18 December 2018

Trainingscapes at the Digital Catapult

We're proud to announce that Daden has been selected as one of only six companies to form part of Digital Catapult’s first Future of Training showcase, which will run from 29th November to 29th March 2018. The Showcase is currently at the London HQ (close to Euston station), but may later head out to their regional offices.

At the showcase we have a PC running with Trainingscapes installed and an Oculus Rift VR kit. We have loaded up an initial set of tutorial and demo exercises and will be adding some new ones in early January (which we can do remotely of course since this is a VR training delivery system not a shrink-wrapped exercise). We're also looking at ways to give visitors a quick guide through the authoring tool which makes Trainingscapes so special.

You can download the Showcase guide and there is also more information about the Showcase and VR Training in general on Digital Catapult website.

7 December 2018

Six Hats Chatbot - Towards a Reflexive Planning Tool

During the summer we were lucky enough to win one of the contracts in the MOD’s Future Fictions/Future Tools challenge, a £138,000 competition from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to find ways of enabling MOD staff to better think through future issues and future scenarios. Daden were one of 11 companies selected for funding from a field of 60 submissions (eight of which were ours!).

The system we proposed, and have now developed, is based around Edward de Bono’s 6 Hats tool, where each hat (or in this case chatbot) represents a different perspective on a problem. By talking to each hat in turn a user is challenged to consider an issue or future scenario from a variety of different perspectives and identify problems or opportunities which may not have otherwise been uncovered. By having the chatbot facilitate a one-to-one session an employee can test ideas before opening them up to a wider audience – and the system can also be used to facilitate a group discussion.

Having used the 6 Hats approach in other contexts we thought it an ideal subject for a “Future Tool” as it brings a rigour of thinking to almost any problem, and can help users come up with new ideas, and identify potential issues, in a very time-efficient way. The order of the hats can also be varied depending on the type of problem or issue being addressed. We have even developed an iterative sequence to help develop future thinking out to 5,10, 20 or more years hence. In development sessions the application has been used to help think through issues ranging from climate change to cyber-attacks and future battlefield technologies.

We’ve always loved the 6 Hats approach, and this was a nice opportunity to embody it within a bot in order to meet a real need and to potentially bring it to a wider audience. The whole Future Fictions/Future Tools programme was also a great way for people to generate new ideas to help Defence think through some of the key challenges of the future.

The application will now form part of Dstl’s Museum of the Future in order to be shown to a wider audience within MOD. We already have plans to further develop the concept, in particular developing it as a mobile application for general business and personal use. This would support a wider range of bots (such as one providing challenges based on common business models such as Porter’s 5 Forces), and allow users to create their own bots. The resultant tool would enable a wide variety of perspectives and different thinking and business models to be used, making it a valuable general-purpose reflexive planning tool.

5 December 2018

AHRC Showcase Event and Virtual Avebury Posters

One Tuesday we were up at the AHRC Showcase in York where most of the projects funded under the AHRC Partnerships for Next Generation Immersive Experiences were presenting on what they had done, and most also had live demos. There was a really good range from "hard" heritage projects like our to far more arts/performance driven work. Ones that particularly caught our eye included:

  • Using 360 video to capture circus acrobats and then "relive" the experience
  • "User Not Found" a drama piece by Dante or Die performed with mobile phone chat interaction about the digital traces we leave and what happens to them after death - plays nicely into our work on Digital Immortality
  • AR work to position old buildings in the right place by having users align a 3D model of existing buildings with the real thing
  • Field scale AR, rezzing an entire roman forum
  • Using laser scanning to capture artworks - but then, in this case, have a fire unfortunately destroy the artworks (pieces in the Mackintosh Museum/Arts School) so that digital form becomes the objects digital immortality and which is then used to spawn AR, VR and 3D printed versions

Prof Liz Falconer presented our project with them, National Trust and Satsymph on Virtual Avebury.

The presentation and demo were very well received, we probably had one of the bigger sample sizes (1000+ all told) and more rigorous assessment methodologies. In the demo area it was great to see funders getting down all all-fours to look at the virtual artefacts lying in the bottom of the henge ditch!

And here are the posters we used that summarise the work and findings of the project.

29 November 2018

Immersive and Digital Business Meet-Up - Birmingham

We were delighted to speak at the ImmerseUK Immersive and Digital Business Meet-Up here at Innovation Birmingham Campus this morning. David spoke about our work in using immersive 3D and VR for a wide variety of projects (over 50!) and some of the lessons we've learnt.

Davids slides are here:

Other notable presentations were:

@VirtualSarahJ telling us how's she's getting bored with how boring #VR is and its time for people to go back to Lanier and the 90s and make it a place of dreams - funny, that's pretty much what SL was/is!

KTN warning about the number people who leave competition submissions to the last moment!

Third Skin (@thirdskinhy) talking about their audio AR/biometric wearable.

And old friend @Taran3D talking about using VR to bring a virtual museum on Sikh history to the people.

A good event, with a good turn-out and some useful chats. In particular how to we get the message to HR and Training Directors and C level corporates - that's what is needed to scale this whole thing up.

23 November 2018

November Newsletter

In this latest issue of the Daden Newsletter we cover:

  • Virtual Route Learning - How we are helping researchers at Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust better understand how Acquired Brain Injury patients can re-learn how to navigate
  • A Reflexive Planning Tool for the MOD - How a short sharp project for the MOD built a chatbot based around De Bono's 6 Hats concept to create a reflexive planning tool
  • World Space Day 2018 - Giving families their first taste of VR by using Fieldscapes to let them stand on Phobos to see a huge Mars above them - on seeing Jupiter from Io! Check our the Blog Post.
  • Second Life Remembered - Daden produce a book (and eBook) celebrating the wide variety of projects we did in Second Life over the past decade! (If you want another trip down memory lane check out our Newsletter from 10 years ago!)

Download and read the pdf newsletter now!

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.

3 September 2018

Fieldscapes is off to the West Midlands BIS Space Day

In support of World Space Week Daden is taking Fieldscapes to the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) West Midlands Space Day in Worcester on 6 Oct. We'll have our existing Apollo 11, Mars Exploration and Solar System experiences and hopefully a few new ones.

Details at https://www.bis-space.com/2018/01/16/20116/space-day-2018 and https://www.facebook.com/events/657550341300272/?active_tab=discussion.

Hopefully see you there!

29 August 2018

Museum Thresholds - Using VR and 3D in support of museum and gallery design

Daden MD David Burden contributed a chapter to this recently published book ‘Museum Thresholds: The Design and Media of Arrival’ on the design of museum, gallery and other public building threshold spaces. The book is published by Routledge and edited by a team from the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.

The book came out of a fabulous collaborate and creative project funded by AHRC on Transforming Thresholds. The book is a celebration of not just the potential of the museum threshold itself, but of the creative power that comes from thinkers, designers and creators bringing their interdisciplinary skills together.

David's chapter focuses on the 3 Ring Model of 3D models that was developed out of Daden's work on the Virtual Library of Birmingham project.


For the next 60 days you can read the book on-line for free at https://rdcu.be/4fpn.


Some images used in the book are shown below.

The Virtual Library of Birmingham - built 2 years before the physical opening

The central atrium in the model

The central atrium 2 years later in the physical build

Exploring the Virtual Library in an early Oculus Rift DK1

19 July 2018

Virtual Avebury in the News

We're getting some good coverage of our Virtual Avebury project with the National Trust, Birmingham University and Satsymph (and funded by AHRC and EPSRC):

BBC Wiltshire (46min in) :  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06bt1rq#play

"I've been visiting Avebury for 50 odd years this will change my whole perspective - it's extraordinary"

"I'll never look at Avebury again the same way"

"I feel I know Avebury really really well .. it's certainly told me something about Avebury I didn't know."

"Without the buildings you get a real sense of scale, the physical size of it compared to the human frame, they must have felt so tiny"

"It [i.e. the modern environment cluttered by the buildings]  doesn't have the emotional power of what I just saw transmitted to me"

Marlborough News: http://www.marlboroughnewsonline.co.uk/news/7829-virtual-reality-offers-a-new-perspective-on-avebury

There's also a good description of the project on the National Trust web site at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury/features/experience-a-virtual-reality-avebury.

There is also some really good data about immersion and the use of immersive 3D/VR to support heritage experiences coming out of the public engagement research which we'll report on later.

27 June 2018

OculusGo - Best all-round VR option so far?

We've had our OculusGo for a few days now and I must admit we're impressed. Whilst the visual quality may not be as good as the tethered versions, there seems to be a bit of chromatic aberration and even a bit of light leakage the overall experience is probably the best yet. The reasons:

  • It's totally self contained, no tethers or trying to slot your phone in, just pick up and go
  • It's lighter and more comfortable that the Rift or Vive tethered headsets
  • It's price (£199 for 32GB, £249 for 64 GB) knocks the Gear VR and tethered headsets out the park, and is viable for a consumer purchase
  • Users seem less susceptible to motion sickness - whether due to reduced latency or just a better overall experience is not clear.
  • The controller has just enough buttons to be useful and not too many to be confusing.

The uses of a second phone for configuration works reasonably well but a) you have to reset the whole device to move between users/phones, and b) its not to clear from the phone what is loaded on the headset or playing on it.

The range of experience we've tried so far have been quite limited, point and move 3D spaces with fairly cartoony graphics, 3D video photospheres, so it will be interesting to see what it's like once we get Fieldscapes on it (Nash says "a couple of days") or with some more demanding apps.

One thing that really surprised us though was how much we missed 6 degrees of freedom movement ( aka 6DOF, i.e  the headset responding to lateral moves rather than just pan/tilt/yaw). In the Anne Franke's house where there was only waypoint movement you just naturally leaned forward to peer at what was on the table, and we were so used to that working with the Rift that too lose it seemed really odd. Given that we've only had it in the Rift for a couple of years it's surprising just how used to it we've got. There are a few third-party solutions (e.g. Antilatency - althouhg it does need a special floor as well as a camera, and could cost more than the Go!). Guess we'll just have to wait for Santa Cruz!

We'll post again once we've got Fieldscapes in there.

9 April 2018

Daden U Day: GeospatialAR - Take 2

I spent the latest DadenU day doing some more work on the AR app I started last time. Like the recent OS feature this is a geospatial AR app, so it puts markers in your smartphone viewscreen which align with real world objects. As you pan around you see different objects, and if you move to a new location all the markers track the objects they are pointing at.

The driver for the project is a personal "need" to have such an app to support battlefield walks, but we can also see some commercial potential for it, as well as more formally exploring the battlefield tours angel with the Battlefields Trust of which I'm a member.

In the latest session I focussed on bring the data in from the web, rather than having it hard coded within the app. This meant developing a JSON format for the data, doing a fetch by web service request, and then feeding the data to the existing plotting routine.

Getting my head around JSON took a fair amount of time, I much prefer, XML, and most of the rest was fairly trivial. Where I got stuck at the end though was creating a dynamic drop down of the available locations based on the files on the web server - will have to ask one of our pros how to do that!

Over the next couple of months I hope to work it up to a full blown demo based on a real battlefield, and then we'll see where we can take it.

Creating a Blockchain

For Daden-U day that took place in February I chose to look into a technology that’s on everybody’s radar. Blockchain is being touted as the next big thing and becoming a buzzword for business. A block chain is a is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Blockchain is synonymous with cryptocurrency because blockchain is the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum but there are other uses for Blockchain. Blockchain is still a young technology and it goes without saying that the world still figuring out whether is a solutions looking for a problem outside of cryptocurrency. To gain of a better understand of what blockchain is, its usefulness and how we can integrate it into our products I decided to create my own blockchain called UncomplicatedChain using a simple console application in c#. Different blockchains have different structures depending on their purpose. To keep things simple I decided to have the only the necessary elements in my blocks.

  • Index – The block number, so we know how many blocks are in the chain
  • Hash - The blocks Id (identification document) which is long list of numbers and letters. This is generated using index of the block, the hash of the previous block, timestamp and data. This is so that we can keep the integrity of the data. It should be noted that this hash has nothing to do with “mining”, since there is no Proof Of Work problem to solve.
  • Data – The information we want the block to store
  • Previous Hash – This essential creates the chain by storing the id of the previous block. We can also use the previous has in our validation process to check the integrity of a new block or a new chain. At any given time we must be able to validate if a block or a chain of blocks are valid in terms of integrity. This is true especially when we receive new blocks from other nodes and must decide whether to accept them or not.
  • Timestamp – Stores the date and time the block was created
I won’t go into any technical detail about the rest of the implementation of my UncompicatedChain as there are many tutorials for developing a blockchain. My take away from this exercise is that blockchain is a simple but powerful technology that certainly has its uses. For us as Daden the best use may not be so obvious. One way in which we could use blockchain is with our product Fieldscapes. Fieldscapes is a service which lets educators create and share 3D and VR immersive learning exercises. Fieldscapes includes a user generated library of locations and objects, and an easy-to-use editor. Fieldscapes could track changes to made exercises. Another use could be keeping track of location and object use then using this data to reward content creators.

1 March 2018

Using the Web Browser in Fieldscapes 1.5

As mentioned earlier Fieldscapes 1.5 now lets you create a web-browser within an exercise so tutors and students can access web resources such as videos, wikipedia, VLEs and even 3D content!

We've produced two videos to help you use it. The first just gives you an idea of what it can do (and we missed out displaying it in a pop-up!)

The second shows you how to configure it within an exercise and set up props to control it. Note that the last couple of minutes of this video (from when it starts showing Google Sheets) is the same as the first video.

Watch out for videos on other new v1.5 features.

27 February 2018

The Risks of Ineffective Training

Employee training is key to building an effective and productive organisation with a justifiable reputation for getting the job done. While specific learning methods will vary across roles and industries, effective training empowers employees and leads to a substantial decrease in risk. In an ideal world, all training programmes would result in 100% information retention and recall, but as trainees and trainers are only human, some methods are less effective than others.

Is no training better than ineffective training?

Something’s always better than nothing, right? This is not necessarily the case with training, where doing a poor job can do more harm than good. Some companies see structured learning and development programmes as an unnecessary expense, instead adopting a ‘learn on the job’ approach, which can produce effective results as learning by doing gives the employee the chance to pick up skills in a relevant and practical way. However, this approach doesn’t always include assessment or monitoring, so key lessons may be missed. Fully classroom-based training, on the other hand, tends to focus on theoretical learning without the environmental context of being onsite, leading to poor knowledge retention and a host of other issues…

What could possibly go wrong?

So if your training is not being effective, what can possible go wrong?

Poor performance and decreased productivity

Without effective training, employees will take longer to fully grasp the required concepts and stand less chance of retaining and recalling important information once out of the classroom. At best, the impact of this will be a few minutes here and there as employees search for a solution that they can’t remember off the top of their head; at worst, they could hazard a guess and get it wrong.
Although a charismatic tutor can increase trainee engagement and get people fired up in the short term, learning something once in an out-of-context situation is not conducive to being able to clearly retain that information and successfully recall it several months down the line.

Health and safety risks

Effective training is particularly vital in industries where mistakes can put people in danger, such as in the medical field and on construction sites. In these scenarios, companies have a duty to ensure their employees are certain of their roles and responsibilities, but the training for this is often classroom-based rather than onsite or in a comparable simulated environment. This can often result in a lack of understanding due to the learning not taking place in context, leading to potentially dangerous situations; for example, the construction sector reports an average of 64,000 non-fatal injuries to workers every year, and 30 deaths in 2016/2017. There’s a good chance that the risk of accidents occurring could be significantly mitigated with more effective training.

Increased expenses

The raised risk of accidents and mistakes caused by ineffective training carries with it a financial liability, as damage to people, property, or equipment can result in hefty bills and legal expenses. Companies that repeatedly fail to mitigate risk may be investigated and fined by the Health and Safety Executive, and will likely face higher insurance premiums.

Unhappy workers

Employees who feel their company doesn’t prioritise their learning and development or their safety in the workplace may well feel less loyalty to their employer as a result - especially if the poor training they’ve been given has put them at risk personally. Managers should also be aware of the financial impact of high employee turnover; according to a report from Oxford Economics, the average cost of replacing a single member of staff is more than £30,000. The bulk of this - £25,000 - comes from reductions in productivity as the replacement staff member gets up to speed.

Damaged reputation

Although some of the mistakes made as a result of ineffective training may be easy to sweep under the carpet, it’s probable that a company that hasn’t invested in better learning and development will face a serious problem at some point. This could involve a failure to fulfil their obligations to a client, or as already mentioned, serious health and safety issues such as onsite accidents. Any kind of major error is likely to result in damage to the company name, which may destroy their relationship with a client or impact their ability to get future work.

Self-perpetuating problems

Badly structured and poorly organised training programmes often involve employees training their colleagues, who in turn train others. This can be a recipe for disaster if not regulated correctly - we’ve all played Chinese whispers! If just one trainer misunderstands a concept and they unwittingly pass false information onto their trainees, the company may be faced with a whole group of people who are at risk of failing to carry out a process or procedure correctly - and if you operate in an industry where mistakes could have health and safety implications, this slip up could be extremely damaging.

The solution: more effective training programmes

Training doesn’t need to cost the earth to be effective, but it does have to be something that is considered and invested in, especially for companies who are operating in a high-risk environment such as construction sites or medical facilities. Sometimes classroom-based delivery simply isn’t the optimal solution as it often isn’t as good at promoting information retention and recall, whereas only offering training on the job may not provide the structure required to make sure employees are learning all they need to.

More and more companies are turning to a blended learning approach, using immersive training applications like Trainingscapes to provide structured training in simulated environments that can replicate the real thing. These highly accessible, on-demand tools allow employees to engage in relevant training within the appropriate context, where they can practice repeatedly to improve their retention and recall. To find out more about the benefits of immersive learning, click here, or feel free to email info@daden.co.uk if you have any questions.

22 February 2018

February Newsletter Out - Avebury, NewspeakBot, Virtual Life Coaches and Fieldscapes v1.5

In this latest issue of the Daden Newsletter we bring you up to date with some of the things that we've been doing at Daden over the last few months. In this issue we cover:

  • Fieldscapes v1.5 Released - all the new features in our Fieldscapes/Trainingscapes app, including web browsing and chatbots!
  • Virtual Avebury - work gets underway on a Fieldscapes project with Bournemouth University on this World Heritage Site.
  • Newspeak Bot - a quick project we did for the Wolverhampton Literary Festival that turns tweets into 1984 style Newspeak!
  • Virtual Mentors and Life Coaches - whole-career chatbot partners

21 February 2018

How to make your training more engaging

Ever had the feeling your employees just aren’t motivated by your learning and development programme?
We’ve all been to boring training sessions where the speaker’s droned on for hours on end and it’s taken every ounce of willpower you have not to fall asleep (but hey, at least there’s usually a free lunch). Training like this fails to engage trainees, meaning that information may not be retained or understood.
This is especially problematic when the subject matter is something they really need to know. What if failure to recall the information when they need it results in a serious mistake being made? The risk of such a situation arising can be significantly reduced by making sure your training is as engaging as possible to maximise the chances of it sinking in.
As well as improving information retention and recall, more engaging training helps employees to fully get to grip with the subject the first time around. This means they’re less likely to have to go through the same course repeatedly, thus reducing training costs as well as the loss of productivity incurred by their downtime.
More engaging training is also likely to be more enjoyable, resulting in happier employees - and what’s not to like about that?
Here are some ideas to help make you training more engaging.

Make it interactive

There are few people who can stand to be talked at for several hours without zoning out. One sure way to increase engagement is to make the session interactive. Whether that’s by coming up with activities to help trainees participate or by using tools or props to incorporate an element of ‘learning by doing’, interaction should be more than just a five-minute Q&A session at the end of a day-long course.

Go immersive

Technology has advanced enough that training sessions don’t have to stay in the classroom - even if the participants don’t physically leave the room. Immersive training applications like Trainingscapes create simulated environments and scenarios that allow trainees to gain hands-on experience in a relevant and practical way. These tools provide more spatial, visual, and audio cues as well as environmental and emotional context, so trainees are more prepared for when they have to carry out tasks in the real world.

Group activities

Learning as a group can be more effective than solo training because everyone brings their own skills to the exercise, allowing people to contribute in different ways depending on where their strengths lie. Group activities during training are often more representative of the real world, especially if teamwork is core to a trainee’s job role; incorporating such tasks into training therefore also gives people the chance to work on their interpersonal, team, and cross-cultural skills.


The practice of applying game-playing elements to learning and training has been shown to improve motivation, indicating that trainees may learn more by completing reward-based assessments than by simply being lectured. There’s a tremendous positive boost that comes from ticking off a task or achieving an objective, and this psychology can be harnessed to create more engaging courses that motivate trainees to progress. 


The vast majority of employee training sessions are delivered for a few hours, then the trainees are sent on their way. This seems to be contrary with the way we’re taught at school - practice makes perfect, remember? There’s plenty of scientific evidence to support the notion that we are better able to recall skills we’ve spent time practicing, so why should training in the workplace be any different? Utilising a training method that can also be used for repeated practice will help trainees retain the information better, and they’ll feel more confident in their own ability when they need to call upon the same skills in the real world.

Step out of the classroom

In order to increase trainee engagement, it’s important to think outside the box - the most effective training is unlikely to take the form of a dull classroom-based lecture. By considering what your trainees need to achieve and the skills they need to learn, you can choose a solution that maximises motivation and information uptake while minimising risk.

To see how we’ve helped organisations provide more engaging training with Trainingscapes, take a look at some of our case studies.