HS2 to use virtual reality to bring future Old Oak Common station to life

Posted: 16 June 2021 | | No comments yet

HS2 will use the digital virtual reality to assess and, if necessary, refine its designs in order to help passengers to move smoothly and efficiently around Old Oak Common station.

HS2 to use virtual reality to bring future Old Oak Common station to life

Credit: HS2 Ltd

In an innovative world-first, virtual reality (VR), eye-tracking and emotion-sensing technology is being developed in combination and is being used to develop how passengers will navigate their way around the new HS2 station at Old Oak Common.

As part of its innovation programme, HS2 Ltd is working with design and technology SME CCD Design & Ergonomics and station designer WSP to develop efficient and stress-free ‘wayfinding’ for the quarter of a million people who will use the new 14-platform super-hub in north west London each day.

The successful deployment of the cutting-edge innovation in developing HS2’s station at Old Oak Common offers the potential for the technology to be used to design other HS2 stations, as well as other great buildings that have to manage large numbers of people efficiently, including sports venues and concert halls.   

Wearing VR headsets fitted with eye-tracking and emotion-sensing technology, three sample groups drawn from members of the travelling public will enter a virtual version of the new station.

Once in the digital virtual reality, these passengers of the future will be asked to navigate their way around Old Oak Common station to reach meeting points, platforms and to change between HS2 and Crossrail services using the signage included in the current design.

In addition, the team will dedicate a further session to passengers whose mobility is impaired to explore what further assistance that they might need to navigate the station.

Eye-tracking technology fitted to VR headsets will monitor in detail how the eye is drawn around the station’s interior and whether there are any distractions that might contradict or confuse passengers, all of which could hamper easy and stress-free movement.

This will be paired with emotion-sensing software that observes the wearer’s facial expressions and monitors heart rate changes caused by the visual stimulus of experiencing the station in virtual reality.  

The data collected by CCD will enable HS2 Ltd and station designers to assess and, if necessary, refine designs to help Old Oak Common station passengers to move smoothly and efficiently around the 100,000m2 rail interchange station.

HS2 Ltd‘s Innovation Manager, Heather Donald, said: “The HS2 super-hub at Old Oak Common is the largest single-build station to be built in the UK. Up to a quarter of a million passengers will use it to connect between HS2, Great Western and Elizabeth Line trains each day, so it is vital that its design is fine-tuned to deliver a stress-free step change improvement in the passenger experience.”

“Informative and clear signage is a prerequisite to ensuring that people using the station and changing between services can move with intuitive ease through OOC. We’ve taken an innovative approach to use cutting-edge technology to ensure that we have it right years before the station opens,” she added.