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John Lewis and Crossrail among firms in £210,000 search for VR and AR innovators

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The launch comes following Innovate UK aligning with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to open a £10m fund for the Internet of Things. It invites British businesses, local authorities and cities to team up for a research and development project that outlines the benefits of the tech.

Innovate UK’s IC Tomorrow scheme concentrates on sectors including films, TV, publishing, finance, education, culture, sport, fashion and more, connecting disruptive SMEs to investors and partners through different events and challenges.

The latest challenge from the programme is search for innovators that specialise in rising tech channels virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The decision comes after VR business Oculus – which Facebook acquired for $2bn in 2014 – bought IC Tomorrow alumna Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup, in May 2015.

Elsewhere, British business Blippar is a specialist in the augmented reality space and secured a $45m investment in March. It counts Disney and Warner Bros among clients.

The VR and AR market is set to hit revenue of $150bn by 2020 and IC Tomorrow is offering small businesses from the sector to claim a stake from a £210,000 fund.

Read more on AR and VR:

With entrants invited to create ideas for retail, construction, music, healthcare, education and tactile tech, the likes of John Lewis, Crossrail, Columbia Records, Royal London Hospital and King’s College London are all on board as partners.

“The re-emergence of virtual and augmented reality is attracting a lot of attention, with pioneering start-ups like Surreal Vision leading the way in the UK. But the potential for innovation goes far beyond gaming and entertainment,” Matt Sansam, programme manager at IC tomorrow.

“Successful applicants will use AR/VR to re-shape the way we approach many industrial and technical challenges, such as bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences to help British retailers, or empowering healthcare professionals to carry out remote diagnosis and virtual training. In launching this contest, we are looking to nurture original, creative ideas that have the potential to stimulate the economy and drive growth.”

Winning entrepreneurs will retain 100 per cent of their IP, according to IC Tomorrow, and secure mentorship and promotional backing from relevant partners.

The six categories and respective partners are:

  • Smart construction – Crossrail: Using AR/VR to improve safety and quality 
  • Immersive retail – John Lewis: Harnessing VR/AR to bridge the gap between the in-store and online retail experience
  • Enhanced medical training and care – Queen Mary University of London, Enteric HTC and Royal London Hospital: A solution for medical training, or to help patients visualise the effects of their treatment
  • Next-generation vocational education – Pearson: AR/VR tools, services or interactive immersive environments to deliver vocational training
  • Tactile experiences – King’s College London, Konica Minolta and Ericsson: Tactile/haptic technology to enable doctors to measure the softness of the human body remotely
  • Amplified music experiences – Columbia Records: VR/AR to enable music fans to share immersive experiences with artists and their content

The application deadline is 12pm on Tuesday 18 August 2015. Shortlisted entries will be invited to a live pitch and Q&A with a panel of judges, and the final trial launch for successful applicants is scheduled for summer 2016.

Image: Shutterstock

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