BT claims UK first with 5G-enabled, immersive, interactive simulation experience

Leading UK telco launches connected spaces that offer fully immersive experiences by combining interactive 360-degree video content with extended reality technology

Claiming the technology could be a game-changer for training and development in any industry, BT has launched Immersive Spaces for business and public sector organisations, creating what is said to be the UK market’s first 5G-enabled interactive simulation experience.

The fully immersive rooms are connected to the BT-owned EE mobile network, using cameras and HD projectors to bring 360-degree content to life across the space’s walls and floor. Inside the space, users can experience real-life or imagined scenarios in detail and add interactive elements, virtually transporting themselves into simulated environments, augmented with lights, sounds and even smells.

Each space comes with a content library of more than 3,000 computer-generated scenarios, real-life environments, games and training experiences. With 5G, users can live stream content from a real-life location directly into the BT Immersive Space. Where this isn’t possible, they can download and store content over 4G or even fixed fibre.

Looking at use cases, BT said Immersive Spaces could be deployed across a variety of sectors, from training paramedics in a simulated, gamified roadside accident scene or hospital unit, to recreating fan experiences at a football match, important historical moments, or even a trip to a beach in Thailand. The spaces are also compatible with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) technologies to enhance the user experience.

BT’s Immersive Spaces simulations are also claimed to be the first in the UK to allow customers to edit and create interactive content of their choice. As well as a pre-populated content library, there is an option to film, edit and live stream their own videos using a 360-degree camera, supplied by the telco.

“This technology has the potential to be a game-changer for training and development in any industry,” remarked Alex Foster, director at Division X – BT’s business innovation team. “Putting the power of immersive content into the hands of customers allows people to experience learning in a completely new way that is targeted specifically to their needs – which can significantly improve information retention and problem-solving skills. It can also enrich remote sales experiences, add a new layer to gaming and sports, and transport people virtually to any location, anywhere, during any point in history.”

The potential for immersive technologies is huge, according to David Salt, managing director of Immersive Interactive. “Being able to interact with every surface of an immersive room, as well as enjoy additional sounds, smells and sensory effects, allows people to become truly submerged and virtually transported to new environments, as if they were experiencing the real thing,” he said. “We are thrilled to be working with BT to bring this technology, with limitless potential, to businesses and consumers who can benefit from learning in a new, interactive way.”

BT said it was already experiencing early demand for training and development use cases across education, healthcare, retail, transport, tourism, construction and sport – creating virtual experiences inside operating theatres, buses, warehouses, supermarkets, building sites and arenas. They are suitable for any business or organisation with a learning or development requirement.

Initial customers for BT Immersive Spaces include Borders College in Galashiels, Scotland, and Cadoxton Primary School in South Wales. Both are using the technology to create fully immersive and interactive classrooms.

“The children absolutely love it,” said Hannah Cogbill, senior leadership at Cadoxton Primary School. “Their favourite one so far is life under the sea. We can’t wait to explore more of the experiences and collections and then begin to develop our own content. We are looking forward to using it to support our children’s development and progression of imaginative writing. But it will also be a great scaffold to support learners with pre-experiences that they might be nervous about – for example, catching a train or going on an aeroplane.”

Construction students at Borders College, who have previously not had the opportunity to access large-scale inner-city developments for on-site learning, are now experiencing first hand the teachings of the construction environment using the technology.

BT said students taking courses from engineering to medical and health and social care also benefit, as they can manage real-life scenarios and increase their understanding of working in each career path. This will include electrical safe isolation, ambulance training and dementia training. In addition, it believes there will no longer be a divide between the opportunities offered to rural and inner-city students.

“Thanks to this new, innovative, 5G-enabled equipment from BT, our students will be able to learn from wide-ranging developments, which is incredibly important in helping them to navigate their career opportunities and understand where their preferences lie in this diverse sector,” said David Lowe, assistant principal of curriculum and sustainability at Borders College. “As lecturers, it will give us far more agility to update our courses as new practices and techniques enter the market, which will unlock a wider and ‘green’ range of skills among students.”

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