Robert (Bob) Stone holds a Chair in 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, his home town, and was made an Honorary Professor of the South Russia State Technical University (Novocherkassk) at that University’s 100th Anniversary in 2007.
After 9 years of Human Factors research at British Aerospace in Bristol, where he specialised in military human factors and remotely operated systems (conducting applied research and consultancy for the Department of Energy, the nuclear industry and the European Space Agency), Bob was involved in the launch of the UK’s National Advanced Robotics Research Centre. Having been one of the first Europeans to experience the NASA VIEW Virtual Reality (VR) system in 1987, he established the UK’s first industrial VR team at the Robotics Centre and, over a number of years, undertook numerous telerobotics and VR consultancy and research projects for commercial and government clients (including developing the world’s first tactile feedback glove for VR applications, Teletact). Following an appearance on the BBC’s 9 O’Clock News in January, 1993, he brought together (initially) 12 companies to fund the world’s first industrial collaborative project addressing the commercial uses 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 was the Research Director of the UK Human Factors Integration Defence Technology Centre (HFI DTC) for over 6 years, and it is from within this Centre that many of his team’s projects originate, covering human-centred design and evaluation methodologies for games-based simulation applications as varied as close-range weapons training and support for surgical and mental health therapies to submarine safety awareness, IED search and disposal training and unmanned vehicle control.
Bob and his team adopt a very pragmatic approach to Human Factors research and he regularly spends time conducting observational studies in the field with subject matter experts. This has taken him 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. Bob’s pioneering surgical task analysis efforts in the mid-1990s led to the development of a suite of simulated perceptual-motor tasks for a unique keyhole surgery VR trainer (MIST), still marketed today by Mentice of Sweden.
Today, he is still active in the medical arena, working closely with the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and medical personnel within the Queen Elizabeth “super-hospital” in Birmingham and the UK’s Hollier Medical Simulation Centre. His work has received numerous awards, including, in 2003, the Laval Virtual Trophée d’Honneur for his “service to the European Virtual Reality Community” since 1987. In 2011, he received the UK Ministry of Defence Chief Scientific Advisor’s Commendation for his contribution to Defence Science & Technology – one of only four individual recipients in the UK. Later that year, his HFI DTC Serious Games Team received the BAE Systems Chairman’s Silver Award for simulation research contributing to front line safety.