Continuing our series to introduce you to the creative individuals within OS and share the variety of work we do, meet Layla Gordon. As a Research Scientist, here she gives us a glimpse into her extremely varied role…
How long have you worked for OS?
14 years. I first joined as a research scientist to work in the remote sensing team in the research department. After 7 years of working within research, I was asked to join the technology labs team as a tech labs engineer. I also joined the mobile team on a secondment basis for 6 months in between research and tech labs transition.
How long have you been in your current role?
About a year ago the tech labs team merged with the CATS team, so I became a research scientist again!
Can you describe your working day?
I am often on Meshmixer/Blender as well as meshlab for editing and the creation of 3D objects. Also I have two weekly meetings to attend with PocketPals and I also help manage the backlogs and communicate with the team throughout the day.
For the Unity/C# project development, I prepare the scenes and create the experiences for AR/VR using the components from the previous 3D modelling stage. I currently have several unity projects that I am supporting the development of such as AR Trail with PocketPals and underground assets visualiser for Microsoft’s HoloLens. I apply Xcode and Objective C development for building and deploying the apps for testing from the previous stage to Apple devices and I use MixedRealityToolkit development for deploying the unity HoloLens apps to the headset. Testing the app on the headset and any changes that I need to make.
Whilst I am not involved in presentations and demos daily, they typically happen at least once a week. These often involve demos of AR/VR for external partners/companies, internal teams or even VIP visitors to the building such as Geospatial Commission. I also provide consultancy on AR/VR topics to other teams, most recently an upcoming AR floor map – watch this space!
What are you working on right now?
This week I have mostly been working on an article on the topic of geo immersive reality for the proceedings of ILRN 19 conference to accompany the keynote speech I am giving in Westminster University in London on June 24-27.
PocketPals is an educational walking trail app for children to explore the UK wildlife. It uses AR technology for scanning physical objects they see to then turn them into digital animated animals within the camera view on the phone. I have been working hard on launching the Augmented Reality Trail version of the app with the team. This launched last week, and was premiered at Bristol’s Festival of Nature event. The app is now approved by Apple and available on the app store.
Additionally, I am involved in Underland (underground assets visualisation in HoloLens), a project called Explore the House (indoor navigation) and waste routes in VR (optimising routes for bin lorries) with an external partner.
I am also organising a workshop in November for European national mapping agencies and academia to come together to discuss the topic of mapping for audiences of the future in relation to AR/VR technology. The workshop is called Geo Immersive Reality (GIR), a term I have come up with to describe the visualisation and interaction with geospatial data in immersive environments such as AR/VR.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I really enjoy problem solving and that it often leads me down the rabbit hole of creativity and innovation – I feel like Alice in Wonderland most days! I also absolutely love the final stage of showing the solution to the customer and receiving feedback both positive and negative.
What is your OS highlight?
As I developed it as a proof of concept of location-based AR, it has to be seeing the release of the AR feature on the OS Maps app. It won Yahoo Sports awards in 2018 and it continues to receive great feedback and be featured.
Additionally, being the main developer of OS Locate, an app which literally saves lives, is a pretty amazing claim!
What are you excited to work on (or continue working on) in the future?
People matter to me a lot when I work on a project and in terms of what an app would do and how it’d be used, this is what I always get animated about. It can vary from an app to teach children about geography to offering an AR feature to fire crews who otherwise must navigate in a smoky building when they cannot see. We can offer terrain support in flooding scenarios and save councils money and time by visualising bin lorry routes in VR.
AR can show you what your eyes can’t see, and this adds operational intelligence and situational awareness which can lead to new service offerings for emergency services and utilities. VR can place you in a virtual version of a city and it can place you inside one that has yet to be built.
Indoor navigation is also a very exciting area. In hospitals, confusion around this is contributing to many missed appointments right across the country. According to an NHS report, around 6.9 million outpatient hospital appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing an average of £108 per appointment.
An augmented reality arrow overlaid on a live camera view on a phone – together with a thumbnail of where you are in a building – could not just help the millions of hospital visitors each year but support staff in emergency situations too. Even hospital staff can find navigation ‘difficult’ which could add delay to a life or death situation.
I really hope though that one day we will do more on this, as this shows blending location-based data and modern technology can make a huge impact in ordinary people’s lives.
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