Which World Leader Are You?

A Project in the Life of a Visual Journalism Trainee

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A few months ago, I completed my first big project for the Visual Journalism team at BBC News. I worked alongside another developer to create the ‘Which World Leader are You?’ piece.

I was brought into the project as it looked like one which I could learn a lot from it, buddy up with an experienced developer and, given the scale of the project, it would probably benefit from an extra set of hands.

I joined it at a stage where a designer had fleshed the project out. I was presented with an a3 sheet divided into columns to represent the page flow, filled with professional illustrations, graphs and text. Our first task was to see how feasible each aspect was and estimate how much time it would take to create. This was only my second or third week on the job so I stayed very quiet feeling rather overwhelmed and very inexperienced. At this point though I was glad I had studied project planning at uni (despite hating it at the time) as it gave me an understanding as to what the point of this part of the process was and how I could best help (multiplying all my estimates by 1.5 or 2 to counter my inexperience seemed to be the best course of action).

I was assigned certain parts of the project, initially these were the basic markup for the page and the graphs. Originally, there were to be three different types of graph, this was quickly rethought as we weren’t sure if this was the best use of developer time or way of presenting the data, 2 block charts and a stack chart were decided upon instead.

From the start I was anxious to get stuck in with the graphs. It seemed like a massively daunting task and worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I spent a day looking into different libraries (such as D3 and charts.js) but none had examples of the type of graph we wanted. I took some time to toss up the pros and cons of D3 vs hand-coding them, but in the end opted for the DIY approach.

Once I got stuck in, I was surprised how quickly I managed to generate a set of blocks which visually represented the data. I encountered a number of issues trying to make them all fit on one row at mobile size though. For help with this I consulted with the designer to see exactly what dimensions he had used for his mock-up. After much fiddling I managed to get it to fit (hooray!). Then came labelling it. I had pretty much ignored this part of making the graphs because I was too busy internally panicking about building the blocky bit. Turns out labels are waaaaay more complicated. Especially with the original design. It is really fiddly to try and get the labels on the axis match up to the exact position they represent.

Originally, there was to be dynamic labels as well. These hovered above a column of blocks and indicated which blocks represented where ‘you’ were and where your country’s leader was on the graph. They were dynamic in that, if you changed the age or country you inputted  the labels would reposition themselves on the graph. The ‘you’ label in the live project still does this if you want to see what I mean. Trying to create both of these involved a lot of complex logic, particularly to deal with occurrences where both fell in the same column. It took many attempts to make it work, followed by discussions with the lead dev on the project, the journalist and the designer before realising that the logic involved in this to make it always work was slightly too complicated. We ended up simplifying the idea and using a key to indicate the leader of the user’s country rather than attempting to dynamically label them. It was good this decision was taken, but it would have saved a lot of time if we had realised the sheer complexity of this issue and decided on this alternative possibility earlier. It was relief that the designers were happy to compromise on their original design though otherwise I’d probably still be tinkering with it!

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During the time I was getting stuck on the graphs I took a bit of a brain break and inserted some content and built the stack chart. These didn’t take as long as expected which had the helpful result of making me on track for my estimations overall despite the fact that the graphs were taking more time than allocated. This included the SVGs used for the maps. I had thought SVG was an image format, didn’t quite realise it was but in the form of code!

By this point we’ve been working on the project for a few weeks, I have some graphy looking things on the screen and I have become much more confident in myself and with talking to the different members of the team and actually answering their questions rather than just referring them to Steve, the other dev.

Somehow I wasn’t far off the estimates we had set so some of the tasks originally delegated to Steve were reassigned to me, including the slow reveal, the factbox and istats. The idea of the slow reveal was very daunting to me. The slow reveal is the minimising of each section until the user has filled out the form related to it (see the image below). It sounded really complicated and I had originally refused to estimate it having little clue about how it would be implemented. I think we had suggested it might take 2 days. One morning, because I was encountering some issues with the trivia factbox I decided to try and attempt it. I figured out where the separate sections would need to be and just gave it a go using ‘display: none’. To my surprise my initial idea worked. And as ridiculous as it seemed I’d managed to complete it in about half an hour – therefore shaving almost 2 days off our schedule and taking a step toward getting us back on track. In all honesty, I was slightly surprised that any of my work came in under the time I had estimated – I was convinced everything was going to take me ages. The graphs definitely took a lot longer than we had originally anticipated, so it was a relief that other things weren’t quite as hard as expected so it all balanced out in the end.

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Istats is a tool we use to track user engagement with a piece. It allows to count how many times a specified button has been pressed, the city a user is in and the device they’re accessing it from. It was my job to insert code to utilise it into specified places and make sure it was being called correctly.

Whilst I’m busy doing this stuff, Steve had the far more complicated jobs of writing the feature file (a list of scenarios that could present and how the application should handle them, used for testing purposes) and all the logic for the comparisons and the form inputs to do these.

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At some point during this process it was starting to take shape and actually look like the mock up we’d been provided by the designer. I’d also started to hate the whole thing, even more once I’d put the slow reveal in because you’d have to type data into it to reveal the section that you wanted to check something in. I got to the point where my own date of birth was boring/irritating me, but it was the date I could type with the least thought so I continued to resentfully type it out hundreds of times a day. (In hindsight, we could have put values into in in the code for testing so we only had to click submit…).

At this point something had to go wrong surely? Of course. Enter, the King of Thailand. I had crafted a beautiful graph which celebrated the fact that he was the longest serving leader by almost 30 years, bu unfortunately he passed away during the project. It just didn’t look nearly as impressive anymore.

The deadline was fast approaching and there were still a few things which needed to be done, but more pressingly we needed to see how much it broke when we translated it into other languages. 20 other languages to be precise. I was particularly scared as to how disastrously the graphs would break. Luckily nothing too horrendous happened in that respect. 

Speaking of which, right to left styling. Never considered that before! There was a few stylistic changes which needed to be made in order for the piece to make sense (and look visually appealing) in languages such as Arabic and Persian. Most of these were covered with the CSS ‘direction’ property (which I’d never heard of before) with ‘rtl’ being applied to the main page and the graph section being specified as ‘ltr’ since the use of latin numerals in the graph across all languages meant that they would read it left to right according to our translators.

Arabic

In the final push toward the deadline we encountered some major issues. The most confusing of which was that the entire project was broken in Hausa and Ukrainian, and separately that some odd characters were appearing in place of apostrophes in every language. After much confusion and talking to the other devs we managed to fix both of these just in time. It turned out it was due to a templating issue – in these languages the translations of country names included apostrophes, which as any programmers reading will know often signals the end of a string/input. This meant that some when we fed the data into the templating engine it was ending prematurely and catastrophes were caused. Once we figured out that this was the problem we were able to take steps to fix it (we re-evaluated if we actually needed to use the templating engine for this section at all, and decided we didn’t).  Our next problem was that it managed to break in IE9. This was due to an update in the way our internal tooling handles JSON data, we had updated our code to handle this but had overlooked that our method wouldn’t work in IE9. Steve rewrote it in a way that older versions of Internet Explorer would support and managed to fix it just a few hours before launch. It was a pretty stressful day!

We hadn’t managed to make all the tweaks we had intended which was slightly frustrating but at least it was now working and everyone was happy with it. On that note, I went to the pub with my project manager and failed in a pub quiz. Cut to a few hours later, all the trains had been cancelled so I was stranded in London. Yay! I decided to crash at a hostel and all was good.

The next morning it was live! It was all very exciting. I had posted it on Facebook and Twitter and was receiving lot’s of lovely comments from people.

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Nassos, the journalist I had been working with, then explained Chartbeat to me and showed me how the page was currently doing on the site. Chartbeat is a tool that shows you live data about how many people are on your webpage and the level of interaction with certain parts of it. It was 10am, there were 40,000 people on the page at that moment and it was number 7 most read on the site. Mind blowing. 40,000 people were at that very moment looking at the content I had helped make.

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The next day we were updated with how many people had been looking at it over the course of the first day. Around 750,000 people had been on to the page in the first day. I was also sent some screen grabs from Steve, the other developer, of it reaching number 2 in most read (!!!) and being at the top of the front page in Uzbekistan! It was all very surreal to say the least.

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With that project under my belt, I am eager to see what else I get my hands on whilst I’m here. It was such a fantastic project to work on and a brilliant experience to have had!

100 Women Hack

 

100Women

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a hack event put on in collaboration by the BBC and Facebook. Exciting, right? Even better, was that the purpose of the hack was to create a social media product that would be used to promote the new 100 Women season for the BBC.

100 Women is a series of programmes, features and interviews based around a list of 100 inspirational global women, named by the BBC every year. The new season starts on November 21st but until then you can check out 2015’s season.

The hack was a female only event – the participants were all female coders from various companies such as BBC and Citymapper, and were supported by BBC editors, Facebook developers etc who were also all female. It was great to be in a room filled with such confident and inspiring women.

Anyway, after an interesting introduction from a few of the faces behind the hack and 100 Women as a whole, we got to work. Myself and Agata from Citymapper decided to join forces and create something, we just weren’t sure what… With facilitation from Laura and Fiona we did some ideas generation and eventually decided on something.

Our idea was a data visualisation / meaww quiz style app to plug into Facebook. It allowed users to log in with Facebook, where it would then grab data from their profile and compare it to data about the 100 women for the season. The user would then be shown their closest matches on various categories on a web page. The idea of this was to engage and empower women by showing them how they could easily be one of the 100 Women selected for the campaign. Unfortunately we hosted this locally across two laptops – the front end on mine and the back end on Agata’s. This means I can’t link to it (and stupidly didn’t screenshot it).

The winners were going to be announced in a talk about 100 Women on Monday which I was planning to go to – especially since I had to dash early so missed some of the pitches.

Imagine my shock when I was in a sleepy Monday meeting and suddenly my email starts pinging and my phone ringing from the hack organisers trying to contact me. Turned out, our idea had won (jointly) and they waned me to represent the team in the talk. I’m going to admit, in my overtired state I didn’t really know how to react to any of this, but less than an hour later I found myself being called up on stage in front of about 40 people (including my boss’s boss) and being live streamed trying to articulate my thoughts on the hack and explain our project. Luckily, it seemed to go okay (and there doesn’t seem to be any lingering video evidence that I could find so far!)

So, this week I’ll be starting work with the other winning team to combine our ideas and actually create this product in two weeks. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified but mostly just pretty daunted by the whole thing, but I’m sure it’ll be fine! Watch this space!

 

For more details of 100 Women checkout their Facebook page or keep up with the hashtag #100women on Twitter
To find out more about the hack check out Simi’s blog (she was from the other winning team and has written a much fuller account of the whole thing here.

It Lives!

Almost exactly a month after I started at BBC News my first project has gone live!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2016-37385625

You can see it by following that nice little link above. You can also see it featured in another news article too!

The bit I made was the search box, where you can type in a keyword and it’ll search the data for the definition.

I got a bit excited when I saw this too:

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That’s all – just a short and sweet post from my over excitable self.

First Week at The BBC

I’m currently sitting on a train home after the first day of my second week at the BBC.

I’m shattered to be honest. But already I’m having a great time, learning loads and actually feeling like part of the team.

I’ve ended up in the Visual Journalism Team (Yay!) which mostly creates bespoke interactive content for news articles. Things such as the Olympic Face Wall and Will a robot take your job?. This is probably the team I was hoping to get the most (well, tied with Politics) and I genuinely think it’ll teach me the most too.

I’m not sure how much detail I can give about what I’ve been working on but I’ve already got the basics of my first project done (and that was only my second day!). It’s a little something for the US election, I’ll share it and describe it properly when it’s published.

Since then, I’ve been mostly finding and solving problems with another project which is due to be released into the big wide world next week. Again, I’ll try and share it and give a little more details when it’s ready.

I’ve spent a lot of the time getting used to using the Terminal and Git, as well as the way the team approaches and builds content. It’s very different to anything I’ve worked with before, mostly due to it being such a big organisation who put an emphasis on automating as much of the development process as possible so we can spend more time creating and developing awesome content.

The team are lovely and haven’t hesitated to include me and make me feel welcome. They’re happy to answer any of my questions (no matter how silly) and we all go to lunch together everyday. This in itself has been why I’ve settled so quickly and enjoyed my first week so much.

Weirdly, although this has been a major week for me, there doesn’t seem to be much for me to say… I’ll try and blog regularly with any exciting updates!

Oh! And I have already had a couple of celebrity spots – Miriam Margolyes (Hilarious on Graham Norton and Professor Sprout in Harry Potter) and Charlie McDonnell (CharlieIsSoCoolLike).

EMF Camp 2016!

Warning: This is a long one. Maybe I should have split it down into 3 posts….

I was lucky enough to get myself a free ticket to this year’s ElectroMagnetic Fields Camp through a competition I found out about from Codebar Brighton. All I had to do was send them an email about why I felt under-represented in tech and then Yelp Engineering provided 4 of us with free tickets. Yay!

ElectroMagnetic Fields (EMF) is a non-profit festival run almost entirely by volunteers, and it is an incredible festival at that. I was pretty overexcited when I got a ticket and went through the line up of talks and workshops trying to prioritise what I should go to.

I was the first of our Codebar group to get there, set up camp in the middle of the festival and immediately started getting stuck in. The first day consisted of:
A mental health workshop – this was run by Andrew Gordon and took a look at mental health in a similar way to how I had done in education, there was a lot of discussion and studying of a real life case study before and twist in the narrative. A very engaging and thinky talk, if you have a chance to go to any of his stuff in the future, I would really recommend it.
3D printed sculptures of 4D things – Brain twisting and confusing, mathematically 4D shapes can’t exist but in the world of this talk they could and this was proved by 3D printing their shadows (No, I don’t really understand either). Fascinating but brain hurty. Talk by Henry Segerman
An Introduction to Mixology – Yum! Thanks to Ryan Alexander, I learnt how to make my first Old Fashioned (and yes, the bourbon was provided!). Tasting along every step really showed how each ingredient affects the flavour – an interesting, funny and rather scrummy hour!
A talk on Sex Robots – Yes, sex robots have been invented. What would you want yours to look like? a humanoid or something far from human? What will happen to the data stored in that? What if your sex-robot rejects you for the toaster? And other bonkers questions take seriously in that line of research from Kate Devlin. You can read her article on why we should be researching sex robots, not banning them, here.
Swing Dancing for Engineers – Hot, sweaty and good fun! It was packed out and there was hardly enough room to move let alon dance, but we managed it with a lot of laughs and tech jokes along the way.
After the talks it was time for a wander round the site looking at cool installations and meeting nice new people. Firepong, musical fire, LED garden, giant guitar hero with massive LED lights. Yes, basically lot’s of music, fire and colourful lights.

The next morning I got up bright and early (after a terrible and freezing night’s sleep) and left the others still getting themselves together to go off to a couple more talks.
Radios – A talk by amateur radio operators about how they’re involved in emergencies when the internet fails.
Socio-technical evolution – Igor Nikolic looked at Darwinism and how it is relevant to evolution today – including the use of technology by individuals and societies.
Building an open source political platform – This was a brilliant workshop. Open source politics is a system which everyone can be involved in. This version uses a Github repository and direct democracy. Anyone can submit policy ideas and then they’re voted on by other contributors. Through this repo, a politcal party was formed by James Smith (called Something New) and even had a couple of candidates stand for election in 2015 on the manifesto of the people. We got involved and added our own policy ideas too.
Badge Hack – As part of the ticket, each participant of EMFCamp was given an electornic badge. These came fully kitted out with LED screens, connected to WIFI, had snake inbuilt and even had their own phone numbers for SMS. They were incredible. In this workshop we were shown how to add an LED light to the badge and write a little python script to make a torch app on our badges. This was my first time writing python and my first time soldering something! No injuries – whoop!
Hebocon – We all know and love robot wars, awesome robots fighting to the death with cool weapons and tactics etc. Hebocon? Not so much tech and wonder, much more hilarity. A hebocon is a robot wars between crap robots. There were some fantastically shit robots submitted and 32 fought it out (or tried not to fall of the table and actually make contact with each other). One robot, for example, consisted of a Pikachu stuffed toy mounted on an egg timer. Another, was a fan from a laptop. Yet another was a wind-up penguin shieled inside a plastic cup (that one came second!). It was fantastically funny and I’m defitnely going to be on the look out for more to watch in the future.

After that I got some food and chilled out with people for a bit. We wandered around, meeting new people and taking cool light photos.

After a suprisingly good sleep I got up and again left the others to get themselves together whilst I started the day
VR workshop – I was super excited to get involved in this workshop. Armed with my laptop, Google Cardboard and smartphone I managed to create a very basic world in virtual reality just using HTML and Aframe.JS. This was so satisfying and defintely something I want to continue playing with! Massive thanks to Michael Straeubig for the workshop!
Realtime Web – I’m going to be honest, this workshop went a little over my head (and from the chatter I wasn’t the only one). It didn’t seem to lend itself to a workshop so well as only a few people could code at once but they did create some pretty cool stuff which affected each of our computer screens at once – such as changing the colour of a browser when a button was pressed to a colour we’d individually selected earlier.
A talk on how data is used in and from schools – This one was kind of scary in some ways. Schools are now being told to provide the government with country of birth details from students – this can’t be good. In light of the uncertainty from Brexit it might scare parents off sending their children to school in case it leads to deportation or something. Also the government have a database of details of every under 35 year old in the UK – acadmeic things from when we were at school and such like. All this can be passed on to compaines too…. Concerning eh? Find out more
Meditation for Hackers – I ended the festival with 2 hours of being taught meditation techniques. Nice. My favourite was to focus on all the sounds around you, try to focus on one particular one, then try to focus on two, then three. It’s hard and it doesn’t matter if you stop at 1 or 2 sounds, but it definitely shuts my brain up!

Unfortunately EMF Camp is only bi-annual. The next one isn’t until 2018 – booo! But for now we can satisfy that itch by watching the talks from this year here.

 

A Trip to Hungary

I came across this website called workaway where users can trade skills (physical labour, web development etc) in return for food and accommodation. This idea appealed to me quite a lot as a way of travelling on the cheap and getting to experience new cultures. After a couple of days of being on the site I was contacted asking if I would like to go out to Hungary to build a website for a dog and horse ranch. Yes Please! I’d been to Budapest a couple of time already  knew I loved the city so was excited at the prospect of visiting the more rural parts of Hungary.

The ranch was gorgeous. A stretch of land with woods and a little house and lot’s of grounds for the animals. Speaking of which, there were 40 dogs plus pups, 10 horses, 10 goats, some cats, some birds and a rescued terrapin who’d just layed eggs! The animals weren’t worked in a typical farm sense, but some of the dogs are going to be trained up in search and rescue which sounds pretty awesome.

The ranch was being set up to be a centre for people do have animal related therapy as well as participate in dog training and other workshops. My role was initially to develop a website to promote this as a non-profit organisation to get sponsorship to help set up the ranch fully. However, there wasn’t very good wifi signal which made it hard to devote time to the site. I did venture out into the little town a couple of times to use a cafe to start the process but the world was conspiring against me and just as I was making progress my laptop charger broke and nowhere in the town sold them.

Putting the website to one side I got stuck in with the more physical work – from building fences to picking cherries and making jam, from cooking to walking the dogs. It was brilliant. Such a vast change from sitting here at my desk looking out at a busy roundabout working on at a screen all day! The trip was made even more of an ‘experience’ by the lack of drinking water on the farm (we had to fill up as many water bottles as possible on the bi-weekly shopping trip to town, but we could use a pump on the farm to get non-drinking water) the lack of electricity and the heatwave (36 degrees most days!). It felt so good to get back to nature (even if it was far more primitive than we had expected).

My friend, the other workawayer, the host and myself quickly formed a little family – the four of us and the animals. It was fab. Made even better by being able to see the stars each night, which was definitely one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. I’m planning on finishing the website as soon as I can and hoping to go back out and visit in the not too distant future.

 

A Quick Catch Up & Results

So, I’ve finally found an opportunity to sit at my desk again and breathe. It’s been a pretty manic two months – hence the silence on here.

I had a little look back at my previous posts which were from May 18th, right before the hectic rush of deadlines and exams. So, I guess I’ll have a little back look at that first.

I had a couple of horrendous exams. One looking at the theory of Object Orientated Programming and the other a closed book ‘Web Technologies’ exam in PHP, JQuery and SQL. They were hell. Particularly the web tech one. That was supposed to be the thing I’m good at but in the moment I just forgot the syntax, and there was no way of checking even the simplest thing to get myself on the right track – it was the most soul destroying, self-confidence crushing exam I have ever taken (and I took the UKCAT for med school a couple of years ago!). So, in true British fashion we went to a local pub (The Bevy – check it out) and drowned our sorrows with cheap drinks and excellent Indian food.

As soon as I could after that horrendous week I decided to get out of the country and take a bit of a break – I’ll give full details on that adventure in a separate post! I came back to finding out an ex-colleague and good friend of mine from the hospital had died, resulting in a lot of fundraisers and catch up with the clinic family in his honour. You can see how everything has been going, if you’re curious, here.

And, in a totally different train of thought, I also came back to my results:
3D Modelling and Animation –  76%read my post from the time
Time Based Media - 66%my post about that one
Web Technologies Book Club - 80%a bit I wrote about that project a while ago
Portfolio – 71%  – Looks like I didn’t write about that one, which is a shame – it was a pretty cool project re-doing my portfolio and creating a group showcase based on Where the Wild Things are
Web Development – 80% - I wrote a bit about that near the start of the project

Web Technologies Exam – 47%
Object Orientated Programming Exam – 53%
See I told you the exams went badly…

Overall though it looks like I managed to get 70.5% for the second year (which is a first by 0.5%!)

Barulho Carnival Bizarre!

Okay so this is a slightly off topic post but you’ll love it.

Last Wednesday night was the unveiling of Barulho‘s new Carnival Bizarre Showcase. And it was brilliant.

Above is just a small selection of the amazing characters and costumes that were tailor made for us by Emma as part of Kemp Town Carnival‘s Arts Council project. These fab photos were taken by our own brilliant Endre. (Yes, I am the Aztec Triclops – scrub up well eh?) We rocked the Spiegeltent as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, raising money for the Kemp Town Carnival 2016.

NHS Hack Day 2016

Last weekend saw NHS Hack Day London 2016. It was right in the middle of all my coursework deadlines, but there was no way I was missing it.

Saturday morning arrived and despite a rubbish night’s sleep I was excited to get going. When I got to King’s College the room was already buzzing. I spotted Simon who I had worked with last year and made a beeline for him. We had a great catch up and discussed continuing the project we had started together. There seems to be some pretty exciting developments and I’m looking forward to spending more time on it!

Then, the pitches started. There was some great ideas pitched including ‘beat the bleep’ an alternative to the bleep system used in hospitals, a CBT app, a low maintenance solution to patient records in field hospitals during highly contagious epidemics such as Ebola.

The one that caught my eye was looking at the use of virtual reality in a clinical setting.

Keith was originally asking for developers to create, from scratch, a 360 video viewing app which he could use in his practice.
A group of us were interested in getting involved but our skills didn’t really match his initial idea. After a lot of feeling like spare parts and chatting we finally decided that we could focus on the use of VR in clinical settings and settled on exploring how available consumer VR technology could be used to manage phantom limb pain in amputees.

We managed to come up with a few different ideas of how VR could be used in a clinical setting and experimented from there.

  1. The first technique we attempted was to record Keith moving his hands using a Rico Theta S camera mounted the Gorrillapod and duct taped onto his chest. We then tested this out using the Samsung Gear VR to see how it would be to look down and see our own arms replaced by his doing movements.You can see the videos and/or try them at home with your own VR headset here.
    It was bizarre. You looked down and could tellthat the hands in front of you weren’t yours but as they moved there was a weird sensation in your own arms and they would move in a similar way. Odd. Very odd.
  2. The second idea we tested was to create a low fidelity 3d animation of a persons legs. A few of us tried our hand at Unity to do this but with no luck. I got close but it wasn’t what I wanted. In the end I convinced Mussadiq to download 3DS Max onto his laptop from my autodesk account since I am now fairly confident using that software. We then create a 3d representation of legs doing exercises filmed from a human perspective. We had issues with exporting this in 360 degrees which was frustrating, so couldn’t test this using the VR headset.
  3.  Our next idea was to see if we could use virtual reality as a form of analgesia through distraction.To do this Keith and myself volunteered to do a Cold Pressor Test. This involved placing one hand into a bucket of cold water and ice and timing how long we can last.We then repeated this (after our hands had recovered!) but this time whilst wearing the Samsung Gear VR headset and watching a recording that we had filmed earlier (of our hands in the bucket without the ice water, again using the Rico Theta 360 camera).You can see the footage of me attempting to hold my hand in ice here.
    The results were really quite interesting – I had originally managed to hold my hand in the ice for 1 minute 30 seconds, whilst Keith accomplished 1 minute 11. They then both lasted a full 2 minutes longer with the use of virtual reality.Out of curiosity we also tested Reno with his hand in the ice water and watching a VR film. He lasted a full 4 minutes 22 before we got worried about his hand and pulled it out. He reported that during this experiment he not only forgot about the pain in his hand but also the pain he had been suffering in his back. One thing he did note that was when he looked down he couldn’t see his hands and that this pulled him out of the experience and triggered some pain.

    These experiments show some real potential for the use of distraction therapy in painful procedures (such as wound packing) in particular.

  4. We decided that in the case of phantom limb pain an idea would be to recreate mirror therapy but using a more immersive VR experience. To do this we trialed recording a 360 video of Keith doing arm exercises. We then edited the footage in Adobe Premiere Pro to add a mirror effect vertically through the centre of the film. This had the effect of duplicating his left limb on the right hand side. When using the VR headset this then gave the impression of having two arms.It would be important to make it as similar to the person’s real limb as possible. Therefore, this could be used with patients over a period of time where you record them doing certain exercises using a 360 video device, the footage is then taken away and edited to include the mirror effect and then used with the patient at a later date.Going forward this is something we would like to test with patients suffering from phantom limb pain.You can try the video out for yourself at home if you have a VR headset from here.
  5. We spent some time trying to mirror live streamed footage from the Ricoh Theta S to the Gear VR Headset but sadly found the the lag in transmission meant that this was ineffective in our tests.

You can read the full details of our project at virtualanalgesia.net

Then it was time to pitch. The progress groups had made on their projects was amazing. Some of my favourites included:

  • A CBT web app – which you can view here
  • Daily Pollute – an app to track daily pollution exposure.
  • A digital anesthetic chart

You can watch all the presentations here

All in all a pretty fascinating weekend for me, surrounded by really lovely and interesting people from all walks of life. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

You can see all the excitement from the event on Twitter by searching #NHSHD

The Trials and Tribulations of Time Based Media

Time Based Media is a module I take which focuses on video production. Recently, we’ve been having a lot of fun in the university’s TV studio creating our own Graham Norton style mini TV show. Unfortunately I don’t have the footage, but I do have some photos which I took of the process.

 

The coursework for this module involved making a short film about anything.

I wanted to focus on my own experience of depression for the purposes of this film. I spent a while researching short films made by students on YouTube and particularly focused on ones about depression. There were some fantastic films which served as inspiration for mine, including:

The concept I storyboarded was of a character standing on top of building. We then flash through various memories, emphasized by use of POV. These include sad and angry memories but there are also happy ones and mundane ones – highlighting a real experience of depression. At the end the character opens their eyes and it cuts to black before we see what happens next.

Below, you can see the final version of the film.