Dec 21. Augmented and Virtual Reality in Oxford museums

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Are you still making plans on how to spend the holidays? How about a day out at the University’s museums?

A number of museums are currently exploring how to use innovative technology to make their collections more engaging. Two projects funded by the IT Innovation Challenges are dedicated to finding new possibilities with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). You can find some of the projects’ results embedded in the museums already.

Open Cabinet

Open Cabinet uses AR technology to create new opportunities for enriching University and lifelong learning through virtual handling of 3D artefacts in the museum. The project has two intertwined aims: to embed objects more deeply into the learning experience at Oxford by facilitating their use as unique learning resources by staff and students, and to enhance the public visitor experience by using this innovative technology to improve access to objects without altering the highly-valued appearance and atmosphere of the museums.

Open Cabinet virtually takes museum objects out of their display cases and allows you to engage with the 3D models on your mobile device. Photo by Robbie Brock CC BY-NC-SA

Bring your smart phone to the Pitt Rivers and keep an eye out for QR codes. When scanning them, they will bring up 3D models of the museum objects on your phone that you can interact with.

Read more about Open Cabinet

Physical and Virtual Show and Tell

In this GLAM Labs project the team will create an ‘experience station’ in the Museum of Natural History  to provide visitors with access to VR models of specimens that they can manipulate using their ‘virtual hands’, supported by digital annotations and interpretation. A touchscreen built in to the kiosk will also allow access to other digital content created by the Museum that is not currently available to in-gallery visitors. This station will be designed so that it can be used as ‘self-service’, but it will also serve as a base from which regular Spotlight Specimen ‘show and tell’ sessions can be run by staff. These facilitated sessions will allow staff to use 3D printed models (and specimens) related to the VR models available in the headset component of the station.

This project is still in the early stages, but keep an eye out for news about the VR kiosk in the Museum of Natural History.

Read more about Physical and Virtual Show and Tell

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Dec. 20. Oxford and Empire

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Oxford and Empire

If you are exploring Oxford over the Christmas break, you may find some remnants of the Empire around the city. Some of the buildings, sites, objects, and memorials you come across in the city are available through photographs and 3D models on the online platform CabinetThis particular online resource on the legacies of Empire in Oxford contains 3D models of the Rhodes Building and the Indian Institute, which you can spin around, zoom in on and explore further.

This resource has been built as part of the Oxford and Empire project in the Humanities Division:

The Oxford and Empire Project encourages discussion of the history and legacies of colonialism in Oxford.

Learn more objects of empire and the project, visit the Oxford and Empire website.

The Cabinet project and and the related Open Cabinet project have received funding from the IT Innovation Challenges. Cabinet has been built by researchers at the OII and has been used in a number teaching, public engagement and outreach activities.

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Dec 19. Self-Heal

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Christmas is not necessarily a time of joy for everyone. If you are living with self-harm, or know someone who does, you may want to explore the ‘Self-Heal’ app. The free app features distraction task suggestions, useful contacts, information on self-harm and a gallery of inspirational images to help with the management of self-harm. It has been developed by a team of students at the University of Oxford in collaboration with mental health professionals. You can find it via the ‘Self-Heal app’ page The Self-Heal Facebook page contains further information, sample illustrations and more:


The ‘Manage Your Self Harm’ project was funded by IT Innovation Challenges in the 2015 student round.

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Dec 18. Not going home for Christmas?

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Still working? If you feel in need of a change of scenery as Christmas is coming closer, why not explore the Workplace Finder? Log in with your Oxford Single Sign-on and find places near you where you can sit and work. The list is filtered automatically to only show places to where you have access, and you can filter the results further to see spaces with particular features, such as access to power-points, printing facilities or somewhere where you may bring your coffee.  The list of places includes University and College spaces, as well as some public venues, such as the public library. Pictures and symbols help you decide if this is a space for you. Markers on the map show where the space is located and whether it is open now, closing soon, or closed.

Workplace Finder was created in a student-led project supported by IT Innovation Challenges. The web-app was built by Software Solutions and is now being maintained by Bodleian Libraries. The app is freely available to any member of the University at

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Dec 17. Printing musical instruments in 3D

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

What would the holiday season be without some of our favourite Christmas songs?

Today is all about music and we are excited to report that the GLAM project ‘Replicating Historical Musical Instruments‘ is making fantastic progress.

Man presenting a 3D printed flute

Andrew Hughes, Deputy Head of Conservation, Pitt Rivers Museum, presenting one of the 3D printed recorder at the GLAM Engaged Research Showcase in November 2019t here

The project aims at recreating historical instruments using 3D printing technology. A 17th century ivory recorder has been chosen for this project. The recorder is still playable,  allowing for comparisons between the original and the replicas.

In November, the team had new prints of the mouthpieces and blocks made, so they now have four working accurate replicas that did not require any post-processing. On 27 November, Andrew Hughes gave a lightning talk at the GLAM Engaged Research Showcase at the Weston Library which included a performance of the original and all 5 replicas. The team is also working on a film which shows the printing process required to produce different replicas to help distribute the project’s findings.

The original 17th century recorder and the five 3D printed replicas produced by the project team.

In early December, an assessment was carried out at the Bate Collection by a professional recorder player to play the original and the replicas and provide feedback from the musician’s perspective. The assessment was attended by an interdisciplinary team, including members of the Engineering Science team, Gabriele Ricchiardi (University of Turin), Mark Witkowski (Imperial College London) and Olwen Foulkes, a recorder player and PhD student at the Royal Academy of Music. Further initial testing carried out by 4th year Engineering student has produced some interesting findings, and all replicas are currently undergoing acoustic testing in the engineering lab.

We will have to wait a little longer to find out whether 3D prints are a viable alternative to original historical instruments, but the project has already produced many interesting findings that you can read more about in the following articles:

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Dec 16. Cabinet of (Christmas) curiosities

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

The online platform Cabinet, built by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute and supported by the IT Innovation Challenges, holds a number of intriguing entries associated with Christmas.

Screenshot of a 3D model of the Princess Mary Gift Tin 1914

View the 3D model on Cabinet by clicking on the image.

One of them is this 3D model of the Princess Mary Gift Tin box, which was digitised using photogrammetry at one of the University’s Lest We Forget roadshows.

The Princess Mary Gift Fund box is an embossed brass box that originally contained a variety of items such as tobacco and chocolate. It was intended as a Christmas present to those serving at Christmas in 1914 and was paid for by a public fund backed by Princess Mary.

The 3D model reveals the embossing through the play of light on the object’s surface and gives a sense of the object’s age by showing small scratches on its back – a detail usually not visible in photographs.

Other objects on Cabinet that relate to Christmas  include

Find out more about Cabinet

Cabinet is designed to support the use of objects and images in teaching and its ultimate aim is to make material culture as accessible for learning as traditional text-based sources. If you are interested in using Cabinet in your teaching, take a look at the Centre for Teaching and Learning website.

The Cabinet team is also working on an Augmented Reality extension of the platform to be used in museums. Read more about Open Cabinet on this blog.

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Dec 15. Not another Christmas movie

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Oxford is beautiful and quaint, but have you ever thought about what the historic features, narrow pavements and cobbled streets mean for a wheelchair user? The Oxford Accessibility Project offers you the opportunity to see Oxford from a different angle by following A Day in the Life of a Wheelchair User.

We challenged a non-wheelchair user to get around Oxford in a wheelchair for the day. Let’s see how they did!

The short film was created by the team behind the Oxford Accessibility Project, a student-led initiative creating a free, online guide with college accessibility information. An audio described version as well as a longer version can also be found through the project’s YouTube channel.


The Oxford Accessibility Project is supported by the IT Innovation Challenges (student call). It is working with the University of Oxford and the Conference of Colleges to create a comprehensive accessibility resource for Oxford’s colleges and permanent private halls. See also the Oxford Access Guide

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Dec 14. Video recording made easy

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

You may have to wait another ten days for your Christmas presents but it is now quicker and easier than ever to create a video for your course website, conference or research. Thanks to the ‘Instant Video Creation’ project, the University now has a number of video creation booths where users can come in and quickly and easily record their video to a memory stick, ready to be published on the VLE, website or simply shown at a conference or in a lecture.

The Instant Video Creation project was based at the Said Business School and supported by IT Innovation Challenges. You can find out more about it through the ‘Instant Video creation with RapidMooc’ blog post, or the video created using the new facility.

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Dec 13. Access all areas?

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IT Innovation Challenges advent calendar 2019

Oxford colleges and halls have amazing spaces. Whether they are in old, historic buildings or new, modern constructions they play a central role in students’ lives and are a key component of the Oxford student experience. But have you ever thought about how you can get to them? Here we are not thinking about whether you are allowed to go in but whether you are able to. Would you be able to go to a talk or visit the common room if you use a wheelchair or cannot walk up or down stairs? Are there toilets that you can get to and could you reach to open the doors? Thanks to the student led Oxford Accessibility Project, you can now find answers to those questions and much more via the College Access Guide

By making accessibility information more readily available, we’re empowering present and future generations of Oxonians to engage with college life more fully, and socialise with greater confidence, purpose and ease. Oxford Accessibility Project   

The free guide, available online, is now also part of the University’s Access Guide. It will be updated further, with more information added. If your college isn’t listed, why not contact the project and take part in helping current and future students get the information they need to be able to take part in University – and college – life.

The Oxford Accessibility Project was supported by the IT Innovation Challenges (student round)

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Dec 12. Digital makers

Looking for something to do over the holidays? Want to be creative and learn new skills? Why not try some digital making?

‘Digital Makers’ is an IT Innovation Challenges project looking at how affordable and flexible small computers, such as the micro:bit and Raspberry Pi, can be used to create new and rich experiences for museum visitors. By adding a technology aspect to more traditional craft activities, the team are allowing visitors to quickly acquire enough coding skills to add light, sound, movement and interactive elements to models or projects. While technology can supply the mechanism for digital making, the inspiration is provided by the rich collections held within GLAM. The first trial workshops have generated very positive feedback, suggesting it is something for both young and old to look out for.

‘Different, fun, mind boggling, ..’

‘very 21st century, fascinating… ‘

‘I will tell people I really enjoyed today and it’s worth going’ (child)

If you want to explore some digital making of your own, why not visit the micro:bit and Rasberry Pi websites where you can find out more about the technology. And keep an eye out for new museum workshops and activities by the ‘Digital Makers’ team.

Participants in the first Digital Maker workshop using technology, including Raspberry Pis and Micro:bits creatively

GLAM Labs Digital Makers team at work. Photo by O. Bridle

‘Digital Makers’ is joint project between the Ashmolean Museum and Bodleian Libraries, funded by IT Innovation Challenges.

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