NI firm pioneers virtual reality breakthrough with national and international contracts secured

  • A Northern Ireland tech start-up company has pioneered a revolutionary new way for business and individuals to use virtual reality technology and has secured two major contracts of for the use of its cutting-edge application in criminal court settings.

    The team of virtual reality experts at Belfast-based Immersonal, set up in 2021 has developed one of the world’s first affordable and simple ways for non-tech savvy businesses, organisations and individuals to create their own virtual reality experiences and training simulations.

    The futuristic technology can transform how companies train their staff and do business. Immersonal CEO Tom Houston explains: “We have spent two years developing the software for a new user-friendly platform Immersonal360 which is now available to subscribe to worldwide.

    “Until now it was expensive and too complex a process for end users to create virtual reality experiences without the support of a software development team. Our product is a game changer. Immersonal’s technology is designed for non-technical users to create advanced VR simulations that can automatically be used across a range of platforms."

    He continued: “The ‘create once’ principle allows the same experience to be used on VR headsets, desktop or laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and embedded into a company’s website. It is giving lay people – not software developers – the chance to create virtual reality experiences.”

    The innovation has helped the company secure a £500,000 contract with the Scottish government and another with the International Criminal Court in the Hague to help make court processes easier for victims of crime.

    A working prototype for both Glasgow Sheriff Court and the High Court in Glasgow has already been developed, with roll-out to all 52 Scottish courts in the next year.

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    The immersional technology allows victims and witnesses in Scotland to use virtual reality headsets to walk through a three-dimensional world which recreates the actual court building where their case is to be held. It enables them to interact and familiarise themselves in a virtual environment that includes people and surroundings they can expect to encounter in court.

    The local firm secured the contract through CivTeach, a Scottish government digital and economic initiative set up to drive daring and innovation in the public and third sectors.

    Tom Houston said: “It is an incredible vote of confidence for our product to be selected for this project. We have been working with Victim Support Scotland and CivTech creating prototypes, and testing for the past six months.

    “Now to see it live and active in the hands of users and the benefits they derive from it is an incredibly gratifying experience for the entire Immersonal team.

    “The Foreign Commonwealth Development office has also contracted us to develop it for the International Criminal Court. Initially, they want to use it for lay people and particularly kids who, when brought into the formal legal environment of a courtroom, can be overwhelmed with anxiety, and often just freeze.

    “Our technology takes the pain out of that process allowing them to familiarise themselves with courtroom settings, people and processes. This can be done in the comfort of their own homes if need be.”

    The foundations for this groundbreaking technology have been laid in Northern Ireland through the immersional’s sister company Sentireal, a multi-award-winning leader in bespoke virtual reality and augmented reality software applications.

    Sentireal has created virtual reality training in multiple settings here – providing virtual reality health and safety training for prisoners through NIACRO, a virtual reality theatre experience during Covid-19 for the Lyric Theatre and even a clinical classroom for medical students at Queen’s University.

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    Immersive training is already widely used in areas as diverse as healthcare, the military, warehouse training, education and sports development.

    Tom Houston adds: “The potential for immersional 360 is limitless. Within minutes, a user can capture footage and turn it into a ‘gamified’ training experience published to their entire team or company.

    “The interest has been phenomenal and we are currently in talks with a number of organisations and companies, including a police force in England hoping to bring it into schools to help tackle bullying, drugs and gangs.

    “We believe this is a game-changer in how virtual reality technology can help in all sorts of work and real-life environments. We are hopeful, following its success in the UK and the Hague, the technology will also be picked up in the NI and ROI markets."

    Source: Written from press release

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