Digital Agency Media Grand is ahead of the game when it comes to future tech. Newly based at business and tech incubator University of Bath Innovation Centre, it’s paving the way for a future where we could all experience the wonders of augmented reality (AR) in our everyday lives.
“If you have an idea that you think will work in AR, we’ll tell you if it’s possible, and then we’ll make it happen”
From assisting us to build that pesky flat-packed furniture to providing a virtual shopping mall right inside our living rooms, augmented reality has the potential to assist us practically but it could also hugely enhance our digital experiences.
- You may like: Best of virtual reality showcased at the first ever SouthWest Virtual Reality conference
We caught up with the founder of Media Grand, Paul Lewis, to find out how he came from working as a fireman, to becoming a Reality Technologist and working on some inspiring applications for augmented reality in business, medicine and gaming to name just a few.
Dragon Loose in the Media Grand Office:
Check out one of the fun effects that can be
achieved with AR
Talking to Paul, it’s clear that technology and the digital world have always been important to him. He tells us: “I bought myself an Amstrad 6128 at the age of 16 which meant I spent many hours tapping in lines of BASIC from computer magazines.”
However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that Paul really discovered what could be developed with the latest technologies. Paul was inspired to take the leap back into the world of tech and multimedia after meeting Peter Gabriel, the creator of the interactive Eve CD-ROM and producer of one of the first multi-media bands to link live performances at WOMAD festival with digital media on disc.
- You might like: Our kids need more Code Clubs to be run in schools in Bristol and Bath – can you help?
Paul tells us: “It was very much learn-as-you-go from then on, picking up any skills required to make myself useful in various web agencies. I’m still learning new skills on a regular basis. I guess that’s one of the refreshing aspects of being in IT and helps promote personal growth and maintain interest.”
Venturing into new territory
After spending just a couple of years honing his skills as an app developer, Paul discovered augmented reality through GPS-tracking apps that could deliver digital information to a user based on their location. Not only that but he discovered his skill set matched the new technology perfectly – so much so that in 2009, he set up Media Grand.
Paul tells us: “Media Grand is as much about bringing other people’s ideas to life as it is our own”, Paul explains. “So if you want to augment a model of a ship with CGI helicopters and deck-crew, we’ll do it. If you want to add AR to a national press campaign, we’ll do it. If you have an idea that you think will work in AR, we’ll tell you if it’s possible, and then we’ll make it happen.”
“Augmented reality is a blank sheet capable of becoming whatever you can imagine”
“I want to get people as excited about AR as I am, and to understand that AR has no boundaries, no restrictions or clear outline of what it is. It’s a blank sheet capable of becoming whatever you can imagine.”
Connect 4 – Media Grand style: jump on
AR graphics on the floor to control the game
Media Grand already has several projects under its belt including fun games such as the connect 4 shown above. It’s also working an AR guided maintenance program for IT giants HP, which allows practically anyone to carry out complex tasks using AR to accurately point out parts with visual cues, audio and on-screen instructions.
Making hard tasks easy: Overlaid AR instructions for fitting
HP computer components make explanations as clear as possible
Paul explains: “AR may one day become the tools you and everyone else will use to work out how to use your printer, or even carry out technically challenging repair jobs on complex hardware with complete confidence.”
Media Grand also has a sister company, Campus Interactive, which aims to make AR a part of everyday university life.
As well as being used to enhance graduations, campus navigation and marketing, the platform’s most notable use has been in its application to enhance nurse training (pictured left). This uses AR to overlay videos of actors playing out illnesses onto the training mannequins.
As not only advocates of AR technology but developers too, it’s easy to see how Media Grand’s developments in AR could play an important and extremely useful role in our futures.
The future for augmented reality
AR is still in the early stages but the growth is tremendously fast. Paul tells us: “The technology gets better each year with more functionality being added and existing functionality strengthened.”
“We’re effectively designing technology for the future”
“We’ve already built AR for use on digital eyewear providing AR driven maintenance, and we’re looking at the use of depth camera’s and beacon technology to tighten the links between the real and virtual worlds. We’re effectively designing technology for the future.”
Talking about Paul’s journey with Media Grand, he explains how things haven’t always been so easy: “One thing I wish had known at the beginning was how slow a new technology can take to mature and gain traction, no matter how innovative it is.”
Being based in the South West has helped, however, as Paul tells us: “Bristol and Bath provide the best environment I’ve experienced for promoting success and entrepreneurship, with lots of support and a great community of technical and creative people.”
Media Grand is always looking for some of that South West talent, even if it’s only for a project or two. If you’re interested in a career in augmented reality or you’re a freelancer looking to expand your portfolio. Send an email to email@example.com.
You can also keep up-to-date with Media Grand by following them on Twitter at: @mediagranduk.