If you happen to be in London, UK this week and you’re interested in the various applications of virtual reality (VR) outside of entertainment and videogames, then a newly formed Meetup group will be holding its second event tomorrow featuring the Open University and VRFocus’ VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI).
The Meetup group focuses on immersive technology in education, research and training, supported by Jisc, a UK non-profit organisation specialising in digital services and solutions for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills.
Taking place tomorrow will be an event dubbed ‘VR for Good’, with the Open University discussing its Virtual Inclusion project, how it has been received at schools attempting to promote social inclusion values, as well as efforts to tackle bullying of people from different backgrounds.
VRFocus’ own Kevin Joyce will be there to talk about VRDI, our long-running initiative which began back in 2017 as a means to offer support and workshops for underrepresented groups in media and technology, including women, LGBT, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic professionals who are either considering a career in the VR space or simply want to learn more. Joyce will highlight some of the interesting training opportunities out there that attendees could benefit from to get them skilled in XR.
Additionally, Kate Parkinson, co-founder of Also Known As, a storytelling, research and design studio that’s taking real stories and putting them in virtual worlds. She spent 15 years working as a journalist for some of the biggest news networks, covering violent conflicts from Syria and Iraq to Ukraine and the Central African Republic as a foreign correspondent.
For those who would like to attend, please register your interest here. The VR for Good event will take place on Tuesday, 4th June at 6:30pm BST, finishing at 8:30 pm, located at Jisc, 15 Fetter Ln, Holborn, London, EC4A 1BW. For further updates on VRFocus’ VRDI events during the course of 2019, you know where to keep reading.
Although the VR Diversity Initiative is not a hackathon, it very much felt like it during the fourth VR Diversity Initiative if you were a participant taking part in the VR Design workshop. Led by virtual reality artistContinuum, participants were put into teams of three for a day to start ‘project backpack’.
The goal for Continuum was to create three accessible backpacks. Two for individuals with scoliosis and one for a man in a wheelchair. The challenge was, could the teams do it in a single day? Can they use new technologies like 3D scanning and printing? Did team members require certain skills to pull it off?
At all started before the workshop. Continuum knew two individuals with scoliosis. Perhaps a little background knowledge on scoliosis is needed to fully understand the process as well. Scoliosis is when the spine curves to the side. The spine can also twist at the same time. This twisting can pull the ribcage out of position. Although many people have not heard of scoliosis it is not rare. 3 to 4 children per 1000 need specialist supervision (Scoliosis Association UK).
Backpack for Jess
Before the workshop took place, Continuum scanned one of the individuals called Jess. You can see images above how they scanned her and decided where to put the backplate on her back. Continuum then used virtual reality (VR) software Gravity Sketch to design the backplate in 3D. With the help of Barclays Eagle Labs, they 3D printed the plate before the workshop began. The girls who were assigned to create the backpack for Jess came from design backgrounds. Young girls who studied Design or Fashion.
Using the backplate as a blueprint for the backpack, the girls decided to add straps in order to distribute the weight when Jess wore the backpack. This would make it easier to carry heavier items such as shopping. They added a small pink pouch at the front and on the shoulder straps for easy access to items such as an Oyster card, wallet and keys.
Backpack for Jo
Jo is a woman with severe scoliosis and physically attended the VR Diversity Initiative. Her team members had a background in fashion design as well as 3D printing. With Jo being a costume designer for films, all members had a huge amount of previous experiences and skills they could utilise during the workshop. With the help and guidance of occupational therapist Emma Sheppard, the team was able to find what Jo needed the most for her backpack, and the best way to design the backpack.
The team chose to create a small shoulder backpack, that would not rest on the lowest part of Jo’s back, which also happens to be the weakest and most painful part of her spine. They chose to create a shoulder backpack which rested on her left shoulder, which is also her strongest part of her spine. The team decided to make the backpack big enough to fit an iPad, phone and wallet, avoiding the weakest and most painful parts of Jo’s spine.
They created a blueprint for what the 3D printed backplate would have to be for Jo’s back with cardboard, tape and foam. Then used this as the blueprint for the backpack. This backplate would be 3D printed after the workshop to put into Jo’s backpack.
Trolley for Ben Harris
Ben Harris is the Funds Manager for charity organisation Sportsable, which aim to promote and advocate individuals with disabilities but also provide them with help and support for athletics and sports. When he heard about the VR Design workshop he wanted to participate immediately.
With the help of Keith Pamment, Ben worked tried to find an accessible backpack solution for Ben. They quickly realised that a backpack wasn’t quite as useful for people in wheelchairs, simply because of the chair. Instead they opted to with a trolley design, which could easily detach or attach to the wheelchair.
Using Gravity Sketch they created a prototype in VR and then proceeded to use a metal trolley, some tools and 3D printing to build a trolley that would be able to hold up to 25kg. They also made it extendable, allowing the trolley to become smaller or larger depending on what people wanted to use it for.
As Ben showcased the trolley at the end of the day, he explained that this could be used for athletes at his charity. Particularly an individual who competed in archery, and did not have an electric wheelchair. Going onto various terrains was vital, and they proposed having different wheels available as well. Keith also explained that taking part in the VR Design workshop allowed had given him the confidence to potentially find a solution to 3D scan individuals in wheelchairs, materials and allow people in wheelchairs to custom create their own wheelchairs in future using VR and 3D printing as the tools and the means.
Now that the workshop has ended both Jo, Jess and Ben can use these backpack prototypes. Jo uses hers in her everyday life and is extremely happy. Continuum hopes to continue doing more of these workshops in collaboration with the VR Diversity Initiative and is currently looking for companies to donate leftover materials such as cloth or left-over backpacks for future events.
Watch the process and results in this video below:
Inition are no stanger to creating and filming various 360 film content. I met with the creators after hosting a panel on social impact at the Raindance Film Festival UK. ‘Being Me: Revealing and Healing Childhood Trauma’ was shortlisted for best VR film for social impact and was a partnership between Inition and The Cornerstone Partnership. The Cornerstone Partnership wanted to create an immersive therapeutic training tool using virtual reality (VR) to help foster empathy. When the VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI) needed 360 film workshop leaders Peter Collis and Imogen Hammond stepped forward with enthusiasm.
When Inition came on board to teach the 360 film workshop leaders, they first wanted to get an idea of who the participants would be. Before the 19th of October, the participants who chose to participate in the 360 Film workshop were sent several questions before attending.
What previous film-making experience do you have?
What drew you to the workshop and how might VR relate to your current practice / interests?
What are your expectations of the workshop & what would you like to get out of the day?
Depending on the answers from participants, Peter and Imogen tailored their workshop to meet the needs of participants. They also showcased individual case studies of VR films they had made. They allowed participants to view, On the Road to Makin Polio History and I Dream of an Empty Ward on VR headsets they had brought with. They then did a step-by-step process of mistakes they made, what they realised when shooting and how they tried to solve them. This allowed the participants to come to grips with the theory of VR filmmaking and the new cinematic language that comes with it.
The first half of the day was focused on theory, understanding the cameras and the limitations of the current technology. A lot of focus was put on why one would use 360 filmmaking, and what was the right moment to choose this way of filmmaking compared to conventional filmmaking methods.
The second half of the day was more practical. The participants went to shoot with various 360 cameras, putting the camera in various locations and trying out various different actions around it. This hands-on method is integral to the VR Diversity Initiative, as we want all participants to go home with a rough VR prototype after attending. The participants came back at the end of the day and did a few rough cuts of the footage they had shot during the day. Participants from other workshops were also able to see what they had shot in a VR headset at the end of the day.
Some of the participants wanted to get hands-on with the camera and had no knowledge of price range of 360 cameras nor their pros or cons. Others wanted to understand the workflow and language of 360 filming, how it differed to conventional 2D filmmaking. Others wanted to see how professional 360 filmmakers approached their content. To find out more about what took place during the workshop check out the video below:
While there are many ways of recognising achievement, industry awards have long been seen in creative industries as a substantial notifier of talent and commitment. This was the aim of the TIGI Games Industry Awards when it was first run seven years ago, and has since evolved into one of the most prestigious awards in the UK videogame industry.
VRFocushas been fortunate enough to be recognised for its work, being shortlisted among ten other nominees in the ‘Diversity’ category.
The full list of Diversity Award candidates is as follows:
Amiqus – Putting the G into Gaming Campaign
BAME in Games
Curve Digital Publishing Ltd– Bomber Crew
Curve Digital Publishing Ltd– For the King
D’Avekki Studios – The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker
IHDC – Gaconf
Legendary Games – The Island: Survival Challenge
Ninja Theory – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The TIGA Game Awards has 30 categories, recognising achievement in all aspects of videogame creations, from audio to visuals and also recognises small studios with their own category.
VRFocus has been shortlisted thanks to its commitment to diversity, of which the involvement in the VR Diversity Initiative plays a vital part.
The VRDI is a series of one-day events which allows participants from under-represented groups to become involves in various aspects of immersive technology and the creation of VR or AR content.
The next VRDI workshop is due to take place on 19th October, 2018 and will be hosted by Plexal at the Technology Innovation Centre in London. Participants will be able to get hands-on with high-end VR headsets, 360-degree cameras and VR-ready laptops and benefit from expert guidance from leaders in VR content creation. Further information can be found on the VRDI Sign-up form.
The 2018 TIGA Games Industry Awards ceremony will be held on 1st November at the Guildhall in London. Further information can be found on the TIGA website.
For future coverage of VR and AR-related awards and initiatives, keep checking back with VRFocus.
The last VR Diversity Initiative (VRDI) held on the 31st July was a huge success, with 80% of participants rating the workshop excellent. The VRDI is a one day free event for participants from under-represented groups and has grown in popularity amongst individuals looking to learn practical 360 film, Unity and Web VR skills.
Plexal hosted their second VR Diversity Initiative which ensured a relaxing, open and accessible space for learning. One attendee commented: “I found the atmosphere extremely good. The people teaching extremely giving and understanding of the different levels of people. The attendants extremely willing to learn. Perfect combination to make it a pleasurable experience.”
At the July session there were three workshops, each focusing on different XR elements. Asha Easton of Haptic Media, led the 360 film workshop. Teaching some basic theory of 360 filmmaking at the beginning of the day and providing a camera for the second part for participants to go and film their own projects with. Sam Perrin, director of Virtual Vault has been a returning Unity workshop leader, and taught the Unity VR workshop on his birthday. Setting up a rough project in Unity, which the participants had to re-create on their own laptop stations and HTC Vive Headsets. Ada Rose Cannon and Jo Franchtti, both Developer advocates helped participants create a project for Web VR. The final products could all be experienced using the Oculus Headsets.
VRDI aims at trying to make VR accessible for everybody, and the July workshop had many attendees attend who wanted to learn a new skill for the future, start their own company or incorporate it into their existing business. Marc Bond, a participant who has hydrocephalus & cerebral palsy, attended with his assistance dog, Neo. He said: “I felt confident coming to this workshop because for the first time I wasn’t the only disabled attendee. There were significant disabilities here for a change, people in wheelchairs, people that had visible conditions so for me it was fantastic.”
Ben Harris, SportsAble’s Community Fundraising Manager said, “it was the best day I’ve had in years”. After taking part in the 360 film workshop, he’s now bought four 360 film cameras and will be using them as a teaching aid to teach basketball classes to individuals with disabilities.
The second VR Diversity Initiative held on the 8th of May at Plexal City in Stratford allowed participants to not only learn how to create 360 film and Unity, but mixed reality (MR) as well. Since the launch of the VR Diversity Initiative, we can now see that the majority of under-represented groups come from women with attendees making up 58% of the participants.
Most of the participants came from a creative background, with the majority wanting to learn how to incorporate VR and AR into their work. So far, the feedback has been incredibly positive with 76% of past participants saying they now feel more confident in pursuing a career in XR. All of them have recommended the VR Diversity Initiative to anyone who wants to take their first steps towards a career in XR. The VR Diversity Initiative continues to try and create an impact in the new immersive space of VR. We had a large variety of participants, all coming from under-represented backgrounds and all wanting to learn more about VR, 360 film or Mixed Reality.
The aim of having all students create a rough VR prototype whether it be a 360 film or rough working VR Unity project led to four 360 films to be made, and every member of the Unity group create their personal Unity project. Kyaw Tun Sein, one of the Unity workshop leaders says, “The impact of VRDI is huge. After just a few hours people who had never touched Unity before before developing a project with confidence.”
The event also had Mixed Reality being taught by DoubleMe, where participants were able to experience Holoportation with the Microsoft Hololens. At the end of the workshop, participants and workshop leaders discussed what they learned, and try or view each other’s projects. Some of these projects can be seen on the VR Diversity Initiative’s website.
Although this is only the third VR Diversity Initiative, success stories are already starting to come from past participants. After its success, the third VR Diversity Initiative will be held at the same location on the 31st of July 2018 at Plexal City. To sign up please click here.
If you’ve been following VRFocus for a while now you should likely be aware of our involvement in what is called the Virtual Reality Diversity Initiative – or VRDI for short. The scheme, first announced just over a year ago, was initially headed up by Catherine Allen and with ourselves at VRFocus and a number of other partners it put of a special one-day production bootcamp for those who wish to become involved with the virtual reality (VR) industry. A combination of talks from experts in immersive technology and hands-on workshops.
It is a little bit more than just that. VRDI exists to provide not just opportunities but some support to under-represented groups in the media and technology industry. Including LGBTQ+, women, Black, Asian, people with disabilities, people from lower income backgrounds and other under under-represented groups. It’s there to give people who have received bad experiences, been convinced they can’t – or at worst ‘should not’ – get involved in tech. We often reiterate here that VR is for everyone, VRDI is there to fly that flag.
VRDI is now headed by our own Nina Salomons, and at this very moment the second VRDI event of the year is in progress at Plexal, an innovation centre in East London previously part of the London 2012 Olympic Games complex – and the largest innovation ecosystem on the continent. As with February’s event, VRDI are running through workshops and talks and on this occasion the team there are live streaming a 360 degree video showing just what’s going on.
VR itself can benefit from such diversity too.
“The VR Diversity Initiative is important to the VR, AR and MR scenes simply to grow the influence we have on the kind of content that becomes available down the line.” Explained VRFocus Editor Kevin Joyce, following February’s event.. “There are only so many ideas and so many unique proposals that can come in terms of content from a narrow background. There’s a very high risk of slipping into the same rut that the games industry is in where they’re now crying out for people from diverse backgrounds. The VR industry being so youthful has the opportunity to get it right from the start.”
You can see the stream, hosted by DoubleMe, Inc., below.
The VR Diversity Initiative is a not-for-profit organisation. Led by Nina Salomons it aims to bring under-represented groups into the virtual reality (VR) space. This is done by offering selected participants an opportunity to get free hands-on with learning how to create a 360 film, or build a VR experience in software such as Unity. Several VR Diversity Initiative events have been planned for 2018, however the first one was hosted at Hobs Studio. Hobs Studio is the largest 3D printing company in the UK, and uses both VR and augmented reality (AR) for their projects. Amy Chao and Nina Salomons discuss the important of bringing under-represented groups into the space and how they hope to make the VR Diversity Initiative grow to help create a more inclusive space.
The VR Diversity Initiative had various supporters ranging from Barclays Eagle Lab, Innovate UK, Fred, the Realities Centre and Blue Hire to name a few. Twenty participants from under-represented groups were chosen to participate and learned how to create a 360 film as well as the basics of Unity.
Chao says, “It’s super exciting to be here with the VR Diversity Initiative. Seeing so many people from diverse backgrounds and talents coming together, wanting to see how they can explore VR to create and innovate in their work.” She describers her personal background in design led her to see how various industries were overlapping and how she got involved in the VR Diversity Initiative in the video below.
VRFocus are keen on continuing the VR Diversity Initiative. Kevin Joyce, the CEO and editor of VRFocus explains that, “there’s a very high risk of slipping into the same rut that the games industry is in where they’re now crying out for people from diverse backgrounds. The VR industry being so youthful has the opportunity to get it right from the start.” He explains in further detail how VRFocus will be supporting it here.
The VR Diversity Initiative Kick-off event was an example of how future events will be held. Salomons says, “it’s really great to see there’s so many diverse people from different backgrounds who’ve come from outside of London to come specifically for this event.” The first event was a stepping stone to understanding how to improve the workshops in future to make it bigger and better. Salomons also hopes that by doing various VR Diversity Initiative events around the UK that they’ll be able to create and build a community that can help support one another on their journey into the industry.
If companies, developers or want to help support the Initiative please get in touch with the Nina Salomons.
The VR Diversity Initiative 2018 VR Kick-Off! was hosted by Hobs Studio, the largest 3D printing company in the UK that utilises VR, AR and 3D printing for large projects. Having their own academy, and supporting Hobs Studio with their academy, the Realities Centre supported the VR Diversity Initiative with hardware, set-up and making sure everything worked during the event. All of the PC’s were provided by BlueHire whilst the Realities Centre helped provide some headsets.
“We are joining VRFocus and Hobs Studio and lots of other amazing supporters for their virtual reality diversity initiative, which is something that is very close to our hearts. There’s a lack of talent in virtual reality,” says Gere. He believes there’s a real potential for individuals to get jobs in sectors or roles that they’re unaware of such as 3D artist or 3D printing artist. The Realities Centre and Academy Class have a VR bootcamp already, and are helping support Hobs Studio with their #FutureSkills programs.
“We’re looking to have a lot more events like this ourselves at the Realities Centre, we also have an academy where we have been teaching how to use VR and AR, and how to make applications such as there’s Hololens as well which is the mixed reality (MR) one, and we’re looking also to grow the VR Diversity Initiatives and help people,” Gere confirms.
VRFocus announced the VR Diversity Initiative campaign for 2018 at the beginning of this year. Aimed at bringing under-represented groups into the XR spaces, the VRDI is very hands-on and workshop oriented. This, naturally, requires a decent amount of space to support room-scale virtual reality (VR). The first event of the campaign, the VR Diversity Initiative 2018 VR Kick-Off! was hosted by Hobs Studio, the largest 3D printing company in the UK. The kick-off was successful with twenty-participants braving the snow and travel disruptions to attend and learn how to create a 360 film or VR experience in Unity. VRFocus asked Kadine James, the 3D Lead at Hobs Studio, about the importance of diversity in technology.
Hobs Studio may be the largest 3D printing company in the UK, but they also specialise in both VR and augmented reality (AR). The VR Diversity Initiative was able to use a space within the studio, enabling participants to also explore what Hobs Studio, and potentially join their academy. Hobs Studio is situated on the Here East campus in London, a creative hub where thousands of start-ups and tech giants are situated.
Previously James explained how Hobs Studio is already supporting diversity with their #FutureSkills programs, offering learning and development opportunities to boost skills and fast-track women and those from lower income backgrounds into the tech industry. “We’re working with women across multiple diverse backgrounds and from the LGBT community and giving them hands-on training in producing their own VR content”.
Many participants were not only inspired by what Hobs Studio were doing for women but were also interested in continuing their learning at Hobs Studios after VRDI. James is passionate about getting more women involved in technology, “We believe the work that VR Diversity is doing is incredibly important. We want to ensure that everybody is invited to participate in the conversation, making sure women are included. social and economically.”
To find out more about how Hobs Studios are encouraging people from diverse backgrounds into technology watch the video below.