Greater Manchester Higher, an organisation formed of the regional universities of Manchester, turned to DigitalLabs to enhance their existing “University and Me” booklet. They wanted to find a way to make it more appealing to their school-age audience, whilst encouraging university entrants to engage with the activities and programme outlined within it, without impacting their existing inventory of booklets.
DigitalLabs’ response combines latest mobile technologies with playful storytelling and real-world activities
DigitalLabs proposed adding a layer to the booklet, taking advantage of Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to create an interactive guidance system that could be experienced by pointing a phone or tablet at any page in the booklet.
Working with existing inventory and aims
This would have no impact on what GM Higher had produced already, while avoiding creating a by-the-numbers piece of brochureware, merely replicating a booklet as an App. By taking this approach, we could not only enhance the information in the booklet, but provide a compelling reason for people to want to retain and value their booklets.
The outcome: The realised technology solution
We created an unobtrusive app which turned each page in the booklet into a fully-animated experience, which could keep track of reading and real-world activities. We used state-of-the-art technology to change the nature of the application to be a compelling, fun experience, rather than a dry, screen-reading alternative. This worked with the existing inventory of GM Higher, using each page as a scene in which a 3D experience would play out through the lens of the phone, encouraging exploration.
We worked with animation students from the School of Art to storyboard then animate a character who would pop out of the booklet (using the camera and App as a ‘magic lens’), who would provide feedback to the reader, make playful comments about student life, and provide a contextual checklist of activities and readings depending on the reader’s age. Feedback was provided through a dashboard on the inside cover, providing information about how much of the suggested activities and reading had been completed. By using the Application in one of the institutions that make up GM Higher, a ‘visit’ badge was awarded, and on completing the award trifecta (a visit, activity completion, and reading list completion), new animations could be unlocked, encouraging the Higher Education-curious to work through the booklet in a structured and organised manner, with clear feedback about their progress and an award for achieving it.
Benefits for GM Higher, end users – and creating employment for students
The Application has been well-received by it’s intended audience, as well as younger people (and younger people trapped in the bodies of Older People). It uses showcase technologies (AR) which people are interested in experiencing; as a result, it makes the GM Higher brochure more appealing to preserve, as the gateway to the experience. It did this without any impact or demands on the existing offering of GM Higher – the experience and value-added features were retrofitted onto their existing booklet.
Beyond just the business benefits, this provided a number of important ancillary benefits. It allowed DigitalLabs to bring together disparate sections of the University and give their students a structured and guided opportunity to work on a cutting-edge technology with expert guidance, helping develop their skill set with early-stage technologies, resulting in a portfolio piece of a real-world project released through a respected partner. These animators and designers were employed through MMU’s Jobs4Students programme and paid for their work.
The project ultimately exemplified what DigitalLabs’ remit is: to expose students to real-world projects and practices, and to understand new technologies through their application in real-world projects. This provides both the academic community and our project partners with early-stage insight and understanding of these systems from informed and applied knowledge.
GM Higher got a showcase application unlike any other in the educational market at a highly competitive rate that would also help safeguard future generations of technologists.