We spoke to founder, Anne Widdop about the company’s next steps and how the AI Accelerator and her involvement with the DDE Programme and University of Edinburgh has helped VR Hive achieve major milestones.
I’ve had a very successful career in tech over the last 30-odd years, and also spent a few years teaching at university and in higher education. When COVID struck, I saw how many children were struggling to learn at home. It highlighted how profoundly broken, disengaging and passive online learning tools tend to be – I got seduced back into trying to find a technical solution to what was, and still is a major problem, in education.
We are using gaming technology, AI and virtual reality as ways to engage and educate people. I'm looking at building a metaverse solution that's based on smartphones. Short training episodes that you can access via your smartphone that are interactive and gamified, for improved engagement.
I came at this from the fact that there was a major problem out there – 90% of e-learning courses are abandoned – and I’m using the technology to find solutions. I want to be able to say to people, "Why don't you go play this video game? And at the end of it, you'll get an automated assessment to see how good you are at communication, teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking.”
Data's a massive part of it. We've developed artificial intelligence around our digital assistant, meaning we’re able to collect data from the environment students are operating in. Through things like eye movement tracking and positioning speech, which relate to natural language processes and interpersonal communication, we can gather valuable assets to analyse.
We’ve had some great wins already, including raising a lot of grant funding. The list of people keen to work with us is another measure of our success. Institutions like Glasgow School of Art, the University of Edinburgh, the University of the Highlands and Islands and Yeovil College are all already involved, which is incredibly validating.
I'm the sole founder of this company, so it's been incredible to meet other founders, share ideas and collaborate. But I think one of the other things I've really benefited from was having access to high-quality consultants, making some fantastic connections and receiving business advisory support from DDE for things like our Innovate UK application which helped us secure a £50k grant.
I’ve been involved with the Usher Institute and the Edinburgh Futures Institute, who offered some great advice as well as networking opportunities and personal introductions. Usher opened the door to us working with the NHS, which has been incredibly useful. Through DDE’s introduction, we are also collaborating with the Business School and a large corporation to deliver a pilot leadership training programme.
We’ve just launched our training mobile app and have also just released the beta version of a virtual reality, multiplayer game called Planet Pollinate. It’s an immersive game that assesses people's team-building, communication and problem-solving skills.