How does touchable VR fit in education?

What does a glockenspiel sound like in space?

What does a glockenspiel sound like in space?

Glastonbridge is about education as much as it is about art – inspiration is the essence of both.  We’ve been working with Anarkik3D and Stakeholder Design on an InnovateUK-funded research project bringing haptics and VR into schools.

(Just a quick note: I’m going to avoid saying “VR” and “haptics” as much as possible and say “immersive technology” instead.  We should be targeting the senses most closely connected with each learning experience, not tying ourselves to VR or AR or haptics depending on what’s fashionable.  It means a similar thing in each case: it looks, feels, or sounds like the virtual thing is really there, not just a representation on a screen.  Sermon over, on with the article!)

A young dentist drilling a tooth for the first time.  Relax, it's virtual!

A young dentist drilling a tooth for the first time. Relax, it’s virtual!

Going into a school and showing pupils the Oculus Rift, the Novint Falcon and the zSpace is a wonderful  experience.  Young people have a vision of technology primed by Doctor Who and unhampered by cynicism, and they’ve (usually) never experienced immersive tech before.  Take them to a virtual world, and they will try to reach out and interact with stuff.  Give them a 3D sculpting tool where they can feel the things they’re working on and they make incredible things without needing explanation.  And they laugh, and they tell you their ideas, and you walk out at the end of the day with your vision of the future changed for the better.  We should use this technology to engage with learners, to enhance understanding where it is appropriate.

On the other side of the learning fence, teachers fall into two camps.  Some see the strength with which immersive technology grips the students, and they joined in the enthusiasm.  Imagine traveling back in time to learn history, imagine being able to practice lathing or welding without needing supervision.  Others, conscious of how much work teachers already have and their responsibility to their students, warned that the value of the new technology has to be demonstrated before they can risk sinking classroom time into it.  It’s a chicken-and-egg situation: syllabuses are held back by what’s possible now, but without immersive technology in the classroom the syllabus won’t develop.  Nonetheless, there are lots of opportunities where teachers already find things difficult to teach, and where we could help.

A haptics experiment for students to 3D print and build their own!

A haptics experiment for students to 3D print and build their own!

We have worked with Glasgow Digital Design Studio to evaluate our software development platform, and with several schools and teachers to see what they thought about immersion.  This was our first feasibility study into the combination of haptics and education, and it has shown us opportunities and challenges.  So where are we going next?  We have lots of ideas, and we would like to produce a package of tools for making classrooms in immersive spaces.  We have some pretty cool bespoke software for making haptic virtual worlds, and we want to take it into education.

If you are interested in hiring Glastonbridge as a technology provider for your creative or educational project, we’d love to hear from you.  Please get in touch by clicking here!

Agile Retrospective Safety Check

Agile Retro Safety Check on Google Play

Agile Retro Safety Check on Google Play

Glastonbridge has gone agile! As part of the agile process, regular retrospectives are held to reflect on how we are doing and to find ways to improve.

What is a safety check?
The safety check is typically carried out at the start of a retrospective. It enables the facilitator to gauge how safe the participants feel in sharing their opinions and getting involved in the discussion. It is an important tool to make a judgement call on whether or not the retrospective should continue. A low safety check indicates that participants aren’t comfortable sharing their thoughts, which means they can’t expect any really value from continuing with the retrospective. It also indicates that there are more pressing issues that the team needs to address before continuing.

Participants submit anonymous votes between 1 and 5 to show how safe they feel (where 1 means they are not at all comfortable and 5 means they are completely open to share). The facilitator then looks at the votes before deciding if the retrospective should continue. This is usually all done using post-its, but we thought we’d change things up a bit!

What we’ve done
We’ve created an app! In it’s first release, Agile Retro Safety Check allows teams to hold a safety check with participants anonymously submitting their scores on a shared device. In the future, users will be able submit votes on their own devices, and facilitators will be able to monitor trends in safety scores.

The app was built by our newest team member, Olena, using Cordova, and the project is open source under an AGPL license.

More information about safety checks.

The Touchable Universe

How much better would digital learning be if you could reach out and touch the things you were learning about?  In collaboration with Edinburgh haptic pioneers Anarkik3D and Sheffield product design gurus Stakeholder Design, we have recently begun a new project based around haptic feedback and learning software.  We are working to put haptics in the front line of educational software, by creating a development platform to address real issues in the learning environment.

Haptics is an emerging technology that enables people to feel digital information. When combined with 3D audio-visual interfaces, it offers enormous potential for education. For instance, a well-designed system will enable dental students to feel the tooth as they practice drilling in a virtual patient’s mouth, while physics students could compare pushing snowballs uphill on Earth and Europa, and designers could learn how to shape glassware without the need for a furnace. Haptics makes the virtual universe touchable.

Are you a developer who wants to get involved with haptics in education?  We are currently in the midst of a feasibility study supported by InnovateUK, we are looking for interested parties who will discuss their own needs and interests in bringing educational products to market.  You could be shaping the platform for your future killer app!

If you are interested, please send an email to and I will send out some more details including possible dates. Each session is expected to last a couple of hours, where we will demonstrate an existing force-feedback system and have a discussion around the needs of developers in the educational space.  There will be tea and cakes, or beer and pizza, depending on attendee preferences.

Hope to see a few of you at the workshop!

[Arra]stre, data-driven ballet

This year we’ve had the tremendous privilege of working on a groundbreaking ballet performance combining data visualisation, computer science concepts, and, well, classical ballet.  The [Arra]stre performance is a part of the Art of Computer Science project conceived and executed by Brightonian arts and education visionaries ReadySaltedCode.

Glastonbridge provided the data capture software, using Microsoft Kinect to generate JSON streams of ballet performers.  This was turned into beautiful visualisations by Peter Cook, representing concepts in big data and software development.  Paul Golz of Ephemeris Dance took computer science theory and turned it into a choreography.  The talented young ballet dancers of Battle Abbey School brought it alive on the stage.  There was also plenty of other stuff to do, like workshops, rehearsals, sewing conductive thread into pointe shoes, and so forth!

Glastonbridge software up for industry award

Creating with Cloud9 and Ultimaker

Creating with Cloud9 and Ultimaker

We’re delighted to announce that 3D printing software developed with the help of Glastonbridge Software Ltd has been nominated for a major global award.

The Anarkik 3D Design 3D modelling, designing and printing application – which is set to take the market by storm and revolutionise the way designer-makers work – has been shortlisted in the Best Consumer Software category of the 3D Printshow Global Awards for the second year running. The product, which took the Best Consumer Software prize in the 2013 3D Printshow honours, has been nominated for the same accolade at this year’s awards, which are to be held in London later this month.

The Cloud9 software has been developed for professional designer-makers and artists and, bundled with the Falcon haptic device, which simulates touching at a single point of contact, helps to create easy, fluid designs in 3D. Founded in partnership by Edinburgh-based contemporary designer-maker Ann Marie Shillito and software engineer Xiaoqing Cao, Anarkik 3D has been developing its haptic technology to help revolutionise the way makers design their craft since 2007.

In collaboration with Glastonbridge Software, the designer-led firm offers advanced computer-aided design software combined with the technology to actually touch and manipulate objects created in a virtual three-dimensional space.

The commercialisation of its products follows seven years’ practical, theoretical and applied research into touch technology – otherwise known as ‘haptics’ – in a collaboration between Edinburgh College of Art and The University of Edinburgh.

A coral neckpiece design in Cloud9

A coral neckpiece design in Cloud9

The 3D Printshow will take place in London, Paris and New York between 4 and 6 September, 17 and 18 October, and later in 2015 respectively. Its Global Awards will kick off the proceedings at London’s Old Billingsgate on 4 September.

Also in the running for the Best Consumer Software Award are Netherland’s-based Ultimaker, whose Cura software has been designed to make 3D printing as easy and streamlined as possible; Sketch-Up’s Make 3D modelling software, and US and Iceland-based Modio’s desktop 3D printing application.

You’re invited to cast your votes and nominate Anarkik 3D Design via

This article was penned by Lynda Hamilton for Glastonbridge Software Limited.

Our new window display!

Somhairle Kelly with his work, our window display

Somhairle Kelly with his work, our window display

For the benefit of those of you who don’t have the joy of going up Dalkeith Road very often (which probably includes anybody reading this post), Glastonbridge Studios now has a new window display! It is a magical forest of literature, music and science, a collage made from recovered papers and laser-cut trees.  The artist, Somhairle Kelly, has a site here.

Web Theremin Hack

This Friday Robin and I took an hour or so out of our afternoon to make a theremin using a Kinect and javascript, just for the fun of it.  Here is a short clip of him playing it

To make this we used the KinectJSON server that we made for the Art of Computer Science project.  This meant that we could read in Kinect data on a webpage using Javascript.  The little boxes on the screen show the position of the virtual theremin (white box) and your left (blue) and right (red) hands.  The sine wave is made using the Web Audio API.

Just a little hack, but good fun.  Have a good weekend, internet!

Welcoming Robin Johnson, and our new studio office!

Glastonbridge Studios Wow!  Glastonbridge Software is growing.  We have several fabulous performance, arts and crafting clients doing inspiring things, and so we’ve taken on a new hire and moved into a new office!
Continue reading ‘Welcoming Robin Johnson, and our new studio office!’

babiesAloud! App by Glastonbridge

We’ve been working with allAloud to create a new mobile app to let you record your baby’s voice in an entertaining new way. Why make a boring ordinary recording that you’ll probably delete when you forget about it? Make a rocking song that you can even play in the car to your friends (without them getting bored)!

This is a very small project at present, but it is great fun on the new iPhones, and we’ve got Android support planned too! Get over to to learn more, or go to the Apple App Store and download it now!

Brighton D@nce Hack event

Image copyright Gaël L of Le Clair Obscur

This weekend Alex will be travelling to the D@nce Hack in Brighton, where dancers and developers will come together for 24 hours to break new ground by combining technology and movement.  Obviously this is something we are passionately interested in, and we are excited to be a part of the event.

The D@nce Hack is run as part of the Brighton Digital Festival and is on between the 21st and 22nd of September.  You can find more information about the event by clicking here.

Update!  It was every bit as great as we hoped

Dancers effecting computed experiences, computers leading dance and movement, dancers and coders sharing their experiences and ideas, all this happened at D@nce Hack (can I start dropping the @ now?  It’s terribly web 1.0).  Here’s a stream capture of Alex’s hack, using Kinect to capture, OpenFrameworks to visualise, and SuperCollider to create an audio landscape for a reactive scene.