Leeds Met: Innovation North Showcase 2007

InnovationnorthFifteen members of my family have variously studied PR, engineering, accountancy, software engineering and multimedia at Leeds Met. Ten years ago, I graduated from the School of Computing, now part of the Innovation North faculty.

Serendipitously, our family descended on Leeds Met once more, last week…

I’m accustomed to seeing the work of ITP, IDII, UC Berkeley and Media Lab up close, so it was a pleasure to be back at my alma mater and to see that the quality of the work here in Leeds is pretty good 🙂

So what did I see…

  • wmp? Where’s My Pet: Daryl Leigh’s concept designs for a GPS+RFID pet locator were well articulated. I suggested he look for funding to create a service platform rather than the hardware…but he really wants to patent!
  • Smudge: There were a lot of record labels put together by undergraduate teams…I was surprised that few were going head on against the orthodoxies of the record industry (DRM etc.) but all, particularly Smudge (Joseph  Roberts and Richard Leadbitter), were well executed.
  • LMent: Ibtsam Shah’s Wii-esque racing game for diabetic kids at Harrogate Hospital, asks them to make ‘vroom’ noises into a mic to accelerate their cars 🙂
  • World Music Day: Students formed ‘Lead Balloon Productions’ to brand, promote and organise a music festival at the university.
  • Thackray Medical Museum: This team worked with a local museum to help them embrace web technologies in promoting the institution and forming a community.
  • VibraChair: Matthew and Lionels ‘haptic seat’ uses audio sources to help deaf people experience actiona movies. Their understanding of psycho-acoustics and haptic technology. Lionel and I talked about last month’s Wired article on Neuroplasticity. Their work has a lotta applications, I hope they continue working on it.

Of course, this tiny slice of projects don’t do justice to the work of the school – I had two hours to get through 160 projects and I’m gutted that I didn’t get a chance to talk to the students in more depth about their ideas and plans.

However, the limited conversations I did have highlighted a lack of industry knowledge – concepts such as Web 2.0, Mashups, Creative Commons, Interaction Design were absent from most of the student’s vocabularies. It’s perhaps a good thing, giving them a clean slate from which to explore, but also means the basic computing environment of the modern web isn’t fully appreciated…I did notice a bias towards PHP+MySQL for most software projects – this is a generational shift that’ll continue to alter the workplace wherever these graduates end up…

Most strikingly, the Innovation North faculty was exhibiting the kind of cross-disciplinary projects that make schools like Media Lab and Ivrea really buzz; every project team was a diversity of marketeer, designer, developer, analyst and artist. With some industry participation, I think we’ll see great things from Innovation North 🙂

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