Track to the future, with Hull Uni and VISR

The University of Hull and VISR have teamed up to fast-track the adoption of cutting-edge tech via a Mixed Reality Accelerator programme

The University of Hull and graduate tech company VISR are developing mixed reality (MR) technologies for business. 

Earlier this month, the University of Hull began the world’s first Microsoft HoloLens summer school, a programme formulated to help industry fast-track the adoption of MR and assist computer science and digital media students in becoming experts in this new field of computing. 

During the nine-week course, participants are working on projects looking to radically change the way businesses operate by improving communication, efficiency, safety and product quality. 

Leila Martine, Microsoft’s Product Marketing Director, said: “In this era of profound digital disruption, the majority of industries will experience significant change within two years. It is therefore vital that technology partners and universities come together to create a streamlined approach for the creation of meaningful proof of concepts, which can be quickly tested and have return-on-investment validated in a way that can then be taken forward by an organisation and integrated into their existing business processes.”

“The University of Hull and VISR’s Mixed Reality Accelerator is a clear example of this and is a genuinely important partnership. As a result of the programme, I expect to see groundbreaking spatial computing experiences with demonstrable impact.”

“Critically, the practical digital skills training that University of Hull students receive will not only help their employability prospects but also ensure that UK companies get state-of-the-art talent to transform the way we create, collaborate and explore in the future.”

John Hemingway, Director of ICT at the University of Hull, said: “As a University, it’s important for us to not only lead from the front when it comes to cutting-edge technologies, but also to look at how those technologies allow us to create ever more skilled and work-ready graduates.” 

“We believe strongly in the potential offered by programmes that involve not just education, but also industry and private business as well. The Mixed Reality Accelerator is a great example of this.” 

Louis Deane, a University of Hull graduate who co-founded VISR, one of the earliest Microsoft Mixed Reality partners in Europe, used the example of a car workshop to explain how the technology could impact working lives. 

“The car engineer of the future is going to work very differently to the way they work today. It’s exciting because, fundamentally, the task of repairing vehicles has operationally been the same for decades and we have an opportunity to change it.”

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“The engineer can now work in an environment where, as they approach a vehicle, the HoloLens can recognise where the work has to be carried out and provide direct visual instructions overlaid on the car. Pair this with intelligent devices, such as robots, that bring the exact required parts and tools so they’re at hand and work with the technician to make them more efficient, and suddenly you’re looking at huge increases in cost savings and productivity.” 

“In order to make this a reality you need three key things: devices capable of providing this kind of smart data, a platform powerful enough to do something meaningful with it, and people skilled enough to author such a system. In Hull we have all three. It is exactly this type of innovative disruption that has made global businesses really sit up and take notice. The fact that it also perfectly aligns to Industry 4.0 and its principles only adds to the excitement around it.”

“During the nine week course, participants are working on projects looking to radically change the way businesses operate by improving communication, efficiency, safety and product quality.” 

Companies already signed up to the Mixed Reality Accelerator include car maker Audi, global drinks brand AB InBev, energy company Centrica, and India-based digital learning experts, LearningMate.

Audi is looking to use technologies like VERTX, and visual and spatial computing, to improve context awareness and workflow in order to support its technicians. 

“For us, it is a great opportunity to bring our experience and vision of future use cases in contact with the experts in the different fields, added with the creativity and knowledge of the team at the University,” said Jan Pflueger, Coordination AR & VR, Center of Competence AR & VR at Audi AG. “The intention and goals of the initiative are a perfect fit for our activities and we are looking forward to working together.” 

Centrica’s aim is to develop an initial use case to deploy HoloLens capability within Centrica Storage, which produces and processes gas from the Rough gas field located 18 miles off the coast of East Yorkshire. It plans to use the technology to develop 3D modelling of the Easington gas terminal to improve safety and efficiency. 

Gus Carroll, Chief Engineer for Centrica, said: “In the first instance, we see great potential for HoloLens technology in terms of driving operational excellence, but we also see many opportunities for it across the entire business to meet the changing needs of our customers.” 

AB InBev, meanwhile, is looking to explore, create and receive user feedback on a mixed reality use case linked to business areas including supply chain, commercial, marketing and people. 

Darren Armitage, Innovation & Analytics Dir (Europe), Solutions, said: “AB InBev is excited to support an innovative and unique initiative like this that exposes us to new ways of working and new partners.”

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