Disruptive Technology

Animmersion UK | Virtual Reality Developers | Staff

Disruptive technology drives the growth of innovation.

However, it’s not the tech itself that is disruptive, it’s the use of the tech and the way it is applied to disrupt an existing market or industry. By introducing a technologically enabled new service or product, the innovator provides a better or cheaper solution to a widespread consumer need or want and utilises it so that the market changes.

At the turn of the twentieth century the advent of the motor car disrupted transport when subsequent centuries-old use of the horse and cart declined – and cars increased in demand and became more affordable.

Throughout the century technology moved rapidly, and many existing markets were forced to evolve or fail as new ones appeared – Blockbuster Video became the established viewing model and was in turn disrupted by streaming.

Today, technological transformation is incredibly rapid as new platforms such as AI, renewable energy, and robotics evolve concurrently.

AI is set to disrupt all sectors. As deep learning, inspired by the structure of the brain, imitates the way humans gain certain types of knowledge, it may become no longer necessary for humans to programme all software which will speed up industry significantly as less human supervision is required.

Green technology is increasingly influencing the automotive industry as electric vehicles finally become a more realistic mainstream proposition. In this case there is a social as well as technological aspect to the disruption. And inevitably, as costs fall, consumers are willing, battery life and range increases and a reliable charging network develops, electric cars will disrupt the 100 years plus combustion engine model. The question is how long will it be before the electric car market is disrupted in turn? Probably far less than 100 years, but at the moment, the future of the automotive industry is electric, powered by renewable energy which in turn is becoming increasing mainstream having disrupted the fossil fuel model.

The area of robotics appears to be overcoming some consumer resistance and will increasingly operate in many work environments. Industries and businesses that require workflows or physical processes will utilise them more and more as costs come down and capabilities rise. In domestic settings, assistive technology will increasingly support the disabled and elderly to remain independent.

Ultimately, when customers adopt the new, technology-driven products, services, and solutions in great number, disruption of the market has taken place.


From VR adventures to VR learning

Animmersion UK | AR Developers | Business people with AR glasses

VR theatres use virtual reality in the form of headsets and haptics to offer immersive adventure experiences with interactive content from flying or fighting dragons to taking part in undercover spy missions.

For a while, location-based VR entertainment venues have been increasing in popularity and today’s technology is considerably better than it was just a few years ago.

However, the coronavirus has hit the industry badly as many theatres have been forced to close and revenue has dropped away. Dreamscape, one of the best-known VR theatre operations, has addressed this by partially pivoting its offering to provide education and training through their new concept, ‘Dreamscape Learn’.

The ‘Alien Zoo’ experience involved humans touring a wildlife refuge in space in which creatures from around the universe are being saved from extinction. In its new guise a learning platform, Alien Zoo is repurposed as a VR laboratory in which learners collect digital specimens to observe and solve problems experientially, supporting the required coursework taught in biology.

In this way, either in groups or individually, students can explore real-life earth wildlife problems – for example, treating diseases or managing diversity.

The potential for many subjects such as archaeology or architecture to be supported through VR learning is huge, as is the breadth subject matter to be accessed.

As studies have shown that immersive learning experiences can have genuine benefits such as helping memory recall, it’s realistic to expect that with the pandemic-fuelled increase in online teaching, the use of VR as a complimentary and additional teaching and learning tool (from school and education settings to healthcare settings to military training) is a growing market.

Animmersion helps bring Anglo American’s Woodsmith Mine to life

Animmersion is continuing its long-standing relationship with Anglo American and the Woodsmith Project following delivery of a new 3D interactive experience designed to highlight the sustainable design and innovative engineering involved in the construction of the UK’s first deep mine in 40 years.

Visitors to the Anglo-American UK website can now take an immersive tour around the Woodsmith Mine near Whitby, which includes a 23-mile-long mineral transport tunnel linking it to processing and port facilities on Teesside.

Working in conjunction with website developer Investis, Middlesbrough-based digital visualisation specialists Animmersion provided the content for the interactive experience.

Once completed the 1,600 metre-deep mine will exploit the world’s largest known, high-grade deposit of polyhalite, which will be sold round the world as a natural, multinutrient fertiliser. The mine, which is almost entirely hidden beneath the surface, is setting new standards in sustainable mining, and the POLY4 fertiliser product will boast one of the lowest carbon footprints in the industry, while also boosting food production and supporting sustainable farming practices.

Previously, Animmersion delivered a project to visualise the installation of the first 1,800-tonne tunnel boring machine as well as working on a range of accurate 3D animations of the engineering processes and infrastructure to portray key construction stages.

Steven Rushby, Digital Manager of Crop Nutrients at Anglo American, said: “Animmersion has a long-standing relationship with the Woodsmith Project, which reflects our commitment to developing a local supply chain and ensuring local people and businesses benefit from what we are doing.

“This 3D interactive experience has been nine months in the making and we hope that a wide range of audiences will find it engaging and informative, and that it will become

a key communication tool in explaining the unique, innovative and low environmental impact approach we’re taking to develop the mine.

“As a Teesside lad myself, it’s been really rewarding to be able to work with a local company like Animmersion to develop such an innovative, cutting-edge tool.”

Samuel Harrison, managing director of Animmersion UK, said: “We have a long association with the Woodsmith Project, and I’m delighted to continue working with Anglo American to create innovative, engaging, and immersive ways of keeping people informed.

“This is a great example of how we apply our expertise for creating immersive digital experiences to bring complicated subjects to life for diverse audiences.” To explore the interactive map visit: https://uk.angloamerican.com/the-woodsmith-project

Business is embracing AR and VR.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) VR study estimates that VR training will contribute $294 billion to the global economy by 2030. In particular, PwC wanted to test whether VR training had any advantage over other e-learning or classroom approaches when training for soft skills, other interactions, and leadership training.

For the study, a cohort of employees received the same training, but it was delivered to them either through VR, e-learning, or the classroom.

Learning through VR proved to be 4 times faster than classroom learning with learners 4 times more focused than those who were e-learning and 1.5 times more focused than those in the classroom.

Interestingly, those employees learning through VR felt 2.3 times more emotionally connected to the course content than e-learners and 3.75 times more emotionally connected than those in the classroom. Likewise, they felt significantly more confident to act on what they had learned than both the e- and classroom learners.

It is also a scalable and cost-effective way to train – and the larger the scale, the more cost effective it becomes.

According to Jeremy Dalton, Head of VR/AR at PwC,

“Virtual reality will help to drive a new age of learning, development and education by delivering a cost-effective, immersive and efficient experience to train people on both hard and soft skills.”

Whether employees will find VR learning a positive or a challenging experience remains to be seen, though a combination of both is likely. However, the opportunities, enrichment, and benefits afforded to business by the use of VR training programmes are real and are ready to be leveraged now.

It’s no longer the case that AR and VR is the sole preserve of gaming and entertainment. In fact, whilst gaming is one of the primary drivers in the field, the business world is embracing the potential of AR and VR technology as the uses for innovative applications unfold.

For example, AI is increasingly used to automate and streamline the recruitment and hiring process. Machine learning and VR can be used to assess whether job applicants have the necessary skills required for the position whilst collecting behavioural data to establish whether the candidate would fit with company culture. Ideally, these tools should be used to enhance, not replace, the recruitment process. Certainly, it feels like a time and cost-efficient (if somewhat stark) way to streamline the operation where many candidates are involved such as graduate recruitment. However, just as AI cannot actually predict job performance, it cannot really replace the person-to-person interaction when shortlisting and evaluating candidates.

Another area in which business is increasingly turning to augmented and virtual reality applications is for training employees through immersive learning.

Extended reality platforms for training can offer content for process-based and object-based knowledge and for teaching behavioural soft skills like communication and leadership to employees.

Language processing and other AI technologies are used to provide realistic scenarios to work through, delivering rapid reskilling and upskilling for individuals.

Animmersion: Heriot-Watt University uses immersive digital technology to tackle disability bias.

simulation of open-plan offices that can cause difficulties for disabled employees’

A major two-and-a-half-year project using immersive technology to improve the recruitment and retention of disabled scientists has been completed by Heriot-Watt University.

Digital visualisation specialists Animmersion have created two engaging and thought-provoking experiences which form a key part of an extensive training programme that aims to change perceptions of academic managers and key stakeholders.

The Interactive experiences are designed to highlight both unintended and blatant bias around the issue of disability within the academic recruitment and decision-making process.

The first activity simulates a job interview involving a disabled candidate that takes place within a dynamic video conferencing scenario, while the second uses virtual reality to recreate the effect of working in a busy, open plan office for someone living with auditory hypersensitivity.

Various levels and types of responses are explored in each thought-provoking scenario to highlight differing levels of discrimination, responses, and actions – giving decision makers an insight into the largely unintended bias encountered by disabled colleagues within the academic sector.

Both immersive experiences form part of the ground-breaking initiative, Disability Inclusive Science Careers (DISC), which aims to improve the recruitment, retention, and progression of postdoctoral disabled scientists.

Heriot Watt University is leading the initiative, supported by the University of Edinburgh, University and Colleges Union Scotland and the National Association of Disabled Staff.

It has carried out extensive research and many of the immersive encounters use the real-life experiences of disabled staff.

The project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), as part of the Inclusion Matters initiative. It funded 11 projects through Inclusion Matters to accelerate culture change in the wider engineering and physical sciences community with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Previous studies funded by EPSRC concluded that disabled researchers are leaving the profession at the postdoctoral research stage due to specific challenges. These included working in shared offices and labs and the attitudes of line managers and supervisors.

The training programme, due to be launched in August, is designed to ensure that the best scientists remain in the sector and to encourage a more inclusive and sustainable career progression.

Programme Lead, Professor Garry Pender, Heriot Watt University’s Deputy Principal for Research and Innovation said: “The experiential element of the training provided through the immersive reality training has enhanced managers understanding of the challenges facing disabled colleagues. I am sure that this will lead to a positive outcome in the design and implementation of suitable adjustments to the working environment for disabled researchers”

Professor Kate Sang, Professor of Gender and Employment Studies, Director of the Centre for Research on Employment Work and the Professions (CREWS) said: “The immersive virtual reality gaming has added a novel dimension to disability inclusion training, which has excited and engaged managers across all the sectors we have delivered the training in. Managers have been able to experience the real-world scenarios experienced by disabled people and learned about how easily some of the barriers can be removed’

Sam Harrison, Managing Director of Teesside-headquartered Animmersion, said: “It’s certainly a novel approach to use immersive gaming technologies to raise awareness of real-life workplace bias experienced by disabled researchers.

“We are experts in transforming academic material and making it engaging and accessible to wider audiences and our team is proud of its contribution to DISC. We hope it represents a leap forward in promoting a greater understanding of issues surrounding disability in academia.”

Animmersion UK creates space for Tees Valley’s freelance community as it relocates Middlesbrough headquarters

(L-R) Nick Ruddock, 3D Realtime Team Lead; Samuel Harrison, Managing Director; and Andy McAdam, 3D Animation Team Lead

Animmersion UK, the Teesside-based digital visualisation specialist, has relocated its Middlesbrough headquarters following a period of sustained growth for the business.

The company recently completed the move within Middlesbrough’s landmark Boho Zone and has announced plans to use part of its new office space to work collaboratively with local freelancers, once the latest national lockdown measures are lifted.

Animmersion is keen to utilise the skills of Tees Valley’s growing digital freelance community and has created a dedicated space for them to come into the office to work in a covid-secure environment on Animmersion projects alongside the company’s team of designers, artists and software engineers.

The new office also includes a new immersive technology area, featuring VR, AR and holographic technology, and a spacious new boardroom and breakout spaces to welcome visitors.

The new studio and demo areas will help drive innovation, with a space designed for bringing teams together to collaborate on solutions, and provide the opportunity for further innovation and product development.

The move represents another significant milestone for Animmersion and will accommodate its plans for accelerated growth.

Samuel Harrison, Managing Director of Animmersion UK, said: “Although we haven’t move far, we are delighted to have relocated to our new office. Being in amongst some of the UK’s most innovative businesses is important to us, that’s why we wanted to remain part of the Boho community.

“Tees Valley boasts some of the very best digital talent and we have an important role to play in nurturing and developing that talent. Providing the facility for the team to collaborate with local freelancers will enable us to grow the business further.”