A Glasgow-based technology company is launching an “immersive learning platform” after raising £1 million during lockdown – and it is looking to take on a further ten staff this year.
Sublime, in partnership with the University of Glasgow, says it has combined virtual reality learning and video conferencing to create Edify, which it says will help to improve students’ remote teaching experience amid measures to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The firm said students will soon be able to explore and learn in virtual environments from anywhere in the world with the launch of Edify, which has been two years in development. It has also seen funding of more than £2.5m since 2017, including from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. Around £1m of that total was secured during the lockdown to support an acceleration of launch plans.
Sublime was founded by Martin McDonnell, Chris Bryson and Jonathan Knox. It has 22 staff and is looking to hire a further ten this year to meet its growth plans. It said that having piloted immersive teaching with the University of Glasgow, it is now launching the Edify platform with ten apps “designed by academics for academics, created and built by gamers, technologists and philosophers to augment and optimise learning”.
The pilot apps cover all four of the university’s colleges, and include a 3D model of the heart and a tour of the stomach to a virtual geological tour of Arran and a replica disease diagnostics laboratory, “allowing students to go beyond the lecture theatre to explore virtual worlds, learn in impossible and challenging environments, and bend the rules of reality”.
Students studying topics including physics, history and anatomy will be able to dial in to their instructor’s 3D lab or classroom environment, without the need for virtual reality (VR) hardware, via the likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
McDonnell, chief executive and co-founder of Sublime, said the firm has been on an “exciting research and development journey” into realising the potential of immersive learning over the last two years.
“But the global pandemic has required us to respond dynamically to unprecedented disruption to teaching delivery worldwide,” he added. “With Edify we will help address this challenge by enabling learning without limits through an immersive, online, and remote teaching ecosystem.
“Edify will enable educators and learners to meet in virtual versions of high-tech labs and amazing learning locations and is perfectly suited to delivering high-quality outcomes under these unusual and challenging teaching conditions.”
Sir Anton Muscatelli, the principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “This is a dynamic and positive response to the challenging situation we are finding ourselves in during this unprecedented public health crisis. Edify has the potential to allow students to access many of the benefits of VR teaching from the comfort of their own homes while social distancing is in place.
“I can see great potential to enhance the remote teaching experience for those studying subject areas covered by this platform, allowing access to VR technology and recreating the experience of being together in a lab or classroom without the need for specialist hardware. I look forward to seeing how this develops.”
Neil McDonnell, Lord Kelvin Adam Smith research fellow in VR and augmented reality (philosophy) at the university’s College of Arts, said: “Using virtual 3D environments in teaching can be extraordinarily powerful, whether those environments are accessed via VR headsets, via Zoom, or on a laptop screen.
“Edify brings that power to teachers in a practical, accessible way, and the competition being announced today is an opportunity for lecturers to have their own virtual lab, classroom, or environment built on this exciting new platform.”