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How Are Modern Businesses And Industries Using VR?

You might not know it yet but VR is creeping into all aspects of our lives. Businesses are leading the way, with industries like construction and medical using it to train better and work more efficiently. Sam Watts is Director of Immersive Technologies at the Brighton-based Make Real; they create a wide range of VR products and experiences for companies small and large, including Lloyd’s Bank, EDF and Mcdonald’s. We called him to discuss this brave new world and the often mind-boggling ways companies are embracing this technology.


Hey Sam. VR is still uncharted territory for many businesses. How much of your job is managing expectations?

There’s a lot of that but it’s also really important to find valid use cases. There’s been a lot of hype around VR and some people just want to tick off that particular type of innovation. For us it’s crucial that the market and user base continues to grow, but that we ensure the content we create is a valid use for VR.

Oculus Quest [a successor to Facebook-owned VR headset Oculus Rift]has now been released. How much difference will this make to VR adoption?

It makes a huge difference as it removes some barriers to entrance that typically put people off. Beforehand you needed a high-end PC or laptop to run a headset and you needed external sensors for the full VR experience. So there was a lot of clutter and cables. But now the computer is in the headset and it has inside-out tracking – cameras on the headset that are constantly scanning the geometry of the surroundings to determine its position in the world whilst tracking the hand controllers – so it’s all ready to go.


VR is regularly used as a training tool, isn’t it?

The most obvious training use of VR is the ability to place people in a world that is representative of a sector or aspect, but the training can be carried out safely because there’s no danger of them hurting themselves. This could be a nuclear reactor, say, or a construction site. It also saves money because you don’t have to interrupt day-to-day work with people training onsite. You can also add an element of consistency because the experience is the same each time. People will need onsite training eventually but you will be able to reach a base level quicker.

And what about meetings?

Global companies will often spend a lot of money flying regional heads of office to meetings. That’s a lot of costs, a lot of time and high environmental impact. So there’s applications – like rumii or ENGAGE – where you can don your headset, join a private room and have your 3-D avatar represent you in a meeting with people from across the world. With the available head, hand and individual finger tracking, you start to recognize people in VR from their natural movements and the nuances of their subconscious gestures.

Presumably one day this could be used in schools?

Yes, it could be education-focused for schools. Everyone could go, say, into a 3-D model of the Great Pyramid.

What other industries could utilize it?

Architects have and the visualization of buildings from 2-D to 3-D has been commonplace. It’s a natural progression from reading something on a screen to actually stepping into that building. You can do everything at 1:1 scale so you can understand where the design might not work. The light might be cut off in a certain way or the overall aesthetic – the feeling you’re trying to create when someone enters the building – isn’t achieved.

If we’re walking around buildings, could estate agents use it?

Yes, you can create a 3-D scan of a house or building and visit from an office rather than having to meet people every time


The ability to view someone else’s environment could also be a powerful tool for change?

Absolutely. You can put an individual in someone else’s shoes and help them understand their viewpoint and position. It can help us all to be more accepting of each other’s beliefs and situations.

And what about the medical industry ?

Also, cadavers are expensive so VR can enable trainee doctors nurses to get some training before working on actual bodies. Again it’s about getting to that base level of knowledge.

How much must we be aware of people’s physical and emotional safety when using VR?

It’s a powerful sensation: giving up your sight and sound and touch, to a degree, in this simulated environment. It’s very important that if there’s strong messages or themes that you make people aware of potential triggers. You have to verbalize everything and you need a safe space because the person in the VR could be walking around flailing their arms and not aware of their surroundings – they might end up punching someone else in the head!

That’s no good to anyone. Thanks Sam!

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How Local Businesses and Charities Can Work Together

How Local Businesses And Charities Can Work Together

Brand activism is one of the most overused corporate buzz phrases of recent times. As the public becomes evermore likely to spend their money with companies proclaiming a social conscience, so big businesses are tripping over each other to align themselves with a deserving cause. But consumers are increasingly savvy and can sniff a cynical marketing ploy long before they’ve even opened up their Instagram.

Fortunately, living and working in Brighton, we at PLATF9RM see businesses reaching out to charities for all the right reasons: the city is a hotbed for community projects and company owners doing their best to support them.

We spoke to a couple of PLATF9RM members about their work with local organizations, how they’ve made it a part of company culture, and got some advice for businesses looking to do the same.


Brighton has a thriving community spirit, so we spoke with Vicki from @FuguPR and @Emma_Betty about how local businesses and charities can work together. 🙌

Viki Hughes - Fugu PR

Fugu’s emphasis on community is something that’s very visible. Where has that come from?

Having a positive impact has become a central part of our company culture – it’s a team thing. As we have grown, we’ve taken the time to look at things that are important to us. We want to look after each other and help build local communities.

How have you put that into practice?

We try to make sure our values inform our decisions and we look at ways of helping where we can. Sometimes this can be hard when faced with the pressures of the day to day, so we provide allocated time to work on some of the things we feel passionate about. These have included projects for charities, such as Same Sky, Little Green Pig and Brighton Housing Trust. Our support can either come in the form of pro-bono work – offering our communications expertise and network – or as an advisor trustee, and sometimes it’s a more straightforward cash donation.

How do you decide on your method of support?

By listening to what people need and thinking about how best we can help. For instance: with Brighton Housing Trust we helped create a Christmas fundraising video because they really needed donations at that time. We were also thinking of taking hot drinks to homeless people in winter but they suggested we help fund the supplies they need at First Base – their drop-in centre in Seven Dials - so we now make a regular donation to pay for their coffee supplies year-round.

Surely time is an issue? You have a business to run…

We want to run a healthy and sustainable business, but there are more ways to measure success than just profit. We have developed a model that hopefully allows us to stay true to our values whilst keeping things rolling along!

How should local companies get involved with charities?

Just get out there and do it! There are lots of gatherings and meet-ups where there will be people crying out for help. Or just reach out in an email.


Emma Lewis-Griffiths (aka Betty) – [The Social Club][1]

[1]: http://www.jointhesocialclub.co.uk/

Can you detail some of the pro-bono projects you’ve helped, and what the work entailed?

Last year I worked with the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. They were launching their Community Kitchen and their goal to reduce loneliness and isolation could only be achieved with the success of their paid-for cookery classes. We developed ideas and I helped bring in some of the city’s best chefs for masterclasses. Together we developed a week of launch events and they got some great exposure. It’s amazing how they’re doing a year on.

You’ve been building The Social Club from the ground up over the last three years. How/why did you make the decision to divert some of your time and energy to community projects?

Once of the main reasons I went freelance was because I wanted to work with some smaller, under-resourced organisations that can’t afford a normal PR day rate. A lot of the best projects come from people that are passionate about things but don’t have the money behind their idea to really make it work. I have a network of amazing people in Brighton and I wanted to be able to offer the right people access to it.

Do you think there’s been a tangibly positive effect on your business as a result of your pro-bono work??

The best thing about doing pro-bono work is you’re doing it because you’re passionate about the project. You obviously need to set expectations and agree on how you can support, but ultimately any opportunities to meet new people and make new connections has a positive impact on the work that you do. It’s a great opportunity to get a really positive case study too!

What must companies do to ensure that consumers don’t see through company charity work and/or activism as some cynical attempt to “appeal to millennials”?

The most important thing is to choose the project or charity that means the most to you. You have to be passionate about the cause, believe in the work, and be true to yourself.

What would you suggest to any Brighton businesses looking to get involved with community projects?

Do it! There are so many amazing initiatives happening in the city that I hear about daily. Smaller organisations often don’t have time to even think about areas of work that they aren’t experts in. If you’re not sure about getting started, The Social Society is a great way of sharing your skills with local charities that need it.


Thank you Viki and Emma!

Lessons From Lewes FC: The World’s First Football Club To Offer Gender Pay Equality

In 2017, Lewes FC became the world’s first football club to commit to pay parity for its men’s and women’s teams. It was a historical moment for a male-dominated sport that propelled the non-league club, established in 1885, into the wider consciousness.

Since then the women’s team has gone from strength-to-strength, while the club itself has carried on as normal: fan-owned and not-for-profit since 2010, with a commitment to helping the community, they are an example for anyone that believes football is just a plaything for millionaires and tired masculine tropes. They also share similar traits with small businesses and show that, in an era where we’re all striving for workplace parity, the status quo can be broken from below. We spoke to Marketing Manager Charlie Dobres about their journey, and why equality is the key to success: in business and on the pitch.

Hey Charlie, how have things changed since 2017?

Obviously, we generated a lot of media coverage and on the pitch, we’ve moved up to FA Women’s Championship. We [the women’s team] have a different manager. Our average attendance has doubled [to 586] so Lewes is in the top 10 most supported women’s teams in the country. We’re hoping to get into the top five this season and aiming for around 1000. We think the audience is there.

Brinky and Roodie EQUALS SIGN no handle-01.jpg

Is this better performance simply down to paying a higher wage?

It doesn’t all come down to that but in Soccernomics – a bible of football economics – one of the main takeouts is there’s almost a linear relationship between playing budget size, how much you pay players, and the success you get.

In our case that is augmented by the fact we’re giving a very strong signal about what you’re doing. So it [pay parity] is motivation for existing players and also a beacon for ones that might want to come play for you. When we get to the end of this current phase and hopefully we’re in the Super League [the top women’s football division in the country] and people ask, ‘How did you get there?’ we want to be able to clearly identify that it’s down to our gender parity stance.

Do you think your status as a fan-owned club has enabled you to take this stand?

Our one-member, one-vote, not-for-profit status has obviously helped but anyone can do it. It’s a choice. We’re asked a lot if mutualising our status enabled us to take this stance and the answer is: sort of. But actually, it’s a choice.

Where did this commitment to a profound moral standpoint come from?

In 2010 we became community owned and our constitution stated that front and centre, the club was to be an engine for social change. We’ve interpreted that as being exemplary in everything we do and we currently have a certain amount of notoriety because of our stance on equal pay, but we also want to be exemplary in our football.

It’s like businesses? People invest in companies they believe in and that comes from a place of truth.

The best products and companies offer genuine benefits but are also authentic in terms of their meaning and association.

It feels like there’s a big opportunity for clubs and businesses with women’s football at the moment, especially with the World Cup generating new levels of attention.

It’s huge but we would like there to be 100 times more investment from people in the game. If you look at pattern outside the UK – places like France, Germany – in some cases the attendances are stagnant and falling again.

Then you get cases like Wanda Metropolitan [the Madrid stadium where over 60,000 people watched the women’s teams of Atlético Madrid and Barcelona’s play in March] which says there is a massive demand.

How have you seen your own crowds evolve?

We noticed early on that our crowds are largely women, ages 25-30 plus, who don’t like football.


No way! That’s fascinating.

We were seeing a lot of statements from women who liked what we were doing in terms of pay parity and decided to give it a go. It’s women who are old enough to have perhaps encountered enough sexism to recognise the difference in what we’re doing; they’d come and see women being brave, competitive, aggressive, sweaty, and not having to conform to the usual stereotypes. And get to share in that and shout about it with other people. It also seemed that there was a lot of women who wouldn’t consider going to a game because they think there’ll be a certain type of atmosphere. But they come here and have the experience and it’s great, then they tell friends.

Is it a different experience to men’s?

It’s about not automatically mimicking the men’s football experience. You know – you turn up 15/20 mins before kick off, barely move from your seat, then leave. We offer an elongated, enjoyable occasion. It’s still full of passion and excitement but it’s less pressurized.


Family is a big audience for you too?

Absolutely. Kids go free and that’s a big part of our policy.

Is there a game you’d recommend a first-timer attends to get the ultimate experience?

The first few games are the League Cup and, at that point, the chances are we’ll get a game against a London-based Super League team. But there are only 10 league games a season so make sure you come along because they’ll be gone before you know it!

Thank you Charlie!

Fancy more? Read Seb Royles' recent Letter to Members here: