AN IMMERSIVE RESEARCH TOOLKIT FOR DATA STORYTELLING
Our continually evolving immersive research toolkit Senset enables researchers and creatives to explore and communicate data in immersive spaces, both in VR headsets and on the web.
We are passionate about bold creativity in 3D space, fostering a new process to represent data beyond the traditional realm of 2D graphs and charts. Our toolkit reimagines the presentation and sharing of data, opening the process to multiple senses using experiential and immersive storytelling. The novel data storytelling techniques that Senset enables can inspire intuitive leaps, interdisciplinary insights and connect diverse audiences through a single experience from policymakers to the public.
The toolkit includes a series of methodologies which enable storytellers to use interactive technologies such as game-engines and web platforms to re-imagine data in new interactive worlds, multiuser environments and novel contexts. Placed in the hands of creatives, these are transformative in the culture of global interdisciplinary collaboration in data storytelling, connecting audiences from policy makers, decision makers, local and national stakeholders while inspiring the general public to engage in research in new ways. In turn we are creating new markets for creativity at the intersection of research institutions, their private sector partners, and the creative industries by co-creating new specialist software pipelines, workflows and algorithms.
The way we transform research into 3d experiences not only enables new forms of immersive science communication, it also reimagines how science itself is done, giving researchers the ability to experience their data and research practice in new ways. Our approach covers every dimension of the scientific method, from enabling new ways of making observations from real time sensor data, to the use of liminal spaces to explore the formulation research questions, to the use of machine learning to model complex datasets in a way that can be understood by policymakers.
By using immersive technologies as an exposition layer to data that is typically locked in spreadsheets we are exposing the meaning in those data to more rigorous exploration, enabling not only researchers and academic institutions, but also their commercial partners, to immerse themselves in the underlying insights and knowledge.
Immersive Networks Collective formed in 2020 following the co-creation of Born in Bradford immersive prototype between University of Leeds cultural fellows in Art and Science Dave Lynch and Christophe De Bezenac, award winning developers Reflex Arc, The Centre for Immersive Technologies, the Centre for Applied Education Research and the Born in Bradford study.
The successful prototype premiered at the UKRI AGM and was selected to feature at the immersive futures labs at SXSW festival and Beyond conference. This catapulted us to a joint 'one to watch' in 2020 with co-creators Reflex Arc. Since then we’ve been busy taking the proof of concept to market, where we're fusing immersive technologies with creativity to develop products and services to support the practice and communication of scientific research.
PROGRESS SO FAR
The approach has thus far been validated by securing new academic clients, as well as grants of funding from the Alan Turing Institute, the Wellcome trust, and the Storyfutures Academy. The company are Artists in Residence and Knowledge Exchange Fellows at the University of Leeds. Projects using the toolkit to date have included an immersive representation of a flume lab and water monitoring network, the development of real-time applications for a 317 hectare research farm, and the immersive representation of one of the UKs largest longitudinal birth cohort studies, while upcoming work includes using radar data to tell the story of the world’s insect populations.
THE FUTURE OF RESEARCH
Having demonstrated applications in healthcare, education, water and agriculture we have been awarded Wellcome Trust funding to help reimagine medical humanities research, and Alan Turing Institute funding to enable new approaches to locally specific policymaking. We are also working with Canadian collaborators to bring the approach to multi user simultaneous live experiences designed for audiences on either side of the planet - at dawn and dusk, and are part of Creative England’s advance programme, with mentoring from the former director of the Immersive Technology Group at Sony.
We believe that within five years the inclusion of immersive narratives will be a routine part of the outputs of academic practice, especially where large datasets are involved and there is a private sector partner or opportunity for public engagement. Being included in the 100 ones to watch in 2021 will help ensure that we are positioned at the forefront of that trend.