Professor Robert J. Stone

BSc (Hons), MSc, C.Psychol, AFBPsS, CErgHF, FIEHF

Robert (Bob) Stone is Professor of Interactive Multimedia Systems within the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham, where he is also Director of the Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team. 

He graduated from University College London in 1979 with a BSc in Psychology, and in 1981 with an MSc in Ergonomics.  Bob also currently holds the position of Visiting Professor in Simulation Psychology within the University of Plymouth. 

He was the first European to experience the NASA VIEW Virtual Reality (VR) system in 1987, during his ESA-funded research focusing on space telerobotics, EVA and spacecraft rendezvous and docking. 

Having established the first industrial VR team at the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Centre, following an appearance on the BBC’s 9 O’Clock News in January, 1993, he went on to bring (initially) 12 companies together to fund the world’s first industrial collaborative project addressing the commercial applications of VR. 

In May 1996, Bob was elected to become an Academician of the Russian International Higher Education Academy of Sciences in Moscow and was, in 2000, accredited by General Klimuk, Director of Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre as responsible for “introducing VR into the cosmonaut space programme”. 

Bob and his team adopt a very pragmatic approach to research, particularly in the defence, healthcare and heritage sectors and they regularly spend time conducting studies in the field alongside subject matter experts. 

This approach has taken Bob from Royal Navy vessels conducting close-range weapons and missile trials to underwater operations onboard submarines and rescue submersibles; from oil and gas support platforms in the North Sea to remotely operated vehicle trials in the waters around Scotland; and from search-and-rescue helicopters over the mountains and coasts of Wales and Cornwall to operating theatres and medical units throughout the UK, US and South Africa.  

As well as his research into novel Virtual, Augmented (AR) and Mixed Reality (MxR) solutions for real-world applications in defence and healthcare, Bob and his team also specialise in applications and developments of unmanned systems technologies, including small UAVs, remotely controlled submersibles and defence robots.  For example, the current, in-service remote driving and manipulation simulator for the MoD’s CUTLASS teleoperated bomb disposal system was developed by Bob’s Team. 

In recent years, the HIT Team’s UxV Group has been exploiting low-cost drone technologies to support their defence and heritage simulation research, especially with regard to surveying remote, inaccessible or hazardous environments, and their research interests include investigating new onboard sensor combinations, trialling novel human interface technologies and developing examples of aerial 3D data capture and real-time, in-flight AR. 

Bob has received numerous awards, including, uniquely, three from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors, and, in 2011, the MoD Chief Scientific Advisor’s Commendation for his contributions to Defence Science & Technology. 

2017 will be Bob’s 30th year of involvement in VR, AR and MxR.