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York Virtual and Augmented Reality Research Group

The Virtual and Augmented Reality Research Group is based in the School of the Arts at York St John University.

York Virtual and Augmented Reality Research Group logo

The primary aim of the Virtual and Augmented Reality Research Group at York St John University is to build frameworks for advanced collaboration, both within and outside its academic setting.

The group proposes new avenues for exploration and application in this emerging field and is fully engaged with other related emerging technologies.

Through ongoing research, the group will analyse historical shifts in technology to help define current trends and predict new approaches for contemporary applications. It will explore the ways virtual and augmented reality might impact on different sectors in the global market, and act as a catalyst to develop collaborative projects within the local, national, and international design community (as well as engaging partners in other more distinct fields).

The aims of such partnerships and collaborations are to:

  • Further knowledge and promote future activity in this area
  • Exchange good practice in emerging fields
  • Explore research funding opportunities and income generation
  • Identify knowledge transfer partnerships

Within the University the group will:

  • Be a forum for research discussion in this, and related, areas
  • Act as a catalysis for cross-school activities, action research, and shared methodologies
  • Proactively generate further research activities
  • Engage students/ graduates with active research and professional projects
  • Explore widening participation opportunities for research impact

Both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can apply across many sectors from creative industries (games, graphics, film, television, literature), medical, education, construction, business and more, depending on the cross over and line of inquiry.

Get in touch

We welcome enquiries from members of staff, postgraduate researchers and prospective members.

Research activity

Group members

Warren Fearn

Senior Lecturer

Warren is currently focusing his research activities on service design thinking to create meaningful educational augmented experiences for primary science education. He has 20 years of experience in 3D computer graphics, having worked on various commercial and educational projects for BBC Virtual Studios and 3D Motion Graphic, Alias Wavefront, Autodesk, Sky, National Geographic, winning Promax, BAFTA and nominated for Emmy Awards. He currently, works as programme leader for MA Virtual and Augmented Reality course at York St John University, supervising students on their design projects from research, development to fruition.

Profile image of Andy Sandham

Andy Sandham

Senior Lecturer

Andy is Subject Leader in Game Design with an extensive career in academia, and prior to that 20+ years' experience in the game industry, working as Game Designer and artist on several 'AAA' projects including the original Tomb Raider series of games, Theme Park, and various other high-profile projects. Utilising this development knowledge, he has researched VR across a wide range of fields; including social research, 360 experiences, gamification, and game mechanics that promote learning through play. As senior lecturer on the newly created MA Virtual and Augmented Reality course at York St John University, Andy has successfully supervised students to create prototypes, as well as, overseeing student VR internships to successful delivery with external commercial clients.

Andrew Byrom


Andrew's current research activities are focused on historical and social shifts in technology – specifically within the field of typeface design – with an aim at revealing and furthering an understanding of new avenues for the use of augmented reality. He has 25 years of experience teaching in higher education both in the UK and US; working with clients such as The Getty and The New York Times; and in generating self-initiated research projects.

Lecturer Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper

Senior Lecturer

Sarah Cooper's industry background is in journalism, having worked on newspapers and magazines since 1999. She has worked on titles in the UK, Australia, the UAE and Hungary, including Time Out and The Sunday Times. Sarah has worked as a lecturer since 2007, and has taught in the UK, Hong Kong and Spain. Her research focuses on haptics and how it impacts upon the lived experience of consuming journalistic content. Her thesis explores how sensory stimuli - specifically that of touch - influences how much a brand is trusted. She's interested in integrating haptic technology - such as in VR and/or AR - within journalistic content.

Debi Saunders

External Member

Debi is Head of Quality of Education at York College and Vice Chair of the Research College Group. She is leading research into the introduction of AR and VR into further education colleges. With over 38 years' experience in the further education sector, and publications around the experience of international students, social and dialogic learning, and policy in the PCET sector, Debi has grown her own understanding of AR and VR and how they can be used in teaching.

Dr Jon Hook

External Member

Jon Hook is a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media in the School of Arts and Creative Technologies at the University of York. His research is situated in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and explores the design and development of new interactive media content forms and tools to support their creation. His current work is focused on the design and development of new forms of responsive and immersive media content, with a particular interest in how they can be applied to address societal challenges.

Nalinda Somasiri staff photo

Dr Nalinda Somasiri

Head of Programme

Nalinda is the Head of Programme for Computer Science at York St John University, London Campus. Nalinda's current research topics include AI and machine learning and he actively participates in machine learning conferences. He also works closely with AWS, Motorola and IBM on AI and machine learning research activities.

Dr Yang Lu

Senior Lecturer

Yang is currently engaged in research projects that cover a range of topics related to cyber security, such as trust, identity, privacy, and security. Along with this, she is contributing to the development of trustworthy autonomous systems, as well as exploring the application of data science and artificial intelligence in the healthcare domain. Additionally, she is also involved in behavioural science and is working on sustainable digital technology development.

Anna-Sophia Bruhn

Anna-Sophia Bruhn

External Member

After studying media design in Hamburg, Anna worked for numerous prestigious agencies, exploring a variety of design disciplines such as user interface design, interaction design, storytelling and user experience design. A spontaneous visit to the National Geographic Encounter in New York City in 2018 started Anna's passionate journey into VR and AR design, which eventually led to her master's degree in Virtual and Augmented Reality at York St John University in York, UK. Since graduating with distinction in 2020, Anna has gained further experience in the field, working as a UI/UX designer for a German agency called Headraft in Hamburg. She believes that the true potential of immersive technologies lies in education and how they can help address environmental and societal challenges.

Payal Ghatnekar

Dr Payal Ghatnekar

External Member

Payal is the Immersive Technology Research Lead at Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust (TSDFT), responsible for managing research activities at the Digital Futures Lab. She is a Human-Computer Interaction researcher with a background in behavioural science. Payal has worked as a Research Fellow with Plymouth University's School of Medicine and Dentistry and Falmouth University's Games Academy. Her role at TSDFT involves the evaluation and assessment of immersive experiences and technologies, horizon scanning for research opportunities and academic collaborations, and research development. Payal has a keen interest in immersive technologies for female health education and self-management of symptoms, and improving access to health education in under-represented groups through immersive technologies.

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