice-chancellor, Education, YSJ) and moderated by Professor Helen Minors (Head of School of the Arts, YSJ). The event was also made possible by the generous QR funding it received from YSJ.


One day conference

Thursday, 2nd November 2023


The virtual imperative

The perception, expectation, and reality of immersive technologies

York St. John University

London Campus

6th-floor Export Building,

1 Clove Crescent,

East India,

London E14 2BA


Gutenberg’s press of the 1400s sparked what became known as the print revolution. His method for mass communication (the printed book) changed the world and remained unchallenged until the 1960s; when the emergence of computer technologies led to what was to be labelled the digital revolution. Leading up to both these technological breakthroughs there was a sense of something new ‘in the air’; a technological and social framework was in place for change. The term revolution (a sudden, radical, and complete change) is fitting in both cases as society had been primed for such change; the benefits were clear, and technological change was rapidly adopted around the globe.


In our own time, VR and AR technologies are well established – though there is a sense that their application, or worth, has still to be defined. Such developments represent a social and cultural imperative; evidenced by the contemporary discourse around the Metaverse, with issues of ownership, control, and positioning in the marketplace.


This day-long conference brings together leading figures from industry and academia, aiming to shed light on current thinking, explore cutting-edge VR/AR applications, and (through an understanding of historical technological precedents) attempt to contextualise and rationalise our virtual future.

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Tickets are now available via our EventBrite page:


Tickets are priced at £10 per person. The York VR/AR Research Group is working to make this event as inclusive and accessible as possible. We have received internal funding from York St John University to enable us to offer a heavily subsidised admission price. 

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Day Schedule

Please click on the icon to download the full one-day schedule of events. 


Keynote Speakers

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Praveen Velichety

Executive Partner and Global Offering Leader - Digital Twin at IBM Consulting

Praveen leads IBM Consulting’s Digital Twin offering globally that includes capabilities like AI, Blockchain, Data, IoT, Industry 4.0, Mixed / Extended Reality. IBM is positioned as a leader for consulting services in Digital Twins. Praveen leads strategy and roadmap development and ensures business transformation programs facilitate change and deliver outcomes with an ecosystem of partners. He has also authored papers for The Economist, The Institute of Business Value and collaborates with leading analysts like IDC.


Manoela Silva

Research Associate and Instructional Designer at Voxar Labs

Manoela holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Federal University of Pernambuco. She did a Ph.D. sandwich at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Manoela works as a research associate at Voxar Labs, an augmented reality research group in Brazil, where since 2013, she has participated in several projects related to technology use in education. She is a Google Innovator, working on the project hi! tech that seeks to use interactive technologies to promote learning.

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Simon Benson

Technology Consultant at TalentForTech

Simon is a veteran technology consultant, specialising in immersive, real-time interactive, and Metaverse development. With close to 30 years of commercial immersive development experience, including military research and development, motorsports, and consumer entertainment, Simon is a rare find outside of Silicon Valley. Career highlights include leading multi-million-dollar AAA game projects, pioneering stereoscopic 3D console gaming, and founding the PlayStation VR project. Previously, holding the role of Director of Immersive Technology at Sony, Simon is cited as an inventor on over 50 patent

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Andy McNamara

Head of CGI at Cinesite

Andy is an award-winning and versatile CG Artist/Supervisor with over 30 years of experience in the field of CGI and VFX. He has worked across a diverse range of projects in film (inc. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Spectre); commercials & brands (inc. EE, BT, Nike, Versace, Burberry, VW, McDonalds, P&G); broadcast (for the BBC, ITV, CH4, Nat Geo, Discovery, Disney); theatre (Stephen Sondheim, Broadway) and cutting edge immersive & experiential projects for CRUK, EE, V&A, and many others. He has creatively and technically led CGI departments at the BBC, Rushes, and at Publicis and is now currently Head of CGI at Cinesite in London - one the of leading VFX and Animation studios in the world, working across shows for Marvel, Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV amongst others.

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April Greiman

Made in Space

April Greiman is an internationally renowned American designer widely recognized as one of the first to embrace digital technologies – creating work that explores the intersection of art, design, and architecture. She is celebrated for her early groundbreaking experiments with the Apple Macintosh computer, having acquired one shortly after its release in 1984. Greiman’s unique contribution to visual culture is evident in the breadth of her portfolio, with commissions ranging from a US postage stamp commemorating the Nineteenth Amendment (which extended the vote to women) to an LED installation for the 31-story Accenture Tower in Minneapolis. “Greiman was a bridge between the modern and postmodern, the analog and the digital… she is a pivotal proponent of the ‘new typography’ and new wave that defined late twentieth-century graphic design.” (Steven Heller, design historian).

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Academic Papers

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Rebecca O'Higgins

Lecturer in Technological Innovation and Enterprise. Leeds Beckett University

Rebecca has worked for over a decade as a product specialist, visual merchandiser, digital account/project manager and senior account/project manager in the luxury, high street, FMCG, sports, beauty, and cosmetics industries, in Dublin, Vancouver, London and Leeds. I supported national and global clients with a digital first mindset. Currently, Rebecca is a Lecturer in Technological Innovation and Enterprise at Leeds Beckett University teaching UG, and PG modules focused on understanding analytics, data and the impact technology solutions have on society.She is working to affect societal change through inclusion by design, digital equity, and data transparency.

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Niteesh Yadav

Product Designer at META

Niteesh is a multidisciplinary designer and independent researcher currently working as a product designer at Meta. With his deep expertise in typography for AR/VR, he authored the XR typography guidelines (module available on Google Fonts) which are now a benchmark for major companies working in this space. He has recently released AR One Sans, an open-source type family specifically designed for AR/VR headsets. For the past six years, Niteesh has been actively researching typography and developing standards for future AR headset interfaces, starting during his master's degree in typeface design at the University of Reading. 

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Dr. Barnabas Takacs

Head of R&D, FFP / XREco

Barnabas is an internationally recognized technology leader and production expert in the fields of AI, XR, virtual humans, animation, computer vision, and facial information processing. During his career, he worked as a CTO and Director for a number of high-profile start-up companies from Hollywood to Vienna in the film, XR technology, defense, medical, consulting, and entertainment sectors. He also held academic positions in technical and medical universities; leading cutting-edge research in EU-funded projects. With 20+ years of scientific and industrial R&D experience, 75+ technical publications.

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Dr. Nick Bax

Creative Director at Human Studio

For over 30 years Nick's career has spanned the fields of design, creative direction, and art. His academic research explores extended reality storytelling, nonlinear narratives, and the recreation of individuals, locations, and memory via immersive technology. Nick was part of the iconic creative collective The Designers Republic for 15 years before launching Human Studio in 2007. The multi-disciplinary team has exhibited work in Europe, Japan, Brazil, China, and the United States. Alongside his role at Human Studio, from 2021-23 Nick was an XR Stories Research Fellow at the University of York following his PhD study at the University of Sheffield.

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Travel Information

Where to eat

Coffee, tea and pastries will be provided throughout the day. There is a well-stocked cafe on the ground floor of the building and several lunch options around the campus building and local area. Wine, beer, and soft drinks will be provided for a gathering after the event. 

Where to stay

There are many accommodation options close to – or within easy access – of the York St. John London campus. Here are a few suggestions at various price brackets: 


£££: Lansbury Heritage Hotel

117 Poplar High Street, London, England, E14 0AE


££: Britannia The International Hotel London, Canary Wharf

Marsh Wall, London, England, E14 9SJ


££: Holiday Inn Express London-Royal Docks, Docklands

1 Silvertown Way, Canning Town, London, England, E16 1EA


£: YHA London Thameside (hostel)

20 Salter Road, Rotherhithe, London, England, SE16 5PR


Getting to YSJ London


York St John University 

London Campus

6th Floor Export Building, 1 Clove Crescent, East India, London E14 2BA


The York St John London campus is located close to Canary Wharf, and a short walk from East India Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station.


By tube and train 

YSJ London is located directly across from the East India Docklands Light Railway (DLR) Station. There are endless ways to get around London via Tube, but many connect via Bank Station or Canning Town Station.


By bus

Transport for London (TFL) has several bus routes that stop near the London campus. Bus routes D3 and N550 run between Canary Wharf and Leamouth, and stop at East India Station, just outside of campus. Bus route 15 beginning at Charing Cross Station stops at Blackwall Station near campus.


By car or coach

There is no general parking provided for the YSJ London campus, other than the pay-and-display parking on the surrounding streets.


By bike

Transport for London (TFL) offers Santander cycles that can be rented at more than 800 docking stations across London. Two of these stations are close to campus, at the East India and Blackwall Stations.


By air

London is served by several International airports:


/  Heathrow Airport is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes from the London campus by train or by road

/  Gatwick Airport is approximately 1 hour from the London campus by train or by road

/  London City Airport is approximately 10 minutes from the London campus by train or by road

/  London Luton Airport is approximately 1 hour from the London campus by train or by road

/  London Stansted Airport is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes by train or 45 minutes by road from the London campus

/  London Southend Airport is approximately 1 hour from the London campus by train or by road

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