‘Sci-fi’ tech at your fingertips

Author: jess.moore@jisc.ac.uk
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Digifest 2020 delegates can get hands-on with available, accessible and affordable technologies that hold huge potential for the education sector.

Thirteen-year-old Harrison and his grandpa were always close – but Harrison suffers from a genetic muscle-wasting disease that made it hard for him to travel from London to Surrey for face-to-face visits. Over the years, his grandpa became less mobile too. They would video call, but Harrison missed his grandpa’s presence in the room.

With GenieMo, that all changed. Using free open source software, accessible hardware and an internet connection, Harrison has been able to interact with a 4D projection of his ‘holograndpa’ for the past two years, enabling the pair to communicate in real time.

Delegates at Digifest 2020 can explore this technology, considering ways in which it could transform teaching and learning. As James Edward Marks, co-founder of PlayLa.bZ, which helped develop GenieMo with Ravensbourne University Research, explains:

“It’s a more memorable experience for Harrison – but the technology also has real educational value. Imagine a tutor working with a student without either of them having to travel onto campus – or an international expert delivering a session to a roomful of students from the other side of the world in a way that’s more real and engaging than watching a screen.”

It might feel fresh from a sci-fi film, but the technology is available, affordable, accessible and sector-relevant.

Further delivering hands-on experiences with the potential to transform education environments and platforms, this year, Jisc has created an immersive digital campus in Hall 3. Benjamin Goodway, Jisc’s creative and multimedia lead, says:

“Digifest isn’t a shop window. It isn’t just about theoretical future-gazing or about showcasing tech that may or may not be of value. It’s a vibrant environment with technology integrated so people can see how it works and see how it would enhance education.”

The innovation dome gives delegates the opportunity to experience life as a student in 2030. Wearing augmented reality glasses, people can walk, unhindered by wires or heavy headsets, and see augmented content as well as their physical environment. While being present in the ‘real’ world, those wearing the glasses can view social media content, interact with a tutor via Holocalls, check their learning progress on an augmented reality student dashboard, and communicate with an AI chatbot. Goodway adds:

“At Digifest 2019, with our virtual reality experience that allowed delegates to see life through the eyes of our imagined student of the future, Natalie, we envisioned how some of this technology could be utilised in education in ten years’ time. In fact, we are now demonstrating it within a year.”

The intelligent campus, meanwhile, shows how ‘smart’ technologies – which are increasingly used in homes and workplaces – can benefit education environments. Sensors placed around the digital campus monitor movement, temperature and light. Delegates can view the information at any of these sensors to see where footfall is greatest, for example. Michael Webb, Jisc’s director of technology and analytics, explains:

“Within a university or college, this technology enables leaders to see how spaces are being used, helping them to maximise value. Digifest 2020 shows intelligent campus technology in action to bring it to life and show how it might be useful.”

This might mean saving money and energy by reducing heating when rooms aren’t being used, or repurposing a room that’s being underused, relieving pressure from busier spaces.

It kicks off early. As delegates enter Hall 3 at 09:50 on 10 March 2020, a ‘loading’ video will count down to the opening of Digifest. This leads into a video, light and hologauze opening that officially reveals the digital campus. Goodway summarises:

“The digital campus is a live demonstration of present and future technologies that we believe can be harnessed by the education sector within the next ten years.”

It’s the sort of advancement that can improve lives – as Harrison, for one, can attest. 

Digifest 2020 logo

Register for Digifest 2020 by 1 March. On the opening day, 10 March, delegates are invited to head to Hall 3 before 10:00 to experience the grand reveal of the digital campus. Throughout Digifest 2020, delegates can try Jisc’s virtual reality experience Natalie 4.0, become a student of the future with augmented reality Magic Leap One glasses, explore the intelligent campus, and create holographic content with GenieMo.

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‘Sci-fi’ tech at your fingertips
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