I joined Accenture in 2016 and have been working on XR projects since then but for me, the breakthrough one was definitely the National Theatre Smart Caption Glasses. But, before I get on to that, let me give you a quick run-down of some of the other things I’ve worked on.
As a brief explanation, XR stands for Extended Reality and XR is a parent term that is used for three different technologies, which are AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality). As I’m an XR Developer, I get to do fantastic work with all three of these technologies.
A Virtual Boardroom
The first VR project I worked on was a virtual boardroom, where people from opposite sides of the world could have face-to-face meetings via a VR Headset. This experience allowed them to see each other as virtual avatars across a table and you could populate the scene with 3D models and documents – so imagine 10 documents floating in the air that you could pull-in to read - all in the virtual space. It was a fantastic first project to be involved in and it was built by only 2 developers in 3 months.
A World-Class Sporting App
My second developer project was an App for a very well-known sporting tournament. Apart from the immersive and interactive element of a stadium experience populated with players, the real-time analytics in VR made this App stand out. It was certainly a lot of fun to work on and I got to go and watch the tournament in real-time as well!
Consulting on Augmented Reality 3D Models
On another project I had quite a different role as a 3D modelling lead. The Accenture project team had a lot of programmers, but did not have someone who had knowledge of 3D modelling, so they brought me in. It was a big change for me as I was acting more as a consultant. I learnt a lot in terms of new skills and although I do prefer programming, it was a good experience.
Helping young people prepare for their future
On to BecaXR for Save The Children. They asked us to build an app to help improve the learning skills of children in Vietnam. I think the video below gives a great insight into this, and it was a very rewarding piece of work to be a part of.
The National Theatre Smart Caption Glasses
As I mentioned before, for me my ‘breakthrough project’ was one for the National Theatre. I started off as a developer on the team and then grew into a lead developer role on the project. The National Theatre came to us and said they wanted a headset that would display subtitles. If you imagine being hard of hearing and going to the theatre – you likely won’t be able to hear what the actors on stage are saying so you would watch LED screens with subtitles on either side of the stage. This means that for the duration of the play you would be turning your head between the stage and the screens. This is not a good User Experience especially as some people who have difficulty hearing can have issues with the fluids in the ear, so if they keep tilting their head left and right it makes them dizzy.
I started by doing a market scan of all the different VR headsets available, taking into account lots of different criteria: battery life, if the headset could be worn over glasses, the end user experience, and of course the visual quality of the text. We did user testing on the headsets and ended up choosing the Epson Moverio BT-350 AR headset. Apart from the enjoyment I got out of the actual work I did, the best thing was the feedback when the headsets went live, when the people that really have difficulty hearing explained how much it improves their experience. That made me feel very proud. You can watch the video below to see what they said (you may even spot me in the video). I’m also proud to say that National Theatre won two awards at the UK Sponsorships Awards this year. One for 'Arts & Cultural' sponsorship and the second for 'Best use of sponsorship to encourage Diversity & Inclusivity'.
The National Theatre – Small Island VR
I’ve just finished working on a new project for the National Theatre where we’ve built a Virtual Reality experience for a play called Small Island, which is about the life of people who moved from Jamaica to the UK. It is a communal VR experience which was developed for an untethered (no connected wires to a PC/Laptop) headset freeing the user to fully explore the VR experience without limits and sharing that experience with others in real-time. We partnered with Dimension Studio to capture a 3D Holographic video of a singer called Nubiya. Just before people watch the play they have the chance to see the VR experience and walk around Nubiya's 3D Holographic video. It will be released for public viewing in the second week of June 2019.
I doubt that I would get this mix of experience and the chance to work on such ground-breaking projects anywhere else. When I started out in my career, I assumed that I would join a gaming company – that was always my first choice. When the Accenture opportunity came about, to be honest I thought I’d just apply and stay for a year or so to get the big-company experience, then leave and go into the gaming industry. The simple fact is that Accenture is giving me a lot of interesting and diverse projects to work on, so I’m really attached to the company now and with my feet firmly on the ground, here to stay!
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