Perspectives* Live: Making immersive technologies a reality for public services
Hello and welcome to Perspectives* Live from Civica with me your host Helen Olsen Bedford from UKAuthority. During lockdown we all turned to this virtual world in order to stay connected to friends family and to work. Today's technologies have enabled all of this, but the Civica innovation lab team's thoughts turned to the future and how emerging trend of say immersive technologies could be harnessed to deliver the future of public services. The Civica innovation lab, Civica NorthStar, conducted a series of roundtables and a whole load of research that leads up to today's event which is asking - what is the potential for the sector, and where do these business cases lie for immersive technologies, and how should we best approach emerging technologies like this. So this morning speakers for our first session today we have Angela Eager who is the Research Director for emerging technologies at TechMarketView.
We've got Tony Colston who's the IT Director for Sense, and we've got Gavin Smart who's the Chief Executive for the Chartered Institute of Housing. After our speakers we're going to move to a panel session where we've got Liz O'Driscoll who's the Head of Innovation at Civica. Ben Edmonds who's the IT Program and Business Change Manager at the London Legacy Development Corporation Hugh Sullivan who's CEO of Immersity an SME and Kevin O'Malley who's the Innovation and SBRI Lead at InnovateUK. So let's kick off with the view from TechMarketView's Angela Eager.
Is immersive technology a good fit for the public sector? over to you Angela. Thanks Helen and good morning to everybody. So if you're here today you know immersive technology is here and you probably want to find out you know how it can be applied to deliver some practical benefits. So to start us off today I'm going to be taking a canter through the immersive technology market before honing in on whether it can be considered fit for the delivery of public sector services. So on one level there's a there's a range of immersive technology from 3D visualizations on a 2D screen to augmented reality where the physical is really enhanced by the digital to mixed reality with its use of digital overlays that allow a degree of kind of live interaction, through to full-on virtual reality digital immersion. But it's not all about the visuals of course with haptics, interactions are becoming more real through tactile feedback. Now these images here really don't do
justice to this area of technology and that's the point really because to make the most of this thing you really have to do have to experience the experience. Presenting a business case to somebody who hasn't experienced just how different things can be, brings just brings another level of difficulty. I think immersive technology presents a spectrum of experiences that are capable of addressing use cases ranging from the empathetic to the and this kind of socially inclusive to the informative and through to hands-on guidance as is appropriate now that's particularly important because different functions and different audiences of course uh call for very different approaches on one level technology just breaks you know sort of break a lot of kind of user interface conventions because it provides us with a new way of interfacing with the digital world and very importantly about that a bridge between the digital and the physical worlds. But on another it's just another type of user interface. But I think we should be consider it as a natural interface or an invisible experience if you like where natural skills such as you know sort of hand gestures, your eye gestures and your voice of course come into play often with the tech driven sort of proactive or automation aspect behind it. Very much driven by data it enables that
data to be viewed, to be interacted with and to be used in innovative ways. And ultimately it's all about using the providing the right experience in the right format with the right visualisation and that really is a key point that visual visualisation aspect in the right environment. But it's the market the technology is pretty immature which means the market is very fragmented. In the UK alone there are well over a count of thousand organisations specialising in things like the creation and the development or production of content software or hardware as well as consultancies that focus quite significantly on this area in addition to that there's a whole host of other sort of consultancies for whom it's not their specialist function but they are getting more and more of an appetite for it and more and than doing much more in this area. But the issue with this landscape is is just a lack of cohesion and a lack of like complete solutions and therefore the endless problems of integration of interoperability and standardisation and that's obviously a big consideration when it comes to delivering public sector services with budgets and resources are restrained. But what's really heartening is the breadth of coverage really in terms of industry sectors that shows this real appetite real demand for these types of technologies and services and it's interesting to see the the regional clusters and these hubs of activity that are emerging and that's a real nexus point for engagement with external experts and with advocates is a really good thing to see.
So the pandemic has been good for many areas of technology and immersive is certainly one of them necessity really has been the mother of invention ushering in immersive tech to things like industrial control to training and education to remote support and maintenance as well as like things like communications and collaboration and in fact there's a growing list of sort of a green light factors It's pressure for consumers because they want better different ways to to interact while services suppliers of course are under constant pressures to do more and better with less now the hardware needed to access immersive tech is becoming more accessible but I think device poverty is an issue and I think poorly conceived immersive services will only widen any digital divide that exists and and risks excluding members you know areas of the population particularly the more vulnerable that arguably could sort of benefit the most from the services, particularly those kind of empathetic and socially oriented services. But there again there are some really imagine solutions underway. In the same way that libraries you know are starting to lend tools and and technology that there's that sort of scope for them to get together with local authorities with consortiums of companies to start sort of lending out the necessary immersive technology access to to make things a little bit more inclusive. But of course there are some pretty hefty red light factors too. Data of course, availability, privacy, ethical considerations and immersive services are just different and demand different skills of course. So creating the right content for example and keeping it up to date and relevant big issues there they need collaboration across you know creative studios, VR experts as well as subject matter experts.
I've seen poorly designed immersive experiences risk bringing sort of big adoption programs to a halt. Sharing content development and services is one way forward, but obviously that brings its own sets of challenges. But on the positive side again there's early talk about marketplaces for immersive tech components that could start tackling some of these issues great stuff. I think competing our
priorities is another difficult area like the tension between cost reduction agendas and the soft gains that you get from social style services. And of course immersive technology requires budget time and resources, so even the most appealing the most compelling use cases, still need robust business case and ROI measurements. And they're hard to come by because the market is so immature, so there's a lot of collaboration needed by all parties to make the immersive technology fit for public sector services on this score. So what does make them fit? Well I think there are four sort of key measures we need to look at outcomes. We need to look at experiences and audiences. Data of course, and the whole infrastructure behind it. So outcomes this is an area where fitness for purpose really could be limited more by imagination than the technology itself.
One of the challenges is ensuring that projects are outcome or opportunity led rather than technology led. I know it sounds simple we've said it many times before, but it's still hard to do in practice. and when you've got pressures within the organization it's quite it can be quite difficult to maintain that sort of discipline. I think cost reduction optimisation and productivity outcomes are probably the easiest to work towards in the first instance anyway because they provide a framework for budget releasing business cases.
But too much emphasis risks missing us out on some of the higher value and the more impactful outcomes. These sort of involve positive experiential empathetic and socially oriented outcomes that go they go well beyond cost factors. You know think about supporting people with mental health and physical conditions and helping them live more independently or tackling loneliness for example. But success here can also help reduce costs so these two need not be mutually exclusive. When it comes to audiences and experiences, well this is what immersive tech is made for, so obviously it gets high marks on this part of the scorecard.
And we have a golden opportunity to reassess service design and there are some inspiring examples out there and a lot more sort of years of prime to come forward. Think about guiding individuals through some types of repairs. This is enabling problems to be resolved more quickly and more efficiently. Virtual property viewing has taken off as has access to a remote expertise, and immersive tech is starting to bring digital twins to life for city and for transport planning and obviously transfer and tourism proven popular for you know kind of of your obvious reasons. But health and social care are particularly rich when it comes to use case examples including providing ways to to really connect with with those locked away perhaps through through dementia for example and to augment mental health services.
And in fact the more you look the more inspiring examples you find and without trying to put a damper on things in any way at all I think the next step is ensuring that we scale and ensure that the immersive services are connected into the broader services portfolio. So I think that these types of examples illustrate that the technology certainly is fit for purpose in terms of the spectrum of immersive experiences, but remember the the services built on them also have to be fit for purpose and part of this is about aligning the tech and the services to both the audience and the devices that are available. So 2D projection might be the best way to engage to encourage public engagement in planning consultations. But if you want to help someone dealing with anxiety or prepare someone to deal with risky or dangerous situations you know military police etc that's when VR simulations really come into their own and if you need to teach or provide guided advice then you know mixed and augmented realities definitely have a home. But I think ultimately that the guiding principle is to ensure that the services have a purpose because tech suitability is directly related to clarity around those purposes.
Data. There's always a data problem isn't there. But data really is the backbone of immersive services and it's the hardest part of the fit for purpose test to to fulfil. And there are high hurdles there's no getting around that, from the level of data maturity required including access to appropriate data sets data types and understanding the scope of the data that you've got on hand, through to an understanding of the value of combining data sets. And all that means that although that requires really kind of quite heavy duty groundworks the technical side of data management should you know should should in no way be underestimated, but there's also issues such as open data you know sort of what should you share, what should be made open, you know and how do you need to do you need to consider how it's going to be used.
There are privacy consequences about data set combinations and there's the wider area of ethics and governance and these are perhaps even higher hurdles. Because the uses of immersive services will potentially give away a lot of information about themselves and this could be personally identifiable data very very tricky area one that we're still learning about one way governance is going to be really really key. These privacy things ethics etc these are one of the unintended consequences of dataset combining, so as well as all the technical work there's a lot of work and discussion that needs to be done to get this sort of this side of things in order. But really I think that there's a real role to sorry we also have to consider how much the public public will tolerate and that's both unknown and potentially quite volatile. I really think IT suppliers need to engage with customers around these data challenges, but I also think there's a role to play in imagining the art of the possible and putting down the pathways to get there so that public sector organisations in particular don't get bogged down with the data challenges and to the extent that they can't see or don't get to release the value from immersive tech. So there's a way to go before the data aspect of immersive tech is fit for purpose, but it's very much a shared journey of collaboration and education.
So on to infrastructure. When it comes to the underlying infrastructure there's definitely scope for improvement here. The problem is that immersive tech tends to be present. It needs to be readily accessible but it's pretty greedy in terms of the foundations that it needs and that can put it out of reach for for some users and some providers for that matter. While smartphones are reasonably accessible entry point, there's a proportion of the population that don't have access to these higher end models and that will impact on the quality of the experience and how rewarding that experience is going to be. And it's also important to consider what phone-based immersive services can actually deliver compared to people's expectations and how to manage those gaps.
Now 5G is rapidly becoming your requirements but rollout and availability remains patchy and costly, but we don't need to say very much more on that on that subject. Now handsets and other hardware requirements may be coming down in cost but I think they're still out of reach of many, and as the failure of 3D TV has shown, people just don't like wearing some types of technologies. Now suppliers are working on these problems but until the costs come down and device formats improve I think that immersive technology is not going to be fit for mainstream that's mainstream public sector service delivery for a little while, but there is still scope for so many sort of pilots and and special projects and ways to explore how how it can be used and I think these things need to be happening now rather than later. There's also the connectivity issue without standardised connectivity integration and interoperability immersive services risk becoming tech islands of diminishing value, so there's definitely work to be done around the infrastructure area to avoid people being disenfranchised but you know there's there's again potential there ways to go.
So overall is it fit for public sector service delivery I'd say there's a way to go but it's definitely getting there. It's very immature so we have to temper our innate excitement about the art of the possible with the realities of what is deliverable and consider that accelerated adoption can worsen the digital disruption that's already a feature of many environments many IT environments. But remember too that it's not just the tech that has to be fit for purpose public sector services providers and those that they engage with you know there are two parts in this equation also have to be ready willing and very able to take these services. But I still think the outlook is promising and there's a lot of interesting intriguing and fascinating things to come. So I'll finish there and hand back to Helen.
Angela thank you that's brilliant. There's a lot of questions coming in we'll as usual we'll pick those up in the Q&A at the end of all our speaker sessions, but in the meantime I'm just going to put a quick poll for you to have a quick look at and please answer if you do, which of the following immersive technologies do you feel has the most potential for the public sector today? That's virtual, augmented or mixed realities. and so Tony Colson over to you. Is emerging tech inclusive or exclusive? Thanks everyone and really great to hear from you today. And thanks Angela for I think a great opener as well.
So I'm here today to talk about emerging technology and its role in terms of kind of inclusivity and exclusivity and it how it can really provide us with some of those opportunities and it was great to hear Angela's thoughts on on the role it has in service delivery. This has already been mentioned we've seen a real cataclysmic shift in technology over the last year, but it has shone a spotlight not just on on digital inequalities but more generally especially when we look at education and access to connectivity and things in those areas. So this is something that does affect all of us, you know not just those people that might we might traditionally think of and so you know the question then becomes how inclusive are these technologies and what role do they have and or are they a kind of an exclusive tool for uh for particular groups of people. So we all know of Tim Berners-Lee and this is one of his quotes just about the future of the internet and you know when I look at technology and think about you know the potential it has to overcome how we bring diverse groups together, particularly through collaboration. I think it has huge power and
that has been the real factor again over the last year. But when we look at who are our current audiences I think we do have to question how accessible it is. So if we just think about who technology's designed for at the moment they're probably literate, preferably American speaking English who've got disposable income you've got easy access to connectivity and you've probably got no major health issues disability or learning conditions. Could argue that it's kind of designed for the technological equivalent of of the middle class. What's that in
itself is not bad that you know what we do do by focusing on that is create an experience for a group of individuals that we are forgetting about, so technology can be considered inclusive to those who access it, but there are a substantial number of individuals who who don't meet those criteria So I just ask everyone to just think about something really simple, imagine if you've got new piece of tech you're unboxing it you know and if you perhaps have something like dyslexia how easy is a PDF instruction manual to to read. Now we have seen particularly in public services changes around web regulations recently and it's great to have that focus but that is the start of a journey and there's a lot more to do. So in terms of looking at kind of technology being inclusive or exclusive, there are kind of three things I want to touch on. Looking at how we encourage the access to to technology and what that means.
The role it it has to play in assisting within our our lives. And then particularly focusing on the the kind of experience for things from that point of view. So again if I were to ask most people about sort of disability or accessibility issues sort of 15, 20 years ago, I'm sure that most of us would have given an answer along the lines of wheelchairs, libraries and ramps. If we come forward to today and we look at the discussion around technology, it's quite singularly focused around websites or PDFs and said that's good but there's more to it than that. We know the world is very different
we know challenge is a multi-dimensional and it's it's interconnected and in the voluntary sector we talk about impact and I think what we have to look at is the impact of of immersive tech and how it can help people and for that impact to be effective it has to be making a difference, and it has to reach those people that that need it. So some kind of thoughts really about some of the kind of the barriers that I think that are there at the moment in terms of making that technology accessible. I think there is a question around value, you know new technology does traditionally have a high price to it.
Angela touched on on some of that in her session. We do have to show value about it but you know when the cost is high and the value is potentially unproven because it's new, that can get in the way of what we need to do. So we do need to perhaps think about you know different levels or different ways of kind of having our procurements different ways of having access to some of those technologies.
I think there's also a really big question around your kind of usability, if technology worked in the way it was meant to, many of us you know would probably not have the careers that we do. So we know that there's a need for that. But this is not just about kind of technical know how it's not just about a skills issue. It's also a design issue. If we look at some of the the augmented reality or virtual reality products that are out there on the market, there's a lot of benefit there for helping people tackle loneliness.
There are huge benefits in terms of delivering education But if the individual is struggling to kind of get the item out the box, is struggling to understand where to turn things on without the need for extensive support, those are all kind of putting kind of barriers in in the way to what we're doing. This isn't say just technical now how, I think it's about how we need to look at using a more simplified technology language, how we can use a more kind of inclusive language around products. And then I think the the one of the other kind of substantial barriers that we have is how do we look at getting these products into the hands of those who would benefit from them the the most. So this is about the real access issue around putting it in the hands of people who need it so should we look at those social purchasing models where every one of a certain product purchase there is a donation or low cost option to a school or a charity, and we see that in in non-tech areas so why can't we look at that for our own worlds. It's a it's a quick look at really some of what are the key challenges that we face but I think where we want to spend some time is what is the benefit we can have from technology in how it assists our lives and really within that, we need to think about how we can make that technology a lot more accessible. I'm an ice hockey fan and the relevance of this is that in ice hockey they recognise the players that make the best overall contribution and not just those who who score the most. So I think this is something that we need to think about.
It comes from how we all work to together and that's how we should be looking at immersive tech from an accessibility standpoint, it's not about the out and out result of what it does, but it's about how it assists people in living their lives. Now we might often talk about the kind of what I call the large-scale situation so what if we could help an individual who is blind or is deaf kind of see or hear and ultimately technology is a solution there and that will be a great day when we can do that. But that's our kind of formula one type moment. The progression at the very top ultimately takes time to filter down. It does lift the industry but it has a delay to it. Instead I think you for immersive tech to really have that value, what we should be looking at is looking at that kind of small-scale capability. What can it be doing in terms of tackling the very
simple everyday problems that people encounter so that's very practical things. How does somebody navigate through an office environment and be aware when someone's moved the dustbin or left the copier drawer open or any one of those things that we might experience. Or somebody who might have a sensory impairment it's about knowing whether it's somebody near them or trying to contact them. And there are great solutions in that that space. But it is about getting them to the people that that need them. So I wanted to take a few moments to
touch on on some things in the report that Civica have put together around the role that we have to play in these things. So if we think about data visualisation and its accessibility I think there is a there is a value, but I think it's sort of limited and it's focused for those of us in service delivery. I think it is about kind of the small scale so being able to to see how a sensory impaired person navigates through their environment to better design their home or their routine you know it gives us a lot of capability to design our kind of tailored services. And there are a lot of those challenges that Angela has touched on and particularly, around kind of data and governance that are part of that to be considered. I think if we look at where the biggest benefit kind of comes from this is about the remote assistance world and I think this is you know where I'm the the most excited and has a a way to really change things for us.
Pre-Covid we all had a very physical way of interacting and I think in the virtual world we exist in there are some additional challenges. I think what I would say about this is it's important that we don't look at digital as being a complete replacement, it is very much a complementary role and should be really enhancing things not being there as a true alternative all the time. So I think there's a a lot of benefit that can be derived around digital assistance in terms of supporting people with individual needs. I think the work around kind of some of the additional enhancements we're seeing around the kind of internet of things being able to turn on the kettle, the oven manage our home tech is really great, and people being able to get the kind of things the haptic feedback, proximity alerts all have huge potential. What this should really be about for me is about how we can support people to to interact with their networks, with their communities, with their groups around them and how we can really support them in feeling engaged in everything that is kind of going on. I think we could see over the next two to three years a a real tipping point in meeting some of our certainly our social care needs and probably our health care needs, and often we interact at a time of crisis.
I think immersive tech has that great opportunity to be preventative. It can help individuals stay in their homes longer in a safer and more comfortable world and and that's where our efforts kind of need to be focused. When we think about the role of supporting ourselves as professionals in that and we think about the kind of training environment again, I think there's a lot of opportunities to be able to simulate environments and simulate experiences for people. I think there's a consideration around scale for that and what we need to do to make this work on a large term basis.
I think augmented reality has a great role to play in assessments and I think one of the areas that I think we could see some exciting developments would be how we might use this in in terms of regulatory standpoints specifically when it comes to health and safety elements but that could also extend to virtual support visits more frequently from people like Ofsted or CQC or anything in that that space. So there are lots and lots of ways that we can use tech to assist us in our lives and we need to look at them. I think the kind of the final point I want to hang on is you know the role around the experience we give people so we might traditionally look at the experience for an individual with a sensory impairment and I'm not actually going to touch on that because I know we're tight for time but what I want to do is suggest that we can flip that experience and actually rather than us trying to give people the experience of our world we should experience theirs. So we asking our tech procurements at Sense about
accessibility features and often it's turn those on in in the operating system or wherever. Now some of us will probably know those options can be buried two or three levels down and actually when you've got the visibility of a 10p piece in just one eye and you're blind in the other, it's really hard to find those. So I think for me the real exciting thing is if we can simulate that experience for the developer for the product designer or even for ourselves we can actually find out how it it isn't very simple and what from that we can then start to develop much more capable much more inclusive technology, products to use. So I think that is is what I want to save from an experience point of view and in turn if we've got those products it will enable us to to meet the needs of individuals more comprehensively and become a real power for for what we want to do. So I appreciate that's a real whistle stop tour and Helen's on to to to give me the waggle of the finger to say we're done so i just wanna just two quick points so i think you know this is a quote from Tanni Grey-Thompson on screen, and the relevance of this is it's it's about not always about trying to get to the goal it's about learning from trying and that's what I would want to see we should be aiming to get rid of those barriers but we will learn by going on that journey and that journey is about giving people equal opportunity and equal access to the things we want to do. Tony thank you that's a real food for thought Gavin while you're coming on I'm just going to share the last poll results which are the following immersive technologies you're going to be most popular. Definitely a mixed reality so over half
of you 52% went from mixed reality on that. And I'm going to share the next poll quickly put that one up what's the biggest barrier to adopting these technologies like immersive technologies? Is it connectivity, affordability, skills, funding Tell us your thoughts and Gavin Smart if I could ask you to come on please. Thank you. Thank you very much Helen and good morning everybody. So first of all just very briefly to introduce myself and the Chartered Institute of Housing. CIH is the professional body who work for people who work in housing across the UK and beyond. And actually we work across all sectors, but we have our routes particularly in the in the social housing sector. And I guess today I'm going to give you
my thoughts on immersive technology from frankly a non-expert perspective. I don't know a huge amount about digital innovation in general or augmented reality or immersive reality in particular, but I think you've heard a lot from our previous two speakers who are real experts in those areas. But what I do know a bit about is public services and especially about housing and about how the organisations who work in that space tend to think and to operate. The environment, the frameworks that they operate within, and most importantly the people in communities they exist to serve and the outcomes that they're trying to achieve. So I'm going to use that to try to speculate a little bit about where this agenda might go next and I want to try to use the knowledge I've got to do a couple of things. So first a bit of possibly not terribly well informed
speculation about possible areas where these technologies might really make an impact sooner rather than later. And second some reflections which I hope might be helpful on some possible lessons which I think we might have learned from a previous technology previous digital innovation which might help to inform how we go about thinking about the these technologies and their potential because I think the question at heart here is there a role for immersive technologies in a public services environment like the one that CIH and its members work in, and if so, what is it. For me also just an observation say I'm not going to speak for an enormously long period of time because I think probably the greatest value for all of us will be in the Q&A discussion that comes after. What I'm going to say. So with that caveat off I go. Here's my kind of speculation about the kinds of areas where I think we might we might see some benefit. I'm informed by kind of three different perspectives. My colleagues and
I have seen some early signs about the ways in which the housing sector is thinking about or is using these technologies. I think you can see examples from other sectors that seems to me just how these technologies can be used in housing. And some of it is just trying to think a bit creatively about the kind of things that Angela and Tony have set out and what that might mean within a housing context. So some thoughts and they're really very much in the art of the possible and they are in the spirit of just giving it a go, because I do agree with a comment in chat which said to some degree we're just going to give some of this stuff a go and see how we get on. The first observation I'm going to make actually is that certainly in a housing space, a large part of the work housing organisations do is about of course that it should be about the end users, the tenants, the residents, the people the communities, that the housing providers work with and the outcomes that they're trying to deliver. But of course the nature of the work
that housing organisations do means that a decent chunk of the work that they do, is actually connected to the homes to the to the physical assets if you like. And I think that that opens up some interesting early ground where we might be able to use immersive technologies, because we could be using them to help our colleagues in housing organisations that perform the maintenance, the repair the looking after the assets. And I think the degree to which we can use things like augmented reality, information on site to help get towards the goal which housing organisations are always trying to achieve which is right first time, rather than right second or third time. So that people have got the information they need to do their job as effectively as possible I suspect that that will be at least as beneficial as any immersive tech that is targeted directly at the end user. A specific example of that actually a very important example is one of the things that's happening within housing space as a result of the terrible tragedy at the Grenfell Tower is there's a lot of work being done on building safety and fire safety and thinking about what can be done to avoid a tragedy of that kind ever happening again. One of the recommendations in the Hackitt review that came about as a result of the Grenfell report was that actually these large and complex buildings need to have easily accessible information held on site so whether if there is a major incident you don't have the situation happened at the Grenfell Tower which was firefighters and other first responders thinking actually we don't know about this building it's construction its floor plan that makes it very hard for us to begin our work. Very hard for us to move from floor to floor.
Now in that report I think the thinking is actually thinking of some kind of fireproof safe where documents are held so that you can get the information you need. But it seems to me there's no reason at all why we couldn't use some of these kind of technologies to fulfill that requirement. So that that would be a way of making information rapidly and accurately available to people who need it either in routine maintenance situations but also in emergency situations. Seems to me a second area and I think Tony and Angela both touched on on this there's huge potential for remote learning, for virtual training, for user training whether that be customers or might not be colleagues for orientation we can do a lot of the things that we used to do physically i think we can do online we can we can use immersive tech to help with that. I think we can do it more accurately.
Another area I think consultation and discussion and uh giving people a glimpse of what things will look like in practice for for years planners have have occasionally used exercises called planning for real uh where in trying to engage communities with proposals for for changes in their areas they've been kind of mock-ups and discussions about what those changes might look like in practice that seems to me to be an area that that sort of work is an area that seems to me to be ripe for immersive technology and i know it's already beginning to be used uh in in those spaces so i i think the vast majority of what i talked about there is actually how we can make interventions that work with our colleagues rather than with our customers with tenants residents communities a final point though it's clear from health and social care that there's already a degree of work happening in this area looking at how immersive technologies can help assist vulnerable people and i think we can learn from and maybe catch up with some of that in housing a couple of examples there's been some research done uh by microsoft and research some of the research partners looking at how using vr alongside a treadmill set up can help older people or people with with impaired mobility avoid falls by by kind of retraining their ability to navigate space to to work their way around objects to be more if literally more short-footed the result of that work showed a 40 reduction in falls in in the in the people who got through that program given that the the degree to which falls often are the event that that means that people end up in hospital needing care uh that kind of technology and that kind of intervention seems to me to be a really important area to look at and then there is also very interesting work that's taken place using immersive real life experiences as a former kind of memory therapy for people suffering from dementia which reports fantastic results in including uh increased brain activity better mood improve social ties from the shared experiences of doing that actually some some pain reduction some reduced aggression and some regained memories simply by allowing people to experience virtually uh things that they would originally have done in in the real world and now are not able to do so it seems to me that there are some there's some relatively low hanging fruit there that we could think about in terms of areas for looking at the use of this technology so that's the first thing i wanted to talk about the second thing was to talk about what what seemed to me to be some lessons from history from other work we've done where we have uh try to adopt new technology or new innovation someone's gone well someone's gone it's gotten less well so my thoughts about kind of possible uh lessons learned the first of which without a doubt is the point that angela made about standardization and interoperability in earlier technological innovation we have without a doubt seen a reluctance to adopt technology uh that doesn't offer proper interoperability that that doesn't offer decent levels of standardization and in fact as a result that often a reversion to analog ways of doing things it stuff needs to talk to other stuff and it needs to be easy easy to use if we can't achieve that hurdle we probably will get lower levels of adoption in the same spirit i think accessibility and simplicity are everything in all of the examples i tried to give in terms of my speculation i was talking essentially about either non-specialist colleague users or non-specialist client users this is not their core business we have to make it easy and simple for people to use tony was talking about the degree to which options are buried way down in choice menus uh the physical tech itself as well simply needs to be easy to use otherwise people will not adopt it and will not use it i think we need to proceed kind of optimistically we need to give it a go but we also need to proceed cautiously in a sense that it seems to me that one of the other lessons of history is we have failed to maximize the use of one technology before moving on to the next and and therefore that we then end up with lots of half implemented solutions that doesn't help anybody and it leads to frustration a kind of analytical point i think we also need to make sure that we are properly understanding the problem and that exists in the way that we thought it existed so i was involved in the early 2000s and a lot of work on digital exclusion and certainly that work began with really complicated questions about how on earth do we hardwire the internet into tow blocks do we need to buy computers for for all of our tenants and residents can we make them available in libraries to completely wiped away actually by by smartphone access and actually by an understanding that many tenants and residents already had limited but available data via their mobile devices whilst we were still pushing hardwired uh solutions so it's just about checking that the problem is the one that we thought it was i and for me i think the final observation in in this part of my remarks would be it seems to me that it it with in the spirit of pragmatism probably the answer is to do it for ourselves first or with our customers first rather than do its customers first now that's quite a that's quite a housing observation that may not apply to all public service areas but i think these technologies are so right for improving the way that we do our jobs that we can start there and then move on to technologies that that improve the experience for customers and users with a bit of understanding of what it feels like to be a user ourselves because i think that also recognizes that at least in short term costs for residents or for users might be problematic if they don't have wi-fi they don't have 5g data so allowing that market to mature while we do we take advantage of another low hanging fruit seems to me to be a sensible thing that we might uh look at look at doing uh just very finely then a quick thought also on the operating realities for housing organizations and perhaps these are applicable to other wider public service sector organizations too but i think that might help us think about how we might best set about doing this work so first and most importantly these services are about people they're about their lives they're targeted to delivering some pretty essential outcomes like for instance a safe secure affordable place to live so the price of failing to deliver here is high with significant reputational political risk attending to that so we just need to be conscious of that because i think that that affects the appetite and maybe the places where we might want to start to use this technology first second the the revenue streams that will pay for this activity are quite often drawn from the income of either relatively poor households or indirectly via things like housing benefit from from the from the state so that combined with the essential nature of the services that we're talking about here that produces an outlook uh which does really value the careful custodianship of those resources you'll hear housing organizations talk about tenants rents and and know throwing large amounts of money at speculative projects is difficult in that kind of environment so it does breed a degree of caution uh and i think we need to be aware of that and that caution alongside the fact that we're talking about a relatively highly regulated sector quite rightly given some of the services that are being provided there's also really quite a strong emphasis on understanding risk and controlling it nonetheless i agree with the spirit of giving it a go you have to start somewhere and if we don't begin to try to use this stuff we never will so that those are those points are long away from the subject matter i started with and they aren't about how these new technologies might impact on the work of housing and housing professionals but they perhaps do tell us something about the environment that they work in and maybe offer some insight in into how to think about not not only the what in terms of the potential here but also the how uh in terms of how we might go about deploying that potential with that that's the end of what i wanted to say because i'm really looking forward to the q a so i will hand back to helen thank you kevin that was brilliant uh let's share the last poll results then okay what's the biggest barrier to adopting uh well it looks like affordability which i guess is no surprise as in post pandemic our budgets are looking terribly terribly tight here in the public sector so affordability looks like the main one and as I put up poll three, could I please ask all my speakers to let's turn the cameras on and come back on screen for the Q&A Question in the poll is where do you think immersive technologies provide the biggest impact? Data visualization, remote assistance, enhanced experiences or is it in training and assessment area. So thank you all for joining me back on screen Lots of questions coming in so let's start with the one here. How do we keep pace how do we integrate this ever-changing technology world how do we keep pace and Tony how do we bring things like immersive technology into play Ithink it's it's really hard and I think as Angela touched on we have seen that kind of necessity over the last year of doing those things. I think in terms of keeping pace that I don't think as a tech profession we can keep pace with everything, I think that is the thing what we need to be really looking at is I think how we build the skills and knowledge across our workforce is to be more comfortable with with the use of some of this technology and I think that way there's lots of things I'm sure the other parts will agree you get the question we need this how are we going to support it what are we going to do with it what needs to be done in the background and somebody said to me did the week I just assume you know the answer to this stuff and I say well no we don't the only difference we might have as tech professionals is we can probably work the answer out a little bit quicker and I think if we could elevate our broader workforce skills in terms of some of that confidence they then might be more willing to kind of give it a go and maybe be a little less reliant on some of the things we need to focus on and we can then look at you know the security the governance stuff not the not the use side of things so yeah that's my thought.
Angela what about your thoughts on that how does this, is it a layer on top immersive technology or is it something that can be integrated with existing service solutions etc? I think initially because it's such a different area we need the new skills of obviously it's going to be a kind of it's going to be kind of an aside. But the key is you've got to sort of do the pilots you've got to find out what's going to be useful. But you also have to have a roadmap in mind as to how you sort of integrate them with the rest of your portfolio. I think the the issue of keeping up to date I think there's a lot to be said for for doing these things internally. Start
solving internal problems first because then you find out whether where the problems are where things are going to fall down and you make the mistakes internally rather than exposing yourself to your your citizens who have expectations and if you don't if you don't meet those expectations well initially you're going to cause a lot of problems further down the line. Yeah Gavin because you mentioned that didn't you, you were talking about that well and very very good I tried to make which we are doing better than me which is I think you experiment on yourselves first before you experiment on your citizens and your customers seems to me to be a good place to start because you'll learn a bit about the experiences that they will have as well when they try to use the technology the second thing to say which I don't mean to be gloomy, because I think I am definitely in this in the camp of give it a go, I think it's also important to recognise that quite a lot of us in public services organisations are probably not we're not well placed to be early adopters, so actually one of the things that if you would ever to be bored enough to read certain hsit strategy one things it says is yeah our risk appetite is that we are not big enough to be an early adopter you know we don't want to be miles behind, but we want to be just that little bit not on the edge of the wave because when we're not well set up. We're not big enough, we don't have the capacity to some degree, we've got to be sure we're going to have a reasonable belief that this stuff is going to work for us and I think that also links with the point that I made about maximizing the use of the stuff you're using at the moment before you move on to the next thing. Because I think nothing frustrates our users internally, but nothing frustrates customers quite like the fact that you're just got to grips with the last thing you were using you've moved on again. You know they do appreciate changing innovation, but only if it works for them. If you're constantly I'm going to be naughty now I won't name them our corporate banking provider, our uk retail bank has deployed a series of appalling platforms where the only thing they have in common is they shift from one to the next before we've got time to get used to using the last appalling platform. It hasn't worked for us. I imagine that
they believe the tech is improving. I can't see it all, I can see is a constantly shifting irritating background. Yeah Tony I just wanted to to come back a little on the notion about testing on our on our citizens. From that point of view and
I think there's a level at which that's true, but I think there's also a level at which a lot of these inclusive techs are going to be used in a consumer space before they may be used in a corporate space and actually there's a way to perhaps get that engagement yes for certain parts of our citizens that's true but for others it's not and I think there's perhaps a bit more of a blend there that we could consider Yeah so I just agree tonight what I would suggest is I mean there was a long and quite quite noble history actually of what's the word sort of participant researchers you know people who are willing to to give it a bash and I think the way you do it is don't force it on everybody find some people who want to help you test stuff, work with them first and then work with the rest of your clients once you're sure you've got it in a place that it's going to work well. That's brilliant thank you so much everybody. Angela Eager, Tony Colson and Gavin Smart thank you for joining me and for sharing your thoughts on fantastic presentations.
I'm going to ask my panel speakers to come on screen now and while we do that let's have a quick look at the last polls. Where could immersive technologies provide the biggest impact? Remote assistance that's an interesting one, and you can see actually with our virtual world now in pandemic that makes perfect sense too I guess. So I'm going to put up the next question for the polls, which is how long do you think this is when is this going to be a reality that we can use in the public sector? Are we talking under one year, one to two, or three years out. So Liz O'Driscoll from Civica, Ben Edmonds from the London Legacy Development Corporation, Hugh Sullivan from Immersity and Kevin O'Malley from InnovateUK thank you all for joining me.
Let's pick up on some things that have come out quite strongly which is around affordability and we do need a robust business case lots of questions in the Q&A for that so a robust business case is key as budgets tighten Kevin would you like to pick up on that one first for us please yeah I've been thinking about this a lot and I think one of the key things I want to see is that there is never a business case for adopting a technology there's a business case for adopting a tool to solve a particular challenge and I think this is this is something which often muddies the water around innovation in that these technologies are quite compelling for people like me, I love this sort of technology and I would want to use it, but there needs to be a defined use case. It has to be a tool that's being used to solve a challenge and that's where the business case comes from and unfortunately the relationship at the moment between public sector and business isn't sufficiently cooperative to be able to really build that business case as well. That's an interesting one, Liz what do you think to that. Yeah I have to say U absolutely agree with Kevin and I think it is all about finding that that problem that you want to solve and I think often then the business case will come from that because you've defined what the challenge is, what the problem you need to solve and we are seeing people starting to explore and use these and I would say mainly driven by necessity I think. The pandemic has created a lot of problems that technologies like this have been available to solve and sometimes I think without people even really associating that they are augmented or virtual reality technologies so we are seeing a problem where how do I deliver my service to my tenants, how do I enable them to be supported to deliver some self-service or some self-repair Actually there was a question in the chat about using an education and we are seeing people using in education to allow students to immerse themselves using largely the Google cardboard and the smartphone uh chemistry environments or exploring under the sea. So we are seeing those problems and Kevin's right it has to start from I can't do, what can I use and then the business case generally follows I think from there.
Yeah Ben over at the London Legacy Development Corporation you've been using it a bit as a test bed you've had the luxury there of being able to use it so where do you see those emerging business cases and use cases coming out? Yeah thanks Helen. yeah so over in the Olympic Park we are currently exploring what a business case might look like for developing a complete digital twin of the park and as you say, we do have a slight advantage in that we kind of seen within London as a bit of an urban test bed for this type of innovation, but reality is particularly under current climate is we still need to find a robust business case and I think where we're sort of reassured to some extent with the business case is some of the case studies that we've already been able to deploy and some of the kind of pockets of success I think sort of the adoption the demand out in the public and with partners already around sort of digital services in general. But in particular immersive technologies as well a few examples come to mind is that through necessity we had to run some public development consultations online because of the lockdown and the feedback and the adoption and the successes we got through that kind of encourage us that expanding on the digital experience in the public realm could be a really good thing for us. Kevin coming back to the kind of like that innovation side is that does that mirror with with this technology? As I mentioned before I find it very compelling for people like me who are technology early adopters who are interested in this sort of bleeding edge tech, but at the moment I think there's a huge gap between the solutions that are being created and the challenges that exist and I think that needs to be brought closer together and SBRI as you mentioned small business research initiative which is a pre-commercial procurement tool is the opportunity to do that it's where rather than defining a solution the public sector organisation defends a challenge and says this is something that we have a problem with and we can't fix and then the experts in the technology come forward with the solutions and they thought this sort of a cool production collaboration relationship that's formed rather than the sort of the current relationship between business and public sector which isn't necessarily always that support so.
Hugh you're on the front line of this you are a startup an SME and you are looking at some of these innovations and I'm assuming you're working with a lot of innovation funding as well. Where do you see this? So it's interesting right learning a lot from the conversations. I guess we've come at it from a little different well I'm not, I don't have a technical background I come from industry around creating psychological safety and risk environment and reducing risk environments. So what we're doing is creating digital twins rapidly into a cloud-based enterprise platform so it allows instead of having to build standalone AR, VR, MR applications there is a level of kind of self-serve for for people we're working with partnerships we're working with so you can put up for example we're working with police force around crime scenes taking a 3D capture of a real scene transporting into the immersive environment which is in the cloud it takes maybe a week to do that very much more affordable than building a standalone VR package and then that's accessible from multiple devices so you were talking about the different types of devices you can use a like a Google cardboard on a smartphone right up to a full heavily immersive VR tethered system but all of those are accessing the same database so you can depending on it's really about democratizing VR/XR extended realities so that whatever device you're coming in from you'll be able to see the same type of data and experience that together and then as technology advances and obviously hardware is going to change you're not stuck with in one fixed solution so that's the kind of partnerships. We're really getting into now with dementia therapy and virtual health village that kind of thing. Yeah I'm just going to put up the next poll while we have a break. How long do you feel it will take for
immersive technologies. That was the question that we put up and the answer is, well 7% of you are ready to go in under one year that's that's quite impressive for an emerging technology like this. 51% just over half of you think there's still more to do. There's a significant majority of you are going to be monitoring it for the next one to two years So that's actually pretty quick uptake. I think the pace of change has
changed forever here now. Anyway let's move on so what can we do today. So let's take an example as a challenge one of the wicked issues in the public sector social care so if I was going to give you that challenge what could immersive technologies do today to help in social care. Liz let's come to you I mean you you know how coming but it is already being applied and albeit you know these are pilots so you know through our exploration year we found quite a lot of examples of people that are are starting to think about using these to enhance the experiences of people both in terms of reducing isolation or dementia therapy system beautiful examples of of bringing usually using the big tethered systems granted but using that to immerse people to maybe go for a walk or an experience in a childhood street or in a woods where they grew up and actually that's got tremendous social value and benefit we're also seeing it in terms of assessment. So there's some nice examples. In Oxford I think of starting to use
these technologies for assessment for rehabilitation so before you go home do we assess you using these virtual reality systems with haptic feedback usually using the gloves to really start to understand what people can do and then put into place the appropriate package of care. So it is starting to be used business cases are challenging because they become cross-sector at that point so you've got local authority and healthcare and I think there's one thing that we're not that good at doing is investing in one sector and seeing the benefits and the value realised somewhere else and making that case I think can be a real challenge. But those are the areas that that are really really big and will come first.
Hugh you've got some ideas and that you've got some some pieces working around there I mean I was interested in the kind of in that dementia care where is that? Where's that business case within dementia care how does, I mean I can understand how wonderful it would be to help people on that front. Does that reduce any of the costs of care? Yes so I guess to Kevin's point we looking for use cases that are going to make a difference right because the tech can be very sexy but does it actually do something different. So exactly we're looking for really good partnerships for dementia therapy is a great example. The research is showing that it reduces people's stress with dementia, reduces their stress stress levels by going into an immersive environment for 20 minutes roughly a day again on a mobile device or on one of these standalone VR systems it reduces that stress level means they they sleep better and then the amount of care they need and the amount of 24-hour oversight they need reduces quite significantly. So then the cost of care also also reduces. So compare that to the cost of putting in a package and developing those packages with multiple environments The business case is absolutely there and it shows what a difference that can make with relatively simple technology.
Yeah are you seeing any business cases Ben over on the on the trials and the test beds that you're running are there any solid ones coming out especially around they're thinking about the social care sector have you got any that come up there? Yeah one that we're particularly interested in is around mobility, so if we develop a new part of the park or our district being able to safely relatively low cost anybody that may have mobility challenges giving them an immersive experience of what a place might be like where there might be obstacles challenges to mobility and you can do that in a safe relatively low cost way that was another that was a really good example another one that comes to mind is around place making consultation, getting anybody to come in and have an immersive feel of what a future space might look like. What it might feel like and allowing them to input into that and give their opinions. There's only so much you can take from a 2D drawing or a conversation. If you're immersed in that future space you can give some really informed opinions so that's that's another thing that's worked quite well for us. Kevin have you
seen anything coming out of the SBRI on that front? Yeah we've supported an awful lot of different sorts of projects through SBRI and