There are few things that fuel my passion more than new and disruptive technologies, so when the opportunity arose to organise and run the C5 Alliance stands at the Jersey TechFair 2016, I jumped at the chance.
I worked alongside a team of enthusiastic and like-minded colleagues and together we spent several months thinking about how we could make the event a success. We asked ourselves three main questions: why were C5 taking part in the TechFair? Who would our audience be? What could we exhibit?
These questions provided us with a good starting point and we began brainstorming ideas. We decided C5’s presence at the TechFair would lend focus to two key areas: recruitment and innovation. We felt that focusing on these areas would best show the positive, enthusiastic and entrepreneurial spirit that C5 brings to the local business community. Pinpointing our audience was a little trickier, as the TechFair caters for all ages. Our concepts therefore had to incorporate ideas that would be sure to capture everyone’s imaginations, appealing to people of all ages and levels of knowledge, rather than focusing on a specific demographic. Of course, the big question on everyone’s minds was what exactly would we exhibit? At C5 we work with some truly fantastic state-of-the-art tech, so we had a lot to choose from! We knew we needed something fresh and exciting. Something with a distinct ‘wow’ factor. As luck would have it, I have been working on a number of transformational technologies this year and the TechFair provided the perfect opportunity to showcase these ideas to a wider audience.
Virtual Reality (VR)
For our first display we set up a Minecraft experience which allowed us to demonstrate the latest VR technology with Vive. This gadget transports the user into a fully immersive audio, visual and movement tracked environment, providing the user with the ability to move in real time. This removes the effect of motion sickness and creates a tangible connection between the user and the VR setting. We chose Minecraft because it is owned by our partners Microsoft and a great example of innovative VR tech but above all, it is a lot of fun! This proved to be a crowd pleaser and it was nice to see a queue of both adults and children waiting to step into this virtual world throughout the event. We were even fortunate enough to have the States of Jersey Police on hand to check it was safe and free from baddies!
AR allows us to augment a real-world view with computer-generated content through a digital interface. At the TechFair allowed we demonstrated a number of different examples of this exciting tech including the new Astro Tim app, which brings a 4D version of British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake into the real world. However, our most popular example of AR was our interactive Pudsey Bear colouring stand. This was great for young kids as they could come over and colour in their own Pudsey and we even ran a competition for the best design. While colouring is fun, this exhibit also had a tech twist! Through an app called Quiver, we brought the artist’s own Pudsey Bear to life in full 3D. This allowed the younger audience to interact with AR in a new way and an amazing 150 participants entered our competition, showing how powerful this technology could be for education, learning and engagement. My biggest takeaway from this event was seeing the complete astonishment of teachers, parents and kids who had not seen this technology before and were blown away by the magic of AR.
A big congratulations goes to Miss Read’s Year 4 Class at Grand Vaux School who won a PowerUp 3.0 smartphone controlled paper aeroplane, modelled below by Pudsey Bear himself.
Mixed Reality (MR)
After months of waiting and following a delivery from the US, we were also able to demonstrate MR via the Microsoft HoloLens. MR is the big brother of VR and AR and is widely considered the biggest tech game changer since the launch of the iPhone. This interactive technology involves merging the physical and virtual worlds so that they co-exist in real time. Those who visited our MR stand were astounded by the seamless nature of the holographic content integrated into the real-world environment. MR is very different from Google Glass, which simply projected onto a two-dimensional lens. The HoloLens provides depth of field, spatial awareness and perspective, meaning the objects exist in your view just like a real object. You can walk around MR objects, look at them from different angles and inspect up close. People of all ages were impressed by MR’s boundless possibilities, intuitive interface and natural organic feel.
We also got to demonstrate the artificial intelligence, cognitive learning and IoT technologies that we have worked with and developed for our clients. These included the States of Jersey Bus Tracker App, which provides real-time bus movements across all of the Liberty Bus network and the States of Jersey multi-storey car park availability service, which provides real-time parking space availability across car parks in St Helier. It was great to share these useful services with members of the public that were unaware of their existence and felt they would truly aid their daily travel journeys.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time at this year’s TechFair and the level of attendance on both days indicates that islanders have a true passion for embracing modern technology. The event was a great opportunity to raise curiosity and engage with all ages on the exciting and ever-changing tech landscape. It enabled us to showcase some of the cutting-edge technology that we get to work with at C5 and allowed us to share our experiences. I hope our TechFair exhibits helped to encourage both those considering changing their career paths and the younger generation to seriously think about the digital industry as a future career option.