MXTreality is an SME making incredible inroads in immersive tech. By taking a strategic and creative approach to delivering unforgettable immersive tech experiences that are tailored to address their clients’ specific business needs, MXTreality highlights how small businesses can make a big impact and help to drive change.
We recently caught up with MXTreality’s Managing Director, Toby Pettinger to hear more about their inspirational story of successfully securing the UK Government’s first ever framework agreement for Immersive Technology Service Provision with Highways England – and how this has helped to develop their work in pushing the boundaries of technology.
MXTreality is a London-based VR studio that builds bespoke immersive products and services for a range of public and private sector clients. To date, this has included developing training simulators, biometric assessment laboratories, multi-user bespoke environments, haptic experiences and prototype solutions as demonstrators.
Building a relationship with Highways England
MXTreality has worked closely with Highways England since 2017, initially meeting the organisation’s IT team through a partnership with an immersive dome company. This led to a one year agreement to develop immersive products that were designed to address specific business needs. By delivering tangible projects, MXTreality was also directly tackling one of their key objectives; helping to elevate the standing of the IT team, who wanted to change perceptions around their department by positioning them as the organisation’s strategic technology experts.
In 2019 this working relationship was taken to the next level, when MXTreality signed the UK Government’s first ever framework agreement for Immersive Technology Service Provision with Highways England. MXTreality’s Managing Director, Toby Pettinger highlights that their initial one-year contract did not automatically lead to them being awarded the service contract. “We still went through the due process, as it went out to tender through the Digital Outcomes and Specialist 3 call to offer immersive technology as a service rather than individual products – and we were thrilled to be successful in winning the contract.”
Under this agreement, MXTreality has developed a series of immersive solutions for Highways England, including:
- Introducing bespoke training simulations such as dealing with animals on the road network, empathy-based training for dealing with vulnerable road users and safety in the workplace (slips, trips, and falls);
- Using an Artec 3D scanner to scan archaeological finds and then display them in virtual museums/exhibitions;
- Developing a mixed reality driving simulator that far exceeds the capabilities and flexibility of traditional driving simulators at a fraction of their cost;
- Establishing the Highways England Immersive Innovation Centre – a 500m2 space complete with huge immersive sound system and state-of-the-art tracking system. This gives trainees practical on-the-road training in endless numbers of scenarios in a safe, risk-free environment.
Harnessing the power virtual reality to address real world challenges
“Making sure that immersive tech is the best solution, creating a terrific human experiences, and deploying effectively is the key to success”
Toby Pettinger, MXTreality
A great working partnership with a client is based on developing a fundamental understanding of their business objectives and the challenges they face. The first project MXTreality delivered for Highways England truly highlights how the potential of virtual reality can be successfully introduced to tackle a real-life challenge effectively and produce tangible positive outcomes.
The VR experience was used to help train road sign setting employees to improve customer satisfaction and inform the public faster, better and make road users happier. Trainees initially take a virtual helicopter ride to get an overview of road conditions, and make operational decisions based on different scenarios. They were then transported into the passenger seat of a car to see the impact and reactions in response to their actions.
In addition to highlighting how a great training experience can effectively engage learners, it also showed how VR can be successfully deployed. “It replaced a one day residential course and PowerPoint presentations by taking the training to the trainees with a 25-minute training session,” explains Toby. This meant that training could be implemented more efficiently, having a minimal impact on day-to-day operations, as well as lowering training costs while improving the experience and accelerating learning
Securing funding and public sector contracts
Having successfully secured a significant public sector contract, Toby believes that there are funding opportunities out there for SMEs working in the immersive tech sector to take advantage of, especially when businesses think creatively about how and where their innovation can be developed and applied.
He advises searching the Government Contracts Finder website regularly, as he believes that where contracts would previously be the realm of big business, opportunities are becoming increasingly accessible for SMEs. “The drive towards SMEs is real, as the Government recognises they’re often paying a premium for working with big companies. There’s a huge amount of value for every pound spent working with smaller businesses instead. But don’t underestimate the work that goes into applying,” Toby notes. “And once you’ve won the contract, that’s when the hard work really begins!”
A bright immersive future?
MXTreality’s contract with Highways England has also had unexpected benefits. As a relatively new and growing company, it has given their business credibility, as well as giving them the chance to access, experiment and innovate with cutting edge technologies, such as haptics and Varjo XR-1 to build realistic and engaging mixed reality experiences.
Toby believes that the potential for immersive technology within the enterprise sector is exciting – and we’re only now scratching the surface. The 5G rollout will have a potentially revolutionary impact on the adoption of immersive technologies. Additionally, advances in shared graphics processing power will be gamechanging in terms of enhanced quality and accessibility of experiences.
MXTreality’s story highlights that taking a client centred approach in harnessing the power of new technologies to address real life business challenges, combined with their drive and ability to think outside the box in seeking out new funding opportunities can be a winning formula. And by taking this approach, MXTreality are well on the road to success.