Liverpool tech firm Imagin3D, is leading a revolution in the way highly complex elements of life sciences are taught at universities – by using video games.
Content developers at Imagin3D’s offices in Sensor City are using techniques developed for computer gaming to enable students to “see” how intricate and multifaceted metabolic processes, such as insulin signalling and glycolysis, work within the human body.
The company, founded around a year ago, is based at the Campus Technology Hub at Sci-Tech, Daresbury, which the firm says allows it to have direct access to “world-class research facilities” such as the Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) and IBM’s only UK based R&D facility featuring the UK’s largest commercially available supercomputer.
Imagin3D’s content development workforce at Sensor City is composed entirely of graduate interns – meaning the innovation is driven by students for students.
A spokesman said: “We pay above national living wage from the outset, enabling us to attract and retain the freshest talent in our field.”
“We operate a low overhead business model reducing the traditional ‘cost of entry’ barrier to these emerging technologies that our clients would normally face. The combination of our research and academic ties ensures the highest quality content, and access to the best facilities and hardware available.”
Sensor City is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University and is one of the UK’s four flagship university enterprise zones.
Imagin3D claims to have “digital inclusion” high in its list of core values, meaning that any content created can be deployed in a manner where those with only limited technology can view the content.
Common outputs include still images, video animations, 3D ‘mass distribution’ free viewers, augmented reality and virtual reality.
The firm’s spokesman added that is particularly important when distributing content to audiences with varying technical ability – and differences in the level of understanding of subject matter.
Imagin3D teamed up with Dr John Barrow from University of Aberdeen to create a visual experience to simplify the description of the complex metabolic processes in insulin signalling.
The collaboration led to an academic paper entitled ‘Augmented Reality for Enhancing Life Science Education’, published at the Visual 2019 – Fourth International Conference on Applications and Systems of Visual Paradigms event in Rome.
Imagin3D’s next development will be content to “visualise” the biochemical process of glycolysis – the first stage of the breakdown of glucose by body’s cells for the production of energy.
Speaking about the collaboration, Dr Barrow said: “This is a really good opportunity to grasp the current technology and make full use of it in an educational setting.
“My hope is that this partnership is the start of something much larger and that we can begin to use visualisation in lots of areas of university education to maximise impact and ultimately the understanding of our students.”
The application of this technology may still be in its infancy, but it is timely, the spokesman said.
In July this year, Pearson, the world’s largest education publisher announced it had taken the first step towards phasing out print books by making all its learning resources “digital first”.
Pearson said students would only be able to rent physical textbooks from now on, and they would be updated much less frequently.
The British firm hopes the move will make more students buy its e-textbooks which are updated continually.