#marketing technology

Animmersion helps transport Life Science Centre visitors into the cosmos with new immersive experiences .

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Animmersion has teamed up with the Life Science Centre to help visitors explore the universe and experience the application of space science through a collection of interactive and immersive exhibits.

Featured within the ‘Space Zone’ exhibition, Animmersion has produced various interactive exhibits that highlight how space science is helping to address environmental issues on Earth and understand more about our universe.

Animmersion’s engaging interactive experiences are part of a collection of more than 40 exhibits set across five zones covering 500 square metres at the Life Science Centre, including its state-of-the-art digital planetarium. 

The exhibition builds upon a history of engaging the public with space science and the perils that come with journeys to the stars, encouraging interest in the industry and creating exciting and diverse future career opportunities.

Among its exhibits, Animmersion is utilising its visualisation capabilities to highlight the use of satellites in managing ecological challenges, including ‘Fauna Counter’, an interactive game where users identify, count and track penguin populations from a satellite image of Antarctica.

Animmersion has also created a touch-screen experience where visitors role-play as farmers using satellite images to manage their crops and make decisions on how to successfully farm their lands.

Other exhibits include an interactive weather tracker, a projection of the sun to investigate different features of the star and a challenge to construct a menu for a spaceflight to provide provisions for the crew for the length of the mission.

This project is part of Animmersion’s growing presence in the heritage, culture and visitor attraction sector. It builds upon the successful delivery of a range of interactive visitor experiences including the revolutionary mixed-reality display, DeepFrame One at the Great Exhibition of the North, and interactive displays and holograms for the North York Moors National Park’s Land of Iron project.

With a team of talented and experienced designers, artists and software engineers, Middlesbrough-based Animmersion provides a range of immersive solutions using animation, virtual and augmented reality, holograms and interactive displays to create engaging customers experiences.

 Dominic Lusardi, Owner and Managing Director of Animmersion, said: “The North East is emerging as a region with an exciting role to play in the space industry and this exhibition will help inspire interest in the broad and diverse applications of technology and science that are truly out of this world!

“This project is a great example of how we can apply our expertise in the visualisation of information that creates fun and engaging immersive experiences.  They are brilliant tools to encourage interaction and spark interest and these fun science-based exhibits provide visitors to the Life Science Centre with an enjoyable experience that will inform and educate.”

 Sarah de Launey, exhibition developer at Life Science Centre, said: “Only the lucky few will ever get to go to space, but with the help of companies like Animmersion, we have brought space down to Earth. In Space Zone, visitors can experience for themselves the surprising applications of modern space science and what it’s like to explore the universe.”

UX design in a small business set-up.

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A large business with significant resources may be able to create competitive UX design using a large team, but this is not usually the case for SMEs. However, as the whole customer experience usually starts with a visual or user experience, if the UX design of their digital product is lacking, then the company will be at a disadvantage. This makes customer-driven UX design a pressing issue for smaller companies.

Clearly then, UX design holds huge potential for a small business. As the place where marketing and technology meet, small businesses need a strategy to maximise their UX impact at a reasonable cost.

Firstly, research. By understanding rather than guessing your consumers’ needs, you can provide them more specifically with what they want – so  ask them questions. This is where surveys for evaluating user tasks are useful. Use a checkbox format to list all product features you’re willing to provide and limit the maximum number of choices to gain targeted results.

Secondly, after analysing the results, speak to actual customers by phone to gain more information on their priorities which have already been highlighted by the survey. Target questions specifically on their needs to make feedback as meaningful as possible.

Next, perform a heuristic evaluation. This is a UX method used in software design. It helps to identify usability problems and define the efficiency of user interfaces making it very useful for small businesses that don’t have an experienced UX specialist.

The 10 principles of a heuristic evaluation are:

  • Visibility of system status. This keep users informed about what’s happening, appropriately and within a reasonable time. For example, showing the progress of a loading page or app.
  • Match between system and the real world. This means that the system speaks the users’ language in a logical order rather than using technical jargon.
  • User control and freedom. This provides users with an easy way out of a system function such as redo/undo/cancel options.
  • Consistency and standards. This means that wording, UI patterns and conventions are consistent throughout the platform.
  • Error prevention. This involves careful design to remove problems in the first place or at least providing users with confirmation options before they act.
  • Recognition rather than recall. This means show necessary information on the screen where action is taken – don’t expect users to remember from the previous page.
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use. This gives experienced users access to shortcuts and preferences.
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design. The lower the cognitive workload, the easier the user experience.
  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors. This means that error messages should clearly explain the problem and suggest a solution.
  • Help and documentation. This means that if help documentation is necessary then easy, detailed and concrete instructions should be provided.

Next, utilise usability testing to remove bugs and detect other issues. This can be done with as few as five users if you remember to prioritise, so base feature development and implementation on the main common denominator of customer surveys and feedback, not on the customer who has the loudest voice. Focusing on priorities saves time and money.

Keeping UX design simple, clear and quick, will enable smaller companies to connect to their audience in a meaningful and personalised way.

5G and its potential for VR and AR applications.

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It’s reasonable to assume that when 5G has been widely deployed, it could speed up the adoption of AR and VR and stimulate new design opportunities.

The first 5G NR (New Radio) is designed to be the global standard, based around eMBB (Enhanced Mobile Broadband), providing improved download and upload speeds, as well as lower latency than 4G. Though the specifications in 5G NR benefit media applications, for example mobile AR and VR or 4K and 360° video streaming, the bigger benefits have yet to be realised.

Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), which aim for 1ms latency, are the 5G NR component standard scheduled for mid-2020 and are designed for self-driving cars/autonomous vehicles, robot-enabled remote surgery and other latency-sensitive scenarios.

Though average latencies on 5G are likely to be slightly higher than 1ms in the real world, there is nevertheless ample room for 5G URLLC to improve on latency speeds. Taking users of VR headsets as an example, motion sickness can be the result of high latencies between action and response for head movements. Overcoming this would allow AR and VR to be used more widely, and potentially for longer, before users would need a break.

Because we are still in the early stages of the deployment of 5G mobile networks, its practical use in the context of smartphones faces significant obstacles to which AR and VR applications add complexity. Not all 5G networks are equivalent, for example in Asia they rely on sub-6 GHz radio frequencies, whereas in the US most 5G networks are rely on mmWave frequencies which provide faster data speeds. However, they are line-of-sight so obstructions such as large buildings mean access will be lost if the user is moving – clearly impractical in an urban setting.

5G would certainly allow for higher flexibility of use. With 5G, the ability to use AR in outdoor environments without reliable wi-fi signals could expand the types of interactions and integrations that developers can build – in addition to the current common use on smartphones or tablets in museums, or for interior design.

So far so good, but perhaps the biggest issue for potential consumers is cost of data. Unless money is no object, attempting to deliver an AR/VR experience directly to consumers could be limited by cost. Unless mobile network operators offer unlimited service at a reasonable cost, 5G may simply be a way to use up mobile data more quickly – which won’t encourage wider adoption of VR and AR.

Animmersion strengthens growth trajectory with new Business Development Director.

Animmersion UK | User Interface Development | Virtual reality logo

Animmersion has strengthened its management team with the appointment of Virtual Reality (VR) commercialisation specialist Steve Carpenter as Business Development Director.

Relocating to the North East from Oxfordshire, Steve joins the immersive technology company to support its continued growth in UK and international markets.

Steve brings a strong technology background to the role, complementing his extensive sales and marketing experience.

With more than two decades in senior sales management, field sales and product marketing, Steve has delivered blue chip companies and education establishments with solutions to business challenges through advanced 3D visualisation, VR, and graphics-based real-time technologies.

Steve’s industry expertise will support the development of Animmersion’s market presence in sectors including offshore renewables, manufacturing, chemical process and utilities.

The Middlesbrough-based business has become one of the UK’s most established digital visualisation experts, with more than a decade’s experience in producing cutting edge, interactive, experience-driven solutions for industry.

With a team of talented and experienced designers, artists and software engineers, Animmersion provides a range of animation, immersive virtual and augmented reality, holographic and interactive technologies to support customer projects.

Steve Carpenter, Animmersion Business Development Director, said: “Animmersion is at the heart of the growing North East tech cluster and this is an exciting opportunity to join an established and agile company with huge growth potential.  The company has built a very talented team that are utilising leading edge technologies for a cross section of industries in UK and international markets, which is consistently opening up new opportunities to further scale the business.”

Dominic Lusardi, Managing Director of Animmersion, said: “Animmersion has established a presence in a number of key sectors, at home and abroad, and Steve will be instrumental in developing our market share.  Bringing Steve to Animmersion demonstrates the positive reputation the North East’s tech cluster is gaining across the UK and proves that we have the businesses and capabilities in the region to attract the best talent the industry has to offer.”

AI and the future of mobile apps.

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AI has clearly been identified as a technology promising huge potential for business, healthcare, education, finance and many other sectors. In fact, the International Data Corporation has suggested the expected global spending on AI systems to increase to around $79 billion by 2022 compared with around £36 billion today.

One of the most likely areas for the adoption of AI technology is that of mobile apps where it will have a significant impact on personalisation, smart features, convenience and overall user experience – and on adapting to users changing expectations and requirements.

So, how can AI actually improve mobile app development and user experience?

Firstly, by enhancing audience engagement. As user expectations increase, AI, through a highly interactive environment, will analyse user patterns and behaviour to provide an increasingly high quality, personalised, user-centric app experience. The greater the user engagement, the more successful the app is likely to be – the better the app experience, the greater the user engagement.

Secondly, by the increased automation of tasks that can be completed without human intervention. Contrary to some opinion, increased automation will not render human beings obsolete. People will still be required for their design and analysis input however AI technology is likely to support and improve their decision-making process.

Thirdly a unique and personalised user experience, and the ability to prioritise app features, will become the main driver of user engagement. Apps will provide more personal products and recommendations, and more information, based on the user’s preferences, contexts and types of interaction.

AI is considered to be one of the most important technologies in the mobile app industry today and it’s unlikely that its potential regarding mobile apps in the future will decrease.

Why develop a mobile app for your business?

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In August 2019, there were around 2.5 million apps in the Google Play store and around 2 million in the Apple app store. In addition, by 2020, apps are expected to be creating around £472 billion of revenue. Given that 90% of time spent on mobile phones is thought to be using a mobile app, it’s not unreasonable for companies to assume that a mobile app would benefit their business growth.

The premise of a mobile app is to take your services (including those on display on your website) and make them into a less complicated and more easily navigable customer experience – for example, by reducing what may be a two-step enquiry process on the website to a one-step process on the app.

Besides this, mobile apps allow businesses to have a direct access route to customers other than through social media or a website. Push notifications can inform customers of incentives, promotions and events directly.

An app also enables the connection of a business and its social media presence. Twitter and Instagram are easily set up allowing customers to share brand information and experiences with each other and a business. Nevertheless, this is only an effective tool if customers and clients are aware of it and understand the potential of the app’s use – time and budget must be spent marketing the app and highlighting its benefits for the user.

Obviously, once the app is ready to go live it doesn’t mean that the development work stops – maintenance and service work will continue. To keep the app operational, a developer will run updates, test for any potential security breaches, and ensure that the app remains compliant with iOS and Android software rules.

So, a company must be fairly sure they will recoup the cost of developing an app through sales for it to make sense. As mobile apps are usually developed for Android and Apple, it can be an expensive process – especially if the app has any functionality that differs from the website. An app cost-benefit analysis would be prudent before proceeding.

It has been estimated that small businesses are likely to see revenues increasing twice as fast as competitors by using mobile apps. If a business knows its target audience, then developing a mobile app may be the ideal way to engage with them further and more profitably.