HERALD SCOTLAND: Dundee Virtual Reality specialists raise awareness of accessibility issues

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OOVIRT’s Michael Leeland, Claire’ D’All and Richard Meiklejohn at Dundee United’s Tannadice Park

 

 

WITH the football season in full in full swing a virtual reality pioneer is helping a prominent Scottish club highlight the accessibility of its renowned stadium.

Name:

Richard Meiklejohn.

Age:

38.

What is your business called?

OOVIRT. It’s a play on the French word ‘ouvert’ which means ‘open’ and reflects our business proposition. This is to use virtual reality to make places open to everyone by providing the information they need.

I watched a TED talk in August 2016 by a lady called Elise Roy, entitled ‘When we design for disability, we benefit everyone’. We started to explore how we could create an inclusive digital file for buildings and places that truly helped all people.

I founded the business with social entrepreneur Michael Leeland.

Where is it based?

Dundee.

What does it produce?

We produce access guides and virtual tours for places and venues combined with accessibility information. The tours are highly customisable and provide an immersive marketing tool for any business.

We use the latest Virtual Reality technology to develop a walk-through experience of the location or venue. We then overlay the footage with full commentary on accessibility issues and design features that visitors with physical impairments need.

One of our key team members is Claire D’All who is a computing science graduate from the University of Dundee and a wheel chair user. Claire’s innate knowledge of accessibility challenges and user experience means we’re able to craft virtual tours that we know are of immediate benefit to an end user. Our services can help build trust and transparency between businesses and their customers.

To whom does it sell?

Ultimately our services can be used by any commercial property owner or business that want to better connect their location with all their potential customers.

We started by working with local businesses and charities to discover how best to use the technology for different sectors. We are now starting to work with much larger property owners who either have significant venues or multiple sites where there are high levels of footfall and customers seeking accurate access information. These include Dundee United football club’s Tannadice Park.

 

What is its turnover?

In five figures. We have been structuring the products and the business and investing our time in developing the key company foundations to take the concept forward.

We have experienced steady growth and our focus has been on becoming investor ready by building strong business relationships with our initial clients and with our partner charity, PAMIS, to work towards our common goal of improving accessibility for those most in need of support.

How many employees?

Five, with a variety of skill sets including surveying, marketing, finance, logistics, computing science and customer experience.

The OOVIRT model means that as we build our data sets and develop our platform we can look to tap in to the wealth of talent coming out of local universities and colleges.

When was it formed?

I am a chartered surveyor and the company is a spin out of my property management business MAJR, and wasn’t officially incorporated until September 2017. We had been experimenting with different laser scanning technology and data software to create digital property files since 2014.

In 2016 we really started to focus in on our virtual tour concept and started to create our first pieces of work.

Why did you take the plunge?

Our property management business had expanded to cover environmental consultancy and training services. We felt that by focusing on accessibility and virtual tours we could tap into the team’s strengths, and importantly, could really help make a difference for businesses and their customers.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I had qualified as a Chartered Surveyor with Graham + Sibbald about ten years ago and before that had all sorts of part-time jobs whilst studying.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

All the investment has come from personal savings but we are also receiving fantastic support from Business Gateway, Elevator UK and Scottish Enterprise.

Click image to view Dundee United accessible virtual tour

What was your biggest break?

Working with Dundee United and connecting with Visit Scotland has really helped to build our profile and link in with our target audience. We now have some very exciting new projects underway with some of the leading tourism destinations across Scotland.

The opportunity to take part in the first Elevator business accelerator programme in Dundee and working with their partners such as Henderson Loggie chartered accountants has given us a huge boost.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Whilst I would always advocate continuous personal development, a talk I attended by Jim McColl really hit home. His team always has an internal review of their structure when taking on projects and can then decide when it is right to bring someone in or outsource.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

The growth projections in the tourism and VR sectors show that we are working in a market with incredible opportunities. Our model can readily scale to any town, city, region or country.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

We think the provision of basic access information should be a standard requirement.

How do you relax?

I do a fair bit of charity work in my spare time. One of my big ambitions is to bring a grand performing theatre to Dundee.

Source: Herald Scotland

 

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