Centre for Immersive Technology

Centre for Immersive Technology

The power of digital technologies must be harnessed if we are to face the existential crises hammering the UK. 2021-22 has seen the Centre for Immersive Technologies (CfIT) accelerating its work around dataset visualisation, digital upskilling of children, and community empowerment. CfIT has also been supporting the University in providing creative approaches to undergraduate education. This has resulted in a £2.65M investment towards a digital learning accelerator on campus, with a dedicated Extended Reality (XR) classroom and laboratory.

The University launched CfIT on June 13th 2019. The vision was to harness the power of immersive technologies for societal benefit, upskill the next generation, and push the boundaries of possibilities in research and education. In 2019 it was impossible to imagine the demand for immersive technology created by the rapid transition to virtual working through the pandemic. It was also difficult to believe that our societal inequalities would become yet further entrenched.

The 2019-2022 period saw work on improving equity play out against the backdrop of a pandemic that reversed a decade of progress in reducing educational inequality. The impact of covid-19 will reverberate throughout our society for decades to come. The pandemic shone a light on the regional and national inequalities affecting our children and young people. It also amplified those inequalities and further disadvantaged our most vulnerable families (as described with sobering statistics in the Child of The North report[1] published at the end of 2021).

The spotlight on inequality has pushed government (local and central) to explore new ways of understanding the intersections and interactions between different statutory services (e.g. health, education, policing, social care). Our ‘Connected Bradford’ database contains the records of citizens across the Bradford District and has allowed us to investigate how routine services can be better delivered. Connected Bradford is allowing us to implement holistic evidence-based solutions when tackling issues related to disadvantage and inequality

The optimal use of Connected Bradford requires us to develop effective data visualisation techniques, and find solutions to the ethical and legal issues of data protection. This dictates a high level of continued engagement with the communities we serve to ensure that the technologies benefit and respect all of our families and their lived experiences. CfIT continues to use its ‘Digital Makers’ project to help children and young people understand their digital rights, and teach them digital skills. In parallel, CfIT uses immersive technologies to engage and empower communities through its ‘Act Locally’ programmes of work.

Digital Makers now lies at the heart of the Bradford Digital Strategy (being launched by Drs Faisal Mushtaq and Mai Elshehaly with Kersten England, CEO of Bradford Council on September 27th). Our mission for 2023 is to use the new Extended Reality (XR) facilities on campus to involve our undergraduate population in these efforts to tackle societal inequalities through digital technologies.

[1] Pickett K., Taylor-Robinson D., et al (2021) The Child of the North: Building a fairer future after COVID-19, the Northern Health Science Alliance and N8 Research Partnership.

 

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