The Division of Computing and Mathematics is one of three Divisions in the School of Design and Informatics.
Central to the Division’s research activity, and a core part of the Creative Industries research theme, is its expertise in computer games technologies, and the computer science and mathematics that underpins the exploitation of those technologies. In partnership with the Division of Games and Arts, our research drives new forms of game-based interactions and simulations. The Division also exploits those games technologies in food and energy security and in healthcare as part of the Environment research theme.
Our games-based research develops real-time animations for use in games and immersive environments e.g. in virtual and augmented realities. In the computer games context, we are drawing on methods from mathematics and astrophysics to create physically-based and realistic real-time fluid simulations. This allows engaging user interaction – see video below. We have developed a new model of game physics that provides a computationally efficient approach to modelling soft, deformable bodies in real time. We are using that approach to develop novel types of game play centred on a game character with a deformable body.
Real-time GPGPU simulation of shallow water bodies – Credit Peeter Parna
Virtual and augmented realities present unique challenges and opportunities for interactive experiences and the Division is exploring modes of interaction with these technologies and their convergence with film, artificial intelligence and other areas. We are developing AR and VR experiences on a range of technology platforms, and are testing these platforms in different contexts. We are especially interested in combining games technology and play with virtual and augmented platforms. We are also evaluating qualitatively and quantitatively, through psychophysiological measures, the user experience to measure how users engage with AR/VR experiences.
The Division also undertakes research in complex systems modelling in a range of different domains including the environment and healthcare. Our overarching agenda is the construction of playable simulations, i.e. simulations of complex systems drawing on game technology e.g. explorable game-based interfaces, customisation, aesthetics and optimisation.
This playability allows domain experts to investigate complex systems in an intuitive way and supports discovery of new insights. In the environment a central challenge is to safeguard the UK’s water, energy and food security – three of the UK’s most valuable resources that are rapidly running out. We are using our expertise in complex systems modelling and interactive visualisation to help stakeholders see the impact of different sustainability initiatives in each of water, energy and food that might interact to deliver solutions that will work for the system as a whole.
In the healthcare domain, we use games technologies to enable life scientists to conduct virtual experiments exploring the impact of anti-cancer drugs on cell behaviour. We have built a cancer cell signalling visualisation toolkit able to convert existing computer models of cell behaviour into dynamic, colour-coded animations. Drugs and cancer causing mutations can be added allowing for exploration of the dynamics of cell signalling pathways in a way that has not been possible before. We are extending this research to implement a virtual tumour that shows more complex responses to drugs because of interactions with other cells, the cell microenvironment, and oxygen and nutrient availability.
Additionally, we are investigating novel ways to interact and explore agent-based simulations e.g. BOIDS. We have developed a simulation framework with a MIDI user interface. This permits users to alter the controlling parameters of the BOIDS agent-based model and to instantly see the effect on the flocking behaviour.
In our games programming research, we also make use of the rendering and compute functionalities offered by the GPU to increase spatial and temporal scale of simulations. Interpretation of simulation output can be challenging and we advocate the 'built-in' visual simulation afforded by GPGPU implementations that employ optimisations that are standard in the production of real-time interactive scenes. Our expertise in programming also extends to design patterns and in partnership with the Division of Cyber Security we have been developing design patterns to improve computer system security.
Find out more about the work our researchers do and how you could join us to study a PhD, MPhil or Masters by Research.