Latest News | 18 August 2020

The future is now

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Blog Author: Keith Cox, Director of Bloc Digital

Blog Author: Keith Cox, Director of Bloc Digital

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, Bondholder Bloc Digital embodies the spirit of innovation as it has grown from a two person start-up company into a multi-disciplined digital visualisation studio.

In this, the third in a series of Bondholder Blogs, director Keith Cox, looks at how its technology is helping businesses work smarter, more effectively and intuitively and the role that immersive technologies have to play in a post-COVID world.

“It’s been a time to look back and gaze forward. Perhaps even more so as we hit that 20 year milestone at a time of significant change in the world. A time where connecting, collaboration, innovation and tech have come together with strength and purpose,” says Keith.


As a digital tech company we spend a lot of time looking to the future – horizon scanning, developing new tech – and then there are the days when the future is now!

Earlier this month an eagerly awaited package arrived at the office. A new piece of immersive kit, the mixed reality headset HoloLens 2! Only just released into the market, we’re in the privileged position to be among some of the first in the UK to be road testing this new headset – stress-testing its promise and capabilities.

This is the latest in immersive ‘wearable’ technology. Physical and digital worlds co-exist and users can interact in real time. As one of the first companies to use the original HoloLens for use in industry 4 years ago, emulating operation and product demonstration of the RollsRoyce Trent XWB Engine, we had been hotly anticipating this new version and the opportunities it may bring.

It has innovated and evolved. With better hand tracking, a larger field of view and new eye tracking, it’s built and adapted the technology to open up new hands-free uses and capabilities.

This journey of developing and adapting seemed particularly apt, as this month Bloc Digital celebrates its 20th anniversary and continual growth and innovation. It has evolved from a two person start up with business partner Chris Hotham, to a multi-disciplined digital visualisation studio with specialist animation, 3D modelling, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) disciplines. This year saw us complete our family of divisions serving new sectors in property (Bloc Arch Viz), branding and marketing (Bloc Creative) and film, arts and heritage (Bloc Media).

The growth in our team, capabilities and global presence is prompting another new development – a location move to the University of Derby’s Enterprise Centre that is strengthening our collaborative research and development partnerships.

As I’m packing up the office I’m surrounded by a living history of technology and business growth. From my early days as a technical illustrator, using PCs with 32 mb of RAM through to motion capture Rokoko suits (think Hollywood CGI!) and now the HoloLens2.

It’s been a time to look back and gaze forward. Perhaps even more so as we hit that 20 year milestone at a time of significant change in the world. A time where connecting, collaboration, innovation and tech have come together with strength and purpose.

As a digital visualisation studio Bloc Digital is focused on creating new digital imagery, immersive environments and web app solutions which enable organisations to work smarter, more effectively and intuitively – showcasing and promoting businesses with impact.

As COVID-19 hit, organisations rushed to remote working, rapidly adopting or increasing their digital communications. The immediate focus was staying connected – information sharing and communicating from individual, personal locations and critically across distance. For our global clients this shift to the ‘virtual world’ had been a natural progression but we know that for other, perhaps smaller businesses and specific sectors this hadn’t been a priority – until it suddenly was.

Now six months on, we’re all beginning to catch our collective breath; turning to resilience and recovery is requiring a shift in strategies, technologies and practices. As a business community we’re establishing the shape of the changed physical and increasingly digitised business environment which we’re inhabiting. In short, we are moving on from straight communication to collaboration, growth, and production.

Organisations are now looking to increase productivity, ensure sustainability and resilience all within potentially remote and dislocated environments. Here immersive technologies are offering real and specific opportunities. It is translating these advancements into real industry use, sitting within the day-to-day operations of a company, which will unlock future growth and efficiencies.

Over the next 12 months we’re going to see a greater shift from video-based digital communications into the immersive world of AR, VR and 360° technologies. Advancements add tech to our fingertips; delivered by our smartphones, head-mounted displays (HMDs), smart glasses and 3D immersive experience rooms.

VR content and project creation is easier and more cost effective to design and implement. Innovation and investment in R&D by companies like ourselves is reducing cost and complexity barriers to the creation and development of immersive environments. We’re looking to level the playing field so that all businesses have the opportunity to benefit from digital and technological advancement.

Once the preserve of the gaming and entertainment industry, recent innovations in capability, access and use are now blending virtual and real world within enterprise and business. At Bloc Digital we’ve responded – helping companies to overcome geographical barriers by creating ‘wearable’ solutions to overlay information to the users vision. We’ve also just completed a virtual event for General Dynamics where 3D interactable product demonstrations and client interaction enabled conventional location-specific exhibition activity to enter a global stage.

And with constant developments, will come more innovation not only in technology but also how we harness it. I’ve been struck and energised by the way we as a Derby community have responded collaboratively; reimagining our city, looking to reinvigorate our manufacturing and technology sectors, and re-welcoming commerce and visitors to our region.

We’ll be playing our part in that too – developing intuitive immersive solutions with business and industry at their core. Such as predicting how engineering parts will degrade over time and implementing intelligent web applications with the knowledge to monitor and diagnose faults in manufacturing production line equipment. Our VR and AR training solutions remove the reliance on location and time specific venues and are opening up spaces constrained by physical restrictions, giving access to those that would otherwise be limited by geography, budget or safety requirements.

So what does this 2020 vision give us? Innovation in immersive technologies is complementing established business practices and industrial processes to form more complete communications, operations and experiences. In a time of social distance and change it brings us closer together. It will keep us connected and keep us resilient towards the next horizon…and the next 20 years of tech.

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