As we move through this decade the popularity and availability of head-mounted displays and augmented reality devices has offered exciting new immersive experiences and applications to a wide range of sectors and organisations.  This inevitably has also piqued the curiosity of young people too, including a group of Year 12 students who partook in an immersive workshop as part of the Sutton Trust Summer School, delivered by MyWorld on 2nd August.  

During the two-hour session, students took part in three different activities led by different staff members. Students rotated through these in small groups, giving all of them the chance to engage in a more enriching way. Prof Kirsten Cater led a discussion on the ethics surrounding emerging technology in this field; students were invited into virtual reality to view several immersive films introduced by Dr Chris Bevan; and finally, students had the opportunity to have a hands-on tutorial with 360-degree cameras and immersive audio recorders lead by Dr Adrian Ng. 

The students became fully absorbed in each activity provided. They enthusiastically debated the choices users would have when using immersive technology and discussed how important it was that the data collection through these new devices was transparent and reliable. When faced with hypothetical utopian and dystopian scenarios, they approached the possibilities of these futures with careful consideration and a refined approach.

During the virtual reality session, students were captivated by the potential of immersive experiences and 360 filmmaking. They relished the opportunity to explore a previously hidden part of Ancient Greece with the Virtual Reality Oracle, and their understanding of traditional filmmaking was challenged by the empathy generated by Being Henry

In the third session, the students embraced the opportunity to get creative with 360-degree cameras and directional microphones, creating a story with action figures, and guessing the location of three different prerecorded clips. Students were puzzled by the microphone’s ability to recognise directional sounds, and how the camera obscured its tripod from its view, many of these questions enthralled those assisting with the session! Their self-driven questions brought something exciting to the table and deviated from the structure into a more freeform conversation and debate.

As two current university students supporting the MyWorld team to deliver these activities, we were enthusiastically quizzed by the Year 12 students asking us about the degree courses we are completing. We appreciated the chance to explain our own immersive projects we are working on currently and gave a brief overview of the differences between the MSc Immersive Technologies and MA Immersive Arts which we are studying at the University of Bristol. This allowed the students to see the many different educational paths and career options that can be taken within the immersive sector. 

Once they had completed all the MyWorld sessions, the students were then escorted to their next activities as part of the Summer School.  

We savoured the opportunity to work alongside the MyWorld team and assist in the delivery of these exciting activities. We were also proud to be able to share our own expertise with the next generation of students soon to be joining the University, who certainly weren’t afraid to challenge us on our own knowledge, which in turn led us to reflect on our past year of study and how much we have learnt ourselves. Additionally, the chance to work with our lecturers in a new context and other experts in the field was really rewarding.  

A blog by James O’Sullivan and Nathaniel Thorne, students on the MSc Immersive Technologies and MA Immersive Arts at the University of Bristol.