AR sign language book for children leads UK’s immersive tech boom

Ten immersive start-ups have been highlighted as part of a government digital scheme, spanning VR training to virtual collaboration solutions.

The first Augmented Reality (AR) British Sign Language (BSL) book for children and a virtual stage-building platform have joined the government’s tech innovation scheme Digital Catapult.

Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme works with promising start-ups that use immersive technology to help bring them to market through workshops and networking.


Using sign language to bridge the pre-verbal gap

Bristol-based start-up Vika Books has designed a children’s book which uses immersive technologies to promote British Sign Language for both deaf and hearing children.

Where is the bird? incorporates AR and Mixed Reality (XR) to encourage pre-speech communication between babies and adults.

Families read the illustrated book, and then use an app to render the pictures in animation. It also has videos on how to act out the sign language.

Where is the bird? from Vika

According to Vika, research shows that early gestures are a “key part of language development” and the book’s tech innovation can help young children express themselves.

“Learning to speak is difficult and can be frustrating for parent and child,” the company says. “Baby BSL helps to bridge the gap, helping children communicate complex concepts earlier.”


The future of live music and animation

Projecting mapping, courtesy of Overview Ark

The range of start-ups is varied. Overview Ark has designed a tool which creates 1:1 replicas of live shows without the need for an extensive knowledge of programming.

Show producers can drag and drop special effects and other performance dynamics so that fans can watch live acts and interact in what the company calls a “hybrid live music role playing game”.

The London start-up recently worked with Dash Radio to bring an interactive music experience to life.

Belfast-based studio Retinize aims to disrupt the field of animation, by creating fast-turnaround software that incorporates immersive technologies. It has worked with the likes of the BBC, National Geographic and BMW.

One project is AR app Museum Team, which created an immersive treasure hunt around the Ulster Transport Museum.


New ways to work

Hololens2 remote meeting platform, from Fracture Reality

Among the ten start-ups, there was a focus on how Virtual Reality (VR) can help facilitate new ways of working. This was also highlighted at CES 2021, where the technology has been given a new relevance as the pandemic has resulted in long-term closures for many offices.

Hove-based Fracture Reality provides XR solutions for remote collaboration, including features like 3D “gestural sketching” and avatars that can be featured in online meetings. It’s already being used by companies such as L’Oreal.

Based in London, Moonhub also offers immersive training with interactive training scenarios which seeks to improve employee engagement.

Meanwhile, Manchester company Evidential uses VR to train police officers with soft and hard skills. It is also developing another product, Golden Hour, which uses AR to help preserve crime scenes.


E-commerce

Two start-ups have produced products in the field of e-commerce. Brighton’s Percept Imagery has designed an AR platform which aims to help retailed personalise online shopping experience by letting them try products in the real work before buying them. Spire is currently used by 13 brands and has registered more than 35,000 “try-ons” per month.

London-based Emperia creates VR experiences in an attempt to improve engagement across the art and luxury fashion sectors. The platform seeks to improve the way products can be realised virtually, and has been used by galleries.


The Augmentor scheme

The Augmentor scheme has been running for four years now. While the majority of start-ups have not raised investment prior to the scheme, the 26 that joined have raised a total of more than £7.5 million in private investment.

The programme was delivered entirely online in 2020, with workshops, mentoring and networking. Previous members of the scheme have achieved success, including Gravity Sketch, the virtual drawing platform Design Week profiled in 2020.

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  • William_tws February 2, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    It’s good to see how the evolution of technology has added some benefits to our work and daily activities as humans and professionals but, I believe that we are moving too fast.

    We need to slow down our interactivity with technology and focus on increasing our empathy and collaboration with each other first. We are at a stage where we have to comprehend the true usefulness of AR/VR, and then decide if we truly need to further adapt on a wider spectrum.

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