Category Archives: Augmented Reality

ISC Digital Strategy Group Conference 2016

This year’s Independent Schools Council Digital Strategy Group conference was held at Microsoft’s UK Campus. The Conference theme was Digital By Design, Digital By Default. 

I had the opportunity to attend on behalf of the school, to listen to a variety of presentations both in person and via Skype from abroad. We also saw some live demos of collaboration with Microsoft’s tools, naturally, as we were on their turf.

There were many speakers during the day, but in summary from my notes:

Mark Steed spoke on teaching in the Middle East. 95% of Dubai schools are for-profit, which has introduced commercial drivers to education. Schools are concerned with ROI, economies of scale, and keeping staff costs down, which in turn impact school size, facilities, teacher qualifications and the amount of contact time.

This approach has meant schools have invested in blended learning to enable limited contact time, and also make use of video conferencing.

He predicts that for-profit will become the global norm to fill the gap in demand and supply for education. It will become a luxury to be taught by a specialist, superstar teachers will be demanding high salaries in the secondary sector while primary teachers shall be supported by robots as it will always require human interaction. Finally, he predicts VR will disrupt secondary education.

Vaughan Connolly spoke about how the future of professions, employment and schools are changing. He drew comparison to Moore’s Law, and reflected that we tend to over-estimate short-term impact, and under-estimate long-term impact.

Throughout the day several speakers referred to the development of artificial intelligence, Connolly referencing a Wilcocks and Lacity study which found that technology liberates people in the short term, to allow humans to do what humans do best.

Miles Berry shared examples of projects and the impact of problem based learning. As my focus is on computing, Berry’s talk felt very relevant, though at BGS we are already implementing creative and computational thinking in the computing curriculum. It was also useful to look at KS4 and KS5 computing, and the perspective of universities for potential computer science undergraduates.

Ian Phillips followed with further practical examples of computational thinking in action with the BBC Microbit. He had challenged his students to find a problem in life they couldn’t solve and then to work together to present a solution at open day, encouraging playfulness, curiosity and deep learning. One of the students gave a confident presentation about their experience and how the opportunities had led to great success.

Andrew Storey spoke of his school’s misfortune of a sinking building being turned into a great opportunity to design a new learning space. Modern learning spaces are flexible, placing students at the centre of the lesson. Storey explained how they went as far as training their students for 6 hours on how to be efficient in the classroom with technology.

Following this we had the opportunity to hear from overseas educators via Skype. James Mannion discussed sharing successful process with neighbouring school districts, turning teachers into problem solvers rather than dictating a solution. Bill Brennan discussed support networks between schools, encouraging adults to break out of their comfort zones with a smile.

Cat Scutt asked us to consider how we delivered teacher CPD, and whether we applied our use of technology for teaching students to how schools developed their staff.

We also heard about the Bloodhound Project, and had a chance to try out Microsoft’s HoloLens, which displays a blended VR overlaid on the real world, to the point it appeared a person was stood amongst us in the room which we could walk around and through while we explored human biology.

Bitter Ruin AR

I am a long-time fan of band Bitter Ruin. Georgia Train and Ben Richards are fantastic, creative musicians. Described as “AH-mazing” by Tim Minchin, and having toured with Amanda Palmer, they are selling out performances.

Looking at good examples of how onvert Augmented Reality might be used, I put together a quick sample and filmed it as a piece of fan art.

As such, you can sample their album, Hung, Drawn and Quartered and see them in 3D with your album cover and your phone. Download onvert viewer and visit the onvert on site to do what you see in the video above.

Be delightfully Ruined.

Photography used on site and to put together the Augmented Reality was taken by Scott Chalmers, as seen on the official website

FSB Business Innovation Award

Biggleswade Chronicle

We had a photographer from the Biggleswade Chronicle visit to take a photo of the team at Biggleswade. It felt like we were at a wedding, carefully positioned to make up the shot in one end of the office where we normally receive visitors.

The photographs were following the recent Federation of Small Businesses Award for Business Innovation. Onvert, our Augmented Reality app and platform had won its category on June 13th at a ceremony at Mansion House in Old Warden, Bedfordshire.

Attached is a scan of the Biggleswade Chronicle by Sam Vernon.

L-R: Kieran Sawyer (Development), Abhishek Bose (Marketing), Jason Higgins (MD), Me (Project Management), Alex Hollyman (Development), Ljudmila Serdjukova (Marketing), Simon Newton (Design), Tony Nutley (Design), Trudie Clement (Management).

Staff at a website design and marketing firm are celebrating after they received a top award.

Biggleswade-based Harmony was given the accolade for Business Innovation at the Bedfordshire Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) awards on Wednesday last week (June 13).

Judges at the awards – which took place at The Mansion house at Old Warden Park, Shuttleworth – were impressed by the company’s new Onvert product.

The product – which is available as a free app and as a more sophisticated paid-for version – turns two-dimensional artwork into three-dimensional designs when viewed on a tablet or smartphone.

Managing Director, Jason Higgins said: “Onvert almost came about by accident really – it was something that we were experimenting with but it has really caught on. Since we launched it we have had interest from a number of blue chip firms.”

The increased demand for research and production has also meant expanding the company, based at Connections House in Station Road.

Jason added: “We now have five more members of staff here and 11 employees in total. The new staff are working one of the offices here which was previously vacant and which we were thinking of letting to someone else.”

Onvert is an Augmented Reality technology which allows users to see three-dimensional projections which designers can implement in their online advertising.

Jason said: “It really does give designers a new dimension to what they do and much more flexibility.”

David Gloven, general manager of headline sponsor Mercedes-Benz of Bedford praised the ‘amazing’ quality and breadth of entrants in the awards. The FSB is the UK’s largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms.


Biggleswade Chronicle Articles

From November 2011 to May 2012 I wrote a series of mini articles as the Harmony copywriter for the Biggleswade Chronicle with advice and discussion about all things web. These were republished on Harmony’s press page and are summarised below:

November: Unravelling the mystery of SEO

It was once consumer habit to leaf through the pages to find a business or service, it is now second nature to use a preferred search engine – the most dominant being Google.

December: Reveal More with Your Mobile

With over 5 billion mobile phone connections worldwide, it is little surprise that our pockets and handbags are filled with little chirruping companions.

January: How to Find Your Perfect Web Business Partners

Whether you feel it’s time for a change or about to select your first partner in business, the route to selecting an agency is important.

February: Reality Checking: How to mix your Worlds

Techies once came to use with “Virtual Worlds” – digital places we could explore and interact with via a mouse and keyboard. But that was so yesterday – the latest development is the merging of virtual and real worlds called “Augmented Reality”.

March: Moneysaving Web Tips 

Cutting queues, avoiding call centres and getting things done at any time of the day are great bonuses to being online, but there are great financial benefits too.

April: Tickle Your Creativity 

Without ideas and creativity, we lose the ability to solve, evolve and inspire. Here our suggestions for a creative break for all ages!

May: Is Your Business Mobile? 

Almost half of UK Internet users go online via their mobile phone (ONS 2011), but is your business offering an embarrassing service to them?

Internet World Expo 2012

As now reported in the official Metaio blog, we took onvert to Internet World last minute 24-26th April 2012.

Taking a large stand space just left of the front door, we put the whole stand together in about five working days. Everything from planning where the electrics would go, hiring lights, a van, getting the stand and hand outs designed and printed, even hiring a couple of staff for the three days. It was a risk, and it paid off considerably – even my patient other half had to rise at 5am with me on his birthday to have enough time to unwrap his birthday presents before driving me to the train station to get to Earls Court 2.

We travelled down on the Monday lunchtime to set up in the venue where blood was spilled (not mine, our Director’s) and electricians were spoken sympathetically to so we could get a power point moved as far as possible so our backdrop could go up. The lights didn’t fit the type of exhibition stand in use at Earls Court, so a slightly pricey hire and fitting later, we were able to head back to Biggleswade by train, happy everything was in place.

The onvert stand at Internet World Expo 2012

The stand’s design was mostly our Augmented artwork by Simon and Tony, using the three layer versions of the onvert with the original app. We held our breath that the 3G and visitor wifi in the venue was going to stay available, having hired a set of iPads for demo. Thankfully the 3G and the backup wifi were all working fine – and as visitors to our stand downloaded the app and played everything went smoothly.

It was hard to gauge how busy we would be after briefing our two assistants who came to join us for three days. Augmented Reality can be quite a tricky subject, and quite technical, but the huge advantage we had was that we could take people politely and show them. They could play and see how it worked and visually understand it. Seeing speaks far more than explaining Augmented Reality on paper, it sounds too abstract.

The stand team

The first day went by quickly, we were very busy, and lots of people stopped to talk and try onvert out. Because we were not hard-selling our service (at that point the service was entirely free, the pro version features are in development) people felt happier to come and talk, and I found myself using the skills I’d developed as a charity collector and through Girlguiding UK to engage people and listen to their thoughts. In business meetings everything is quite formal and the interactions aren’t as brief as at an expo, you don’t find yourself persuading someone passing by to draw closer and see zombies walk out of the wall…

Close up of the backdrop

By the time we reached the office in Biggleswade each evening we brought back a huge number of business cards and leads. It was incredible to discover and exchange stories of talking to companies like ASDA, British Airways, Sky Sports, Samsung and Sony. The team at Biggleswade were working tirelessly to get the prototype app with animation ready in time to demo a spinning turntable, and an album cover with lightning and rain. They also set about compiling and sorting the leads and following up on feedback and queries. It was good to see my colleagues come and visit the expo briefly during the three days to see how things had turned out in person.

A couple of the several hundred visitors who came to look

The onvert application was exposed to more than 11,000 participants at Internet World. During the three days, the app reached 100th out of 20,000 in “What’s Hot in the Apple App Store” as people downloaded the app and returned to play with the artwork and stand throughout the event.

Twitter was invaluable in those infrequent quiet moments and the commute to encourage attendees and stand owners to come by and try onvert at stand E3000, and also to attend Jason’s talk Augmented Reality – Why Super Powers Lead to Minor Injuries and Major Memory Loss. The slide art for which Simon was putting together back in Biggleswade. “Now that’s a decent title for a seminar!” someone tweeted.

Busy stand

When we managed to regroup at the end and look at the visitor stats in the end (keep in mind that we didn’t have a special scanner, so these were all leads we talked to and took notes from, and exchanged business cards with) we were pleased and surprised to find our visitors included: Sony, Samsung, ASDA, Network Rail, Waitrose, British Airways, Jaguar Land Rover, Barclaycard, Dermalogica, Panasonic, Black & Decker, Sky Sports, British Gas, KPMG, Ingram Micro, ikonami and over 200 more UK and foreign companies.