March 21st, 2013, 07:19 PM
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Making the world of 3D a reality in Manchester
21 Mar 2013 14:17
World-leading 3D technology company EON Reality this week opened its European headquarters in the city and will create 240 jobs in Manchester over the next-three years.
Ken Swain thrusts a pair of 3D glasses and a computer joypad into my hand. He tells me to put my feet into what can only be described as an over-sized pair of slippers lay in front of me.
With my spectacles on and feet in place, I all of a sudden find myself stood in the centre of an oil platform, looking out at the ocean.
With a quick flick of my thumb, I’m sent rapidly to the top of the rig’s crane and my legs turn to jelly.
The squawking seagulls flying by in my eyeline don’t seem to care.
Swain tells me the display I’m standing in is just one illustration of how EON Reality’s technology can be applied to industry.
It is used by oil and gas companies to train staff on health and safety issues, meaning they don’t have to fly workers out to real-life rigs at huge expense.
We’re stood in the futuristic showroom that forms part of EON’s new European headquarters, at One Central Park, in Newton Heath.
EON chose Manchester over a host of other continental cities as the location for the HQ, which will create 240 jobs over the next three years.
The base has two key components, the first of which is a computing coding college, in which EON will train 100 people a year for the next five years, completely free-of-charge.
Roughly half of the students who complete each year’s 12-month course will be employed directly by EON, creating 3D and virtual reality projects for its clients.
EON has pledged to find jobs for the other 50 with its clients. One student a year will be awarded an internship in California or Singapore.
The other element is the showroom itself, which looks more like a theme park attraction than an office.
It has slanting, mirrored walls, intentionally designed to disorientate visitors, as they are led into
different sections, where they can try-out EON’s gadgets.
The firm, led by Swain in the UK, hopes to bring the bosses of global businesses, particularly in the defence and engineering sectors, to the showroom to illustrate how they could apply the technology to their needs.
“What we want to do is speak with Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies and bring their key decision-makers here,” says Swain.
“We want to bring them into this space because it is something they won’t have experienced before.
“We want to show them case studies of how our technology can benefit them and the value it can bring.”
I am now stood in front of a large monitor, again with 3D glasses on and a joypad in my hand.
Before me is a 3D engine, which I can rotate and pull to bits at the touch of a button.
Next up on the tour is a slightly smaller screen, which this time comes with a laser pen. The object jumping out at me now is a human brain.
Using my pen, I can pull the organ apart and move a camera icon to change the view I get.
Swain says this display in particular is an illustration of how EON’s technology can benefit clients in another of its target sectors – education.
EON has ambitious plans to revolutionise learning in mainstream education in the UK, having already made in-roads in America.
“It is about making difficult concepts appear more straight forward to students,” says Swain.
“If you can see something in 3D, it becomes more personal to you and there is evidence to show that 3D technology improves test results by an average of 17%, while attention levels increase to 92% in 3D lessons, compared to 46% in the traditional learning environment.”
Swain estimates around 50% of its revenues will be in the education sector, with 35% of sales from corporate clients.
The remaining 15% will come from the so-called “edutainment” sector, which could include applications like virtual reality aquariums, which help youngsters learn how to approach fish without scaring them away, or sporting applications like football free-kick simulators.
Downstairs from the showroom is EON’s coding school, which will welcome its first students in September.
It expects students to be in the 18-26 age bracket and it is hoped the bulk will come from Greater Manchester itself.
“We are creating a ‘circle of education’,” says Swain.
“We’re teaching young people skills to produce 3D teaching tools that will help educate the next generation.”