For our first New Network Spotlight interview, we spoke to Susan Talbot, Immersive Technologies Skillnet Network Manager to learn about this new Network and the support they offer to businesses working with a range of immersive technologies.
Name of Network: Immersive Technologies Skillnet
Number of members: Member Companies / 40 to date
Industry/Sector(s) covered: AR/VR, Gaming, UX/UI, Virtual Production
Year established: 2020
Please describe what the Network does and how it came about?
Immersive Technologies Skillnet is promoted by Dublin Business Innovation Centre (DBIC) and focuses on supporting businesses within the immersive technologies sector and those utilising these technologies. Industry spend on AR and VR is outstripping the consumer market and may add €1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030. This precipitated the need for an Immersive Technologies Skillnet Network to develop Ireland’s talent base to establish Ireland as a centre of excellence as the sector continues to grow and take shape.
While some large game companies used VR and AR early on, industry use is where the growth potential lies. Although it is very early days, our Network has been growing steadily as we provide bespoke and subsidised training and skills development solutions for the immersive technology sectors in Ireland.
Immersive technology can be broken down to include Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), Haptics (transmission of information by touch) and Holograms (collectively known as XR), and it is transforming the way individuals participate in events, design, manufacturing, diagnostics, and learning.
As well as the above, gaming technology such as Unreal Engine, combined with other advanced technology in processing and LEDs, has proved its cinematic value (take a look at Disney’s Mandalorian) and has jump-started a new era of film and television ‘real-time’ or ‘virtual’ production tools that sees the convergence of the ‘live action’ and ‘gaming’ worlds, allowing ‘in camera’ real-time effects. While time allocated to pre-production is extended, post-production, VFX/compositing and rendering times are shortened or potentially redundant.
Can you outline one area in your industry/sector that you think the Network will have a positive impact?
Outside of the game development sector, the relative newness of the technology and how it can be applied requires the education of end-users. For example, what is augmented and virtual reality and how can it be utilised in manufacturing, engineering, medicine, in education and workforce development, fashion and many other sectors, One of the growth areas to examine is how immersive technology can be used to upskill and train employees, especially those who operate in dangerous or hazardous situations.
In addition to our specialised programmes, information dissemination, workshops and knowledge-sharing events are areas where we can have a positive impact in the short term in growing awareness of how this technology can deliver value within other sectors. A key focus of our Network will be designing innovative new programmes that meet the business needs of companies within our network.
What areas do you think the network will transform in the future?
Probably more than any other medium, immersive technology sees the convergence of heavy tech development and creativity/storytelling skills. Our aim is to help deepen the talent pool right here in Ireland so that not only will we retain and grow the talent we already have but attract it! If we have the talent, then we can grow our indigenous SME’s and attract investments from larger companies.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry/sector?
The entire immersive technologies sector is an emerging industry trend. However, COVID-19 and the situation over the last few months promoted the growth of gaming development as their customer base grew and has fast-tracked the adoption of other technologies, so end users are a little more tech savvy and willing to try new platforms to streamline business.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
Being your own boss is not for everybody, but there are huge advantages. It can be a bumpy road, so resilience and adaptability followed closely by organisational skills are imperative. Also, you know what you know! Surround yourself with people who excel in their area of expertise. Hire them if you can. If you can’t, look for mentors. Ask questions. Make mistakes. Fail. Repeat. I am acutely aware that ‘fail better’ only feels good when you’re on the ‘better’ side of ‘fail’! If you’re not there – it can be painful. Which brings me back to ‘resilience’.
The smaller day-to-day things count. Call people back when you say you will. Endeavour to answer emails as soon as you can – even if it’s just to acknowledge receipt. Don’t ghost people. Have the hard conversations, whether it’s with staff or customers.
Someone once gave me a piece of advice that I have paid attention to. She said if the thoughts of any conversation makes your stomach churn – that’s an indication that the conversation needs to happen sooner, not later. And celebrate the wins – even the small ones.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Network?
Because the Skillnet Ireland model is industry-focused and flexible, companies who join the Network often find that they become more involved in the sector. This allows them to focus their attention which often broadens the opportunity. The collaborative and knowledge-sharing approach also gives access to continuous learning from other Skillnet Network companies.
Visit the Immersive Technologies Skillnet website to learn more about the development opportunities they offer businesses of all shapes and sizes. Keep up to date with their latest news on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.