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Students in digital entertainment ‘Research Jam’ to aid the work of Dementia Institute

Students from the Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE) took part in a two-day Research Jam to put their skills to the test to create apps or games with the purpose of enhancing the work of Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI).

The Centre for Digital Entertainment is a centre for doctoral training and collaboration between the universities of Bournemouth and Bath, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The intention of this year’s CDE annual event, also attended by academics and industry professionals, was to bring the focus back to the skills and knowledge the CDE Research Engineers are gaining during the four year programme, and inputting it into a creative process that could benefit society.

Professor Jian Jun Zhang, Deputy Director of CDE at Bournemouth University, said, “This year we wanted to push our students a little harder and by using their expertise and teaming up with BUDI, we hope to have a societal impact through the work we are doing”.

The two day event included a talk from the BBC’s Research and Development department and Dementia Friends training from BUDI, before students were split into groups and each asked to create an app, game or interface that would either raise awareness for, or assist people with dementia.

An integral part of the programme is the three year industrial placement.  Ian Stephenson, a Senior Lecturer in Computer Animation and part of the CDE, said, “These postgraduate students have been working in companies like the BBC and Double Negative, once a year we bring them together. This year we have partnered with BUDI to look at the topic of dementia. We want these young engineers to build something that addresses the issue of dementia in society – to put their technical skills to use for the benefit of society.”

The event started with presentations from the BBC’s Research and Development (R&D) department and Bournemouth-based company 3 Sided Cube, giving the students an insight into work processes around digital content creation before the teams got to work.  After seeing the presentations and collating information, the teams had a little under 24 hours to research, create and present their ideas.

The teams were asked to work on one of three main areas within the theme of dementia; physical stimulation to keep people with dementia active; social stimulation to increase interaction, and generational interaction, for people with dementia; or a piece of technology to challenge public view of dementia.

Becky Gregory-Clarke (pictured) from the BBC’s R&D team said, “The BBC R&D team has a strong link with the CDE through student placements and we’ve been ‘workshopping’ around the idea of dementia too, so it was great to come along and see these students at work. It’s really great for students to get involved in events like this because at the BBC we do things like this as a part of our work day too, so if you can get used to brainstorming and working like this now it can really hold you in good stead for your career in the future too.”

Claire Cutler, a member of Bournemouth University Dementia Institute said, “BUDI has a long history working with technology, and dementia is a massive issue in our culture at the moment, it is great to bring our understanding about dementia together with technology to develop something that could address real world problems.”

The teams were given the opportunity to pitch their idea to a panel of experts, giving technical demonstrations to support their idea.  The pitches were assessed and awards were given in three categories, Best Pitch, Best Team Work and Best Product.  The winning team of ‘Best Product’ created a game to challenge the public perception of dementia and discussions are now taking place to see how this idea can be developed further into something for public use.

Zoe Leonard, CDE Research Events Co-ordinator said “The event has been a great success and there is much excitement around the outcomes.  It was a great cohort building exercise, whilst at the same time encouraging team building, communication, project management and presentation skills.  Not to mention the possible impact the ideas generated by the CDE Research Engineers, could have for those living with or dealing with dementia.

“We are all looking forward to seeing how these ideas can be developed and we hope to be able to run similar events in the future”.

For more information about the Centre for Digital Entertainment, visit their website, www.digital-entertainment.org or for information about Bournemouth University Dementia Institute visit http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/dementia-institute/.