Digilab Carol

I recently went to another Digilab event at the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons. It was a fantastic event (as they all are) and here is a  special seasonal run down of what was happening.

On the 1st day of December, Digilab showed to me…*

* Numbers may be wildly inaccurate. 

12 people enthusing

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11 Vochleas recording

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10 Beasts a-balancing

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9 Quadbots scuttling

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8 Curiscopes a-scanning

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7 Virtual bombs disposing

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6 Robots dancing

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5 hours of Vive

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4 The FTR gloves

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3 Onty friends

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2 Virtuali-tees

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and some brain research for a PhD!

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Exciting Award for Digilab

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Lorraine and Ros with a LIBER mug

Congratulations to Lorraine Beard and Ros Bell who won an award at the the LIBER 2016 conference for the abstract “Digilab: experiment, play, learn”, which won one of three Library Innovation awards.

LIBER includes more than 400 national, university and other libraries from over 40 countries and is the main network for research libraries in Europe. This year the conference was in Helsinki, where Lorraine accepted the award on behalf of Digilab

Digilab, which is just beginning its third year, is an opportunity to allow the students (and staff) of the University of Manchester to explore new technologies through a number of events and workshops.

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An informative slide from the abstract.

Ros is the project manager for Digilab and Lorraine is the project sponsor. I asked them why they thought Digilab stood out from the crowd.

“Libraries don’t tend to be doing this sort of thing. The Universities are, but it’s far rarer for a Library to be taking the lead.”

“Also one of the conference themes this year was The Library as laboratory, so Digilab fitted right in.”

And what is next for Digilab?

“Do it again, more!”

“We’ll be looking at moving Digilab away from the early experimental project stage and we have a steering group looking at how to keep the momentum going.” 

DigiLab Staff Event

Earlier this week DigiLab ran an event for staff. The DigiLab student events have been highly popular, allowing University of Manchester students to access new and exciting technology and to showcase how this technology could be used to enable new types of research and facilitate learning. This time it was an opportunity for our IT and Library staff to have a look at the sort of technology that DigiLab demonstrates.Digilabstaff3

Google cardboard was extremely popular, with people especially enjoying jumping at the horror clips they could explore. Nearby, however, calmness reigned as staff tried out the Muse headbands that had been used as part of our Exam Extra program. Muse is an exercise in mindfulness that involves the headband reading brain signals as the user tries to concentrate on their breathing while listening to waves that react to their thoughts.

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Also on display was the Oculus Rift, the Leap Motion and a 3D printer in action making (amongst other things) plastic chain mail and a cute orange octopus. It was good to get a look at the technology and it wasn’t long before cross-technology experiments were under way to see how calm a person was using the Muse while listening to the soundtrack to a Google cardboard horror clip.

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BBC Visit – An inspiring afternoon for the Innovation Group

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We were lucky enough yesterday to tour the new BBC Media City base. The purpose of the visit was to assess the organisation’s use of new technologies and to spotlight how the BBC’s focus on innovation has transformed the working environment for staff and visitors alike.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the “Blue Room”. Staff here are keen to demonstrate a range of new consumer technology trends, all with the intention of bringing them to the attention of the BBC’s editorial, technical and management teams. Of special interest was the new Lytro photography software platform, which upgrades the way image-takers are able to edit and compose their shots in both pre and post production. Equally exciting was the revolutionary Actioncam360. This is a camera which allows (via its 360 degree mirror and lens system) filmmakers to easily capture 360 degree video footage.

In addition to the new technology on show there was ample opportunity to explore the extensive variety of meeting rooms and breakout spaces available to BBC staff. These have radically changed the way they are now able to engage with colleagues.

Of course no trip to this new TV base would have been complete without a visit to the BBC Breakfast Studio and we were pleased to be offered a cup of coffee and a chance to make ourselves comfy on the famous red sofa.

Many thanks to all involved in organising the visit and to the BBC themselves for such a warm welcome.

The Future of Oculus Rift, According to the Man who Invented It

(Not Nick – its just a picture of him wearing the head-set)

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If anyone knows what’s going to happen to virtual reality it’s Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR and inventor of the Oculus Rift.

Looking way, way into the future Palmer sees a very different kind of Rift to the current set up full of wires and straps. “In the long run these headsets aren’t even going to be plugging into PCs, they’re going to have dedicated chip sets on the headset itself that are able to render a lot of different experiences……….(Read More)

Healthy Innovation

Photo by Kate Ter Haar

There are all sorts of innovations out there designed to encourage people to improve their health.  Some of the more interesting ones are stickK– a system that encourages people to reach health goals by paying money to disliked charities or friends if a health goal isn’t reached; and Zombies, Run! which turns jogging into a game that requires the occasional burst of speed to outpace the hungry dead. A recent browse through articles on the Wired website showed some of the current health related applications of technology, some of which might be useful in the Library.

This app locates the nearest “Good Samaritan” and allows them to respond or allow the emergency to pass to the next 1st aider. This is in addition to calling 999, and the help of a first responder could increase the chance of a person surviving by administering CPR.

But Wired also included an article about recent research that suggests CPR may not be as helpful if the person attempting CPR has gained their knowledge using non-traditional methods.

One technology being investigated in China at the moment recognises signs of extreme stress and aims to use it to prevent criminal attacks. This is still very much at the early research stage and impossible to use in real time with current wearable technology. However, theoretically, this type of technology could be broadened in the future to identify people suffering from high levels of stress and offer help. Could this be useful to students suffering from stress at exam time? Allowing staff to approach with information about Wellbeing activities or Nightline cards? Obviously this brings up issues- would using this sort of technology be considered an unacceptable invasion of privacy? Or by the time the technology is up to speed would this sort of “intrusion” be considered normal? Quite a lot of questions are posed about the ethics of current wearable technology and there is due to be a panel discussion on the subject at the Digilab launch on Thursday, 16 October at Learning Commons for anyone interested.

Photo by Kate Ter Haar (Flickr)