As part of the Brighton Digital Festival last month, we took the FuseBox and some of our residents on the road. We set up shop in one of the stores in the new Hanningtons Lane, for a week of hands-on experiences and talks about new technologies and their effect on society.  

The goal of the week was to see if unique experiential opportunities would drive the general public to visit new parts of Brighton that they may not have discovered yet and to feature some of the fascinating technical innovation taking place in the city.

Every day offered something different to experience and learn about. Here are some of the highlights:

Sun 13th October: Is This Real Life or Is This Just a Fantasy?

On the first day of the installation we were joined by the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science who showcased their specially built immersive virtual world that tries to help answer the question: What is considered real? 

Inside their purpose-built tents the scientists stimulated visitors with a combination of virtual reality and sensory equipment to convince them that this virtual world was real.

In the evening, attendees were treated to a talk by Dr Keisuke Suzuki who explained how computers see the world and what that means for human beings.

Mon 14th October: Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Computers

On Monday, we were joined by the University of Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies to explain how quantum works and how it might impact society. Conveniently, the University of Sussex just so happens to have one of the most powerful modular quantum computers in the world!

Their demos ranged from a Virtual Reality experience visualising what it would be like inside a quantum computer, designed by FuseBox resident Maf'j Alvarez, to demonstrations of spectroscopy and it's implications for quantum computing.  

Prof Winfred Hensinger then proceeded to give an excellent talk summarising the progress of quantum computing and highlighting how the modular, expandable nature of the universities computer makes it unique.

Tues 15th October: Emerging Technologies, Marketing and Retail.

On Tuesday, joined by a selection of FuseBox residents including Gorilla in the Room, VRCraftworks and Percept Imagery, we explored how emerging technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and 5G are changing the way retailers do business and market to their customers. Showing visitors some of the innovations they might expect to see in the retail world over the next few years.

Ali Goode from Gorilla in the Room brought along their VR supermarket simulation which is designed to capture market research data on how customers interact and identify products within a store.

Jack Maddalena from VRCraftworks showcased an immersive experience they designed for Grosvenor Casino which offers the chance to experience the northern lights.

And finally Akshay Saswade from Percept Imagery showcased their Foresight platform designed for architectural visualisation and their new platform for web based augmented reality experiences allowing customers to preview products (such as furniture) from home on their phone.

Wed 16th October: 360°: New Ways of Experiencing Creative Performances

On Wednesday we were treated to a talk by FuseBox residents Moving Pictures Theatre, about their experiences filming productions of large-scale classic plays in historical locations.

Working with fellow FuseBox resident, Michael Danks of 4GroundMedia, they explained the process of moving from conventional film media to recording in 360° showcasing excerpts from their productions and discussing the technical and storytelling possibilities of 360° filming.

The evening started with a live performance in front of the audience which was recorded in 360° 3D, which alongside a number of their other productions was available to be viewed after the talks were finished.

Thurs 17th / Fri 18th October: Hacking Hanningtons Lane

Hanningtons Lane is the newest lane in Brighton, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got a history. In Puget’s Cottage it has the oldest house in Brighton, and (amongst many other things) the Lane has apparently witnessed a troop of elephants parading through it.

From the time it was just a footpath by a field to the present day, it generates memories, stories and experiences. Over the course of two days, we decided to unearth and capture these stories, both old and new, of Hanningtons Lane and turn them into a Virtual Reality experience.

To kick start the hack, we hosted an evening of talks and discussion on how the memories, myths and histories of a place can be brought alive, with a special focus on our home for the week, Hanningtons Lane.

We were joined by a pannel of speakers including:
  • Justin Hopper: A psycho-geographer and author of Old Weird Albion, a book that uses the stories embedded into the landscape of the South Downs to try and create an alternate vision of English identity.
  • Kate Howland & Karina Rodriguez: Whose work on the Hove Plinth project was designed to enable people to interact with the sculpture, digitally adding their own individual and collective stories to it.
  • John Mclean & Steve Gunnis: The architects from local firm Morgan Cann who designed Hanningtons Lane and spoke about the exploration and thinking behind the design.
  • Elizabeth Eade: An artist who designed the new mural in the Lane shared the inspiration behind it.
The following day, we were joined by a number of FuseBox residents and Arts DRIVA artists as well as returning psycho-geographer Justin Hopper to begin converting all these stories into an immersive experience.

Led by Maf'j Alavarez the team was split into groups and trained on using her Holonspace platform, ideal for rapidly prototyping VR applications.

Over the course of the day we were visited by members of the public who helped contribute their own stories, experiences and expertise to the project and a group of residents were given the opportunity to explore the tunnels underneath the lane and North Street.

In the end, we were left with multiple immersive experiences created, ranging from soundscapes and narrative stories to a VR recreation of the Living Wall of plants that is a feature of the lane.

Whats next?

Our week in Hanningtons Lane was massively informative, sparking connections and innovation between all manor of technologies. A lot of these projects we aim to continue following closely and will share updates here when possible.

If you would like to stay up to date with the latest developments in immersive technology locally, sign up to our Immersive Brighton mailing list to hear about our upcoming events.

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