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Prime Minister Opens New Digital Lab

Prime Minister Gordon Brown opens the University's new flagship building - the Digital Lab - using 'virtual scissors' to cut a ribbon in cyberspace.

The £13 million lab, the brainchild of Engineering Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, director of international research and education group WMG, has been two years in construction with top international academics taking occupation this week.

Lord Bhattacharyya said: "This Digital Lab is the future. We are bringing together some of the world's top academics in digital technologies working on digital manufacturing and digital healthcare.

"We are working with partners on product development and creating virtual reality environments for prototyping and testing human responses. E-security, cradle-to-grave product management and process improvement will also be key themes.

"And we have been supported by Advantage West Midlands which is trying to propel this region to be world class."

The Prime Minister said at the opening: "This Digital Lab is path breaking. The University, WMG and all the businesses represented here are leading this country towards a new future.

Mr Brown experienced a demonstration of two key technologies as he opened the Lab. Professor Vinesh Raja (informatics) and Professor Alan Chalmers (visualisation) and their teams have worked together to create a virtual reality ribbon tied around the building which Mr Brown 'cut' using computer-generated scissors that simulate the feeling of cutting through real ribbon.

Professor Raja said: "This is a great way to demonstrate these two technologies. Professor Chalmers' team has created the 3-D image of the building and my team has created the ribbon with the sensation of touch. The two together create something really incredible.

"We have done this because one of the projects we are working on is to create lifelike simulated training for surgeons so that they can experience what it feels like to cut through live human tissue without having to use live patients. It will both look and feel like operating on a real person but they can do it time and time again and even measure their performance against the recorded techniques of top surgeons."

Other academics working in the Lab include Professor Darek Ceglarek, on Digital Product Lifecycle Management; Professor Gemma Calvert, on neuroimaging; Professor Paul Jennings on experiential engineering, Professor Sadie Creese on e-security and Professor Rajat Roy on simulation.

The Lab will offer large scale research and development opportunities, post-graduate education and knowledge transfer and assistance for small businesses.