15 November 2018

Daden's Adventures in Second Life

As our internal corporate memory begins to fade of all the projects we did in Second Life we thought it would be useful to capture them in good old dead-tree format in a nice glossy A4 coffee-table style book - ideal for casual browsing for visitors and on trade stands!

A nice by-product is that the whole book is available for you to browse for free on-line to see the range of projects that we have been involved with. And whilst SL may not be a prime delivery mechanism at the moment most of what we did in SL has informed what we now do in Unity and in VR, and the scope of projects are still directly applicable to businesses and organisations today.

The eBook is at: https://www.bobbooks.co.uk/bookshop/photobook/dadens-adventures-in-second-life

And of course if you really feel like you must own a dead-tree version for posterity then it's available to buy for the princely sum of £57.99!

16 October 2018

AI and Robotics Conference

I went down to London for the AI and Robotics/CXTech double conference on Friday as a guest of the organisers having been a speaker at least year's conference.

The event opened with three good big picture talks on the wider AI scene, from Daniel Hulme (Satalia), Dr Chris Brauer (Goldsmiths) and Calum Chace (author of the Surviving AI and The Economic Singularity). All recognised the difference between machine learning type implementations of AI and the bigger SF/AGI version of AI. A few key points:

  • Very few people had heard of Ray Kurzweil!
  • Calum thought that achieving AGI would immediately lead to the singularity - can't say I'm so sure
  • Calum had a nice graphic (from NPR) that showed the change in the most dominant US occupation by state, and how just from 1978 to 2014 it had basically shifted from farm wroker to truck driver - and so what might the impact of autonomous trucks be!
  • Calum has created The Economic Singularity Club with a book of “Stories from 2045” coming out shortly.

The other presentations were interesting, but nobody showing anything earth shattering. If anything it was interesting how little customer AI type chatbots had evolved over the last decade.

Not a bad day though, and some good chats over coffee, and the chance to try out a telepresence VR rig (very nausea inducing!)

One thing I didn't realise from Amazon though was that in their warehouses it is the shelves that move, not the people!

9 October 2018

World Space Day at The Hive

(photo - Worcester News)

David and Nash took Fieldscapes along to the World Space Day event being held at the Hive in Worcester on the 6th October. This is now the largest free space event in the UK, with over 40 stands covering everything from the Institute of Physics and local Astronomical Societies to Matt Irvin's wonderful TV space and SF models (including the original K9) and bits of Britain's only space rocket - the Blue Arrow.

Jupiter from Io

For the event we created two space experiences - standing on Phobos and seeing Mars, and standing on Io and seeing Jupiter. We chose these as we though the sheer size of each planet hanging above you would give a real "wow" moment, and the two moons have a very different look and feel.

A visitor exploring Phobos with a good view of Mars

We weren't disappointed in the reaction. As people turned and saw the planets (particularly Mars which fills about 1/3rd - 1/2th of your vision) there were audible gasps. Indeed one young user instantly flinched, looked away and refused to look behind her again! Another young VR-naut kept playing peek-a-boo with his parents and loved the fact that with the headset on he was on his own out in outer-space, but when he lifted the headset off his parents were standing right in front of him.

We were in constant demand from opening time til after closing time, and often has a queue of 2 or 3 families waiting. We also had several people come back for multiple goes and to take the time to walk around each moon's surface a bit more.

All in all a great day to educate people about VR and give parents the chance to think about what this might mean for education and training and their jobs.

The star attraction for many people of a certain age!

We'll post the environments up onto Fieldscapes so that anyone can give them a try.

1 October 2018

British Quebec Business Council AI Conference at McGill University, Montreal

Daden MD David Burden headed off to Montreal last week to present at the British Quebec Business Council's AI Conference at McGill University, Montreal. David spoke both on the current approach to AI Governance in the UK and about Daden's work on virtual tutors, mentors and persona's, and trying to help the audience to understand the different ways that people are using the term "AI" in the first place!

There were some great presentations from McGill academics on various AI projects there (mostly machine learning) and also from companies using AI in everything from medical image processing (machine learning) to financial auditing (machine learning). Also a particularly thought provoking presentation on AI and the built environment from Francesca Birks, Lead Foresight at Arup.

David was also invited to speak to a group of training professionals in Montreal about our work on Trainingscapes and in immersive 3D and VR,  meet with an official at the British Consulate and take in a couple of business meetings, so all in all a busy week!

Nice wall art of Leonard Cohen on the side of a Montreal tower block!

28 September 2018

Centre-Phi VR Exhibition

Whilst in Montreal I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours at the newly opened  Echo VR Exhibition at the Centre-Phi in Old Montreal. This show had 12 different VR exhibits, all on the arty/edutainment rather than game side, on a mix of Oculus Rift, Oculus Go and Gear VR headsets.

Whilst a few were 360 (or even 180) degree video, the rest were fully immersive, usually with room scale tracking, or in rotating chairs. Most were around 15 mins, some as short as 4 mins, others as long as 30 minutes.

The most interesting were:

  • Spheres - a set of 3 VR experience about space. All pretty trip and following an "everything is better with tilt-brush" meme. Batting planets was fun - and interesting that if you bat then the wrong way the'd eventually slow and orbit in the correct direction. The huge planet encounters were fun, but what was interesting was since you had no sense of self you had no sense of scale - there were just big balls! It will be interesting to see if we can get a different experience with our World Space Day experiences - more later. See http://www.elizamcnitt.com/spheres/

  • Tales of Wedding Rings - A Japanese combination of manga and anime, all in black and white and very realistic animation (mo-cap, even rotoscope looking). For much of the experience the cartoon/manga frame was in front of your against a black background and you looked through this frame onto the 3D manga still frame or anime scene. You could peer in and round, so it was full 3D. Then for some scenes the frame could come forward and engulf you so that now you were in the full 3D itself with the action taking place in front of you - but with the option of looking all around at the beautifully crafted scenery. The female character was a bit BESM manga style, but technically it was a great looking piece and an interesting possible direction for manga/anime/graphic novel/BD VR. Buy for Oculus at https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1681506908561513/ (and video trailer)

  • Wolves in the Walls - A young girl alone in an attic bedroom can hear wolves in the wall - can you help her? This piece, based on a book by Neil Gaiman,  probably had the best realised virtual character I've seen so far in VR. As you follow her around the small room, crouch down to talk to her or look at what she's drawn it really does feel like your in the room with her. The most notable feature was that when she speaks she always looks at you - no matter where you are standing - I kept try to move to catch her out but never did - awesome response to the headset tracking! It's interesting that Fable, the studio behind this, has kicked off a whole "Lucy Project" to create a character that is interactive and believable. In many ways Lucy is the closest thing I've seen yet to the old Milo "smoke and mirrors" demo from Lionheart - and of course all the more possible because it has digitised the human so everyone is in the same virtual space. You can read more about Wolves in the Walls at https://fable-studio.com/wolves-in-the-walls/ and https://www.oculus.com/blog/vr-visionaries-fable-studio/.

Whilst the video versions wont give you the VR experience they'll give you a sense of what they are doing, and hopefully we'll see some of these multi-VR showcases at arts centres in the UK.

10 September 2018

Trainingscapes at the EU40 BBQ

MedtechEurope CEO Serge Bernasconi tries out Trainingscapes

David and Nash headed over to Brussels last week at the invite of MedTechEurope which was sponsoring the annual EU40 BBQ and wanted to show MEPs how innovative technology such as VR is being applied in the medical and health arena.

EU40 is the platform of young Members of the European Parliament and of the 28 EU national parliaments. Their mission is to serve young Members under the age of 40 and strengthen their role inside the European Parliament by adding aesthetics, fun and fresh ideas to European politics!

MedtechEurope started as an alliance in October 2012 formed by two organisations - EDMA, representing the European in vitro diagnostic industry; and Eucomed, representing the European medical devices industry. MedTech Europe engages with EU regulators, politicians and other decision-makers to help shape policies to promote innovation for our growing healthcare needs and expectations. Its aim is to encourage policies that help the medical technology industry meet Europe’s growing healthcare needs and expectations. It also promotes medical technology’s value for Europe focusing on innovation and stakeholder relations, using economic research and data, communications, industry events and training sessions. MedTech Europe’s mission is to make innovative medical technology available to more people, while helping healthcare systems move towards a sustainable path.

Despite the torrential rain during set-up we had a great time letting attendees work through a version of the Diabetes training application that we've just done for Bournemouth University. We also had the same app running on an iPAD to show that VR headsets aren't mandatory. We also had some pharma data in 3D on Datascape running on Google cardboard to show another use of the VR technology.

All in all a great evening, and our thanks to MedTechEurope for inviting us.

5 September 2018

Virtual Avebury drawing to a close

(image posted on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10213810222462658&set=p.10213810222462658&type=3&theater by Brett Cullen)

The run of Virtual Avebury has now come to an end, although we are doing a bit of direct remote public access to the VR experience - more details to follow.

There have been over 100,000 views of the video of Avebury in Fieldscapes on the National Trust Avebury Facebook page, and well over 500 physical users of the VR experience on site, and even some fan-art!

There were two VR rigs on-site so users could go in and see each other and follow each other round. The kids visit with their parents during the school holidays just loved this, playing virtual tag between the stones. And then whey they discovered that you could fly as well!

Liz and the team from Bournemouth University are now writing the project up and we'll share the results with you as soon as we can.