John Lewis and Crossrail on search to find virtual reality innovators

New government-backed IC Tomorrow competition will grant six technology businesses with a share of £210,000

Innovate UK programme IC Tomorrow has launched a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) contest, giving six businesses a chance to win a share of £210,000 to innovate in the burgeoning tech space.

Entrepreneurs are being encouraged to develop commercial, creative and technical innovations in VR and AR, with the opportunity to trial their technologies with the likes of John Lewis, Crossrail, Queen Mary University London and Columbia Records.

This latest challenge is a response to the imminent release of VR headsets from global brands Sony, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft and Oculus Rift – which was acquired by Facebook for $2bn in 2014.

The competition is looking to find VR and AR innovations across six categories: smart construction, immersive retail, medical training, next generation vocational education, tactile experiences and amplified music.

Matt Sansam, programme manager at IC Tomorrow, commented: “The re-emergence of virtual and augmented reality is attracting a lot of attention, with pioneering start-ups like Surreal Vision leading the way in the UK. But the potential for innovation goes far beyond gaming and entertainment.

“Successful applicants will use AR/VR to re-shape the way we approach many industrial and technical challenges, such as bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping experiences to help British retailers or empowering healthcare professionals to carry out remote diagnosis and virtual training.

“In launching this contest, we are looking to nurture original, creative ideas that have the potential to stimulate the economy and drive growth.”

The deadline for applications is 12pm on 18 August 2015, with shortlisted entrants invited to pitch and attend a Q&A with the judges. The final trial launch for successful applicants is expected in summer 2016.

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