Hack your Future

Calling employers and students! Hackathon meets careers event at Goldsmiths

When? Wednesday 13th February, 2 to 6pm

Where? Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London

What? 4 hours of challenges and building cool stuff

Students

  • Be part of yet another amazing event brought you by student society extraordinaire Hacksmiths with the opportunity to check out potential employers and chat with our Careers Department
  • Build fun projects with like-minded people in an informal environment
  • Try out new, exciting tech and challenge yourself
  • Book your space here: http://explore.gold/hackfuture

Employers

  • See the freshest and brightest Computing minds in action
  • Create challenges to bring out the skills your company is looking for, using your own tech and expertise
  • Invest in your company’s future whilst helping our students with theirs
  • Be part of a unique and exciting event hosted in a world-leading visionary and creative environment

New 3D interactive software unravels ‘fabric of life’

Dynamic new interactive technology which visualises the 3D structures inside DNA has been launched by a team of computational artists, game developers and scientists, working together to help the public better understand the cause of diseases.

CSynth is a software platform created by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London and Oxford University. Described by its designers as ‘bio-visualisation made interactive’, it shows how cell machinery physically interacts with a structure as complex and compact as the genome.

Viewers can watch and explore the 3D models on a screen, or use a Virtual Reality headset to immerse themselves in genetic material and manipulate it themselves.

Traditionally, scientists have only been able to visualise and understand the genome – the complete set of genetic material present in a cell – in 2D presentations, on a screen or through graphs or histograms.

But as researchers gather more data about how cells work it is clear that a 3D structure is extremely important for gene regulation and how cells differentiate. For example, a white blood cell looks and behaves differently to a red blood cell even though its genome is exactly the same.

Subtle differences in the way the genome is folded can impact on whether genes can be switched on and off at particular times, which then dictates what a cell can do. Changes in the way chromatin is folded can cause rare blood diseases, for example, because it impacts on how genetic code is read by a cell.

Understanding this process is vital for seeking the cause of diseases such as diabetes or anaemia, and for the development of treatments for them.

Thanks to advances in genetic techniques, researchers are able to harness more information than ever before from biological data provided by patients and volunteers.

The CSynth software then integrates data from genome sequencing and computer modelling and presents it in an attractive and engaging way, using computer game technology.

The team have launched a complete software package that will also allow the import of public data, and help both the public and medical researchers gain a better understanding of how the genome is folded in a cell, and the complex mechanisms involved.

Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie and Professor William Latham from the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths are the computer artists and software designers behind CSynth, working with Steve Taylor, Head of Analysis, Visualisation and Informatics at the WIMM Centre of Computational Biology, and Professor Jim Hughes at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford. They are joined by Professor Stephen Todd, lead software architect at London Geometry Ltd and Visiting Professor in Computing at Goldsmiths, and Peter Todd, senior developer, London Geometry Ltd.

Steve Taylor said: “We have made a web-based interface where any researcher can load in the data from their experiments. Previously the software had to be installed and all the parameters were adjusted in text files by us behind the scenes. Now you can upload or drag and drop the data into a web page, and it will build a model allowing investigators to really get a handle on their data. You also get a fantastic user interface to interact with the model and overlay other data, such as genes and enhancers. We get asked a lot about making CSynth available for teaching and and now we can do this easily.”

Professor Fol Leymarie said: “Our body is made of trillions of cells, each one containing chromatin tightly folded. This very long molecular strand is not static, but rather keeps moving, vibrating, unfolding and refolding locally, more like a molecular dance.

“Furthermore, it keeps interacting with other molecular structures present in the cell and with itself. It is this dynamic nature that CSynth makes visible and interactive, so that a user – a researcher, student or even a curious member of the public – can load different data sequences, try out various parameters, compare various situations, to eventually get a much better, intuitive understanding, which we hope may help lead to new discoveries.”

Visit www.csynth.org or read the paper CSynth: A Dynamic Modelling and Visualisation Tool for 3D Chromatin Structure on the open access bioRxiv platform for more information.


This post was originally written by Sarah Cox for Goldsmiths News

2018 Virtual Reality Student Projects

Virtual Reality is a big part of what we do at Goldsmiths Computing. Our research in VR ranges from visual art to bioscience and medical education. We have developed a worldwide online course on VR and this autumn we will be launching our new Masters in Virtual & Augmented Reality.

VR is also popular with our undergraduate students. Last term our third years did our module 3D Virtual Environments and Animation, which includes VR development. They were the first students to use our newly refurbished VR lab which includes Oculus Rifts, HTC VIVEs, Oculus Go and Acer Windows Mixed Reality. At the end of term, they presented their projects for the module. There was a really wide range of fantastic VR experiences, from fairground games, to virtual bar-tending and therapy for fear of heights to virtual photography.

If you are interested in finding out more, Marco Gillies, the course leader,  has published a longer post that describes all of the projects.

Sign language glove wins Santander award

A smart glove designed by a Goldsmiths, University of London student has received a top prize at Santander’s annual ceremony for student entrepreneurs.

BrightSign Glove, which translates hand gestures into speech and text, won the People’s Choice audience vote at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards.

Hadeel Ayoub, PhD candidate in the Department of Computing, began developing the glove four years ago during her MA Computational Arts at Goldsmiths, and has since attracted international media attention and a raft of technology awards.

The glove is equipped with multiple sensors and machine learning software to enable individuals who use sign language as their primary language to communicate through text or digital voice directly, without the need for a translator.

BrightSign Glove was voted by the audience at the Santander awards event as having the greatest social, community, and environmental impact, and won a prize of £7,500.

Goldsmiths MA Social Entrepreneurship student Jack O’Donoghue from the Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship was a runner up, having reached the Santander finals with his project ‘Of The Ilk’ – an organic cotton-based re-usable food wrapping developed as an alternative to cling-film.

Hadeel and her development team aim to make BrightSign available to everyone who needs it, at an accessible price. The product is still in development, and eagerly awaited by a fast-growing list of schools and parents. With 70 million sign language users globally, and 90% of deaf children being born to hearing parents, the glove has the potential to revolutionise communication across barriers.

Santander Universities Entrepreneurship winners were announced by Nathan Bostock, CEO of Santander UK, and received their awards from Ana Botín, Group Executive Chair, Santander Group.


This post was originally written by Sarah Cox for Goldsmiths News

Is Virtual Reality the future of education?

Dr Marco Gillies, Reader in Computing at Goldsmiths, gave a talk at the Virtual and Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Conference, that explained how virtual reality, and particularly interactive virtual characters, could enable us to learn the kinds of social skills that we need for work. These are the kinds of skills that are so hard to learn in a traditional way, anything from a doctor breaking bad news to a patient to a police officer interviewing a suspect. Professional social skills of this type are very different from our ordinary social lives, and handling them well can only be learned through experience.

Together with Dr Sylvia Pan, Lecturer in Computing at Goldsmiths, Marco has over 20 years experience of developing animated interactive characters that have realistic body language. Encountering a life-sized virtual human in immersive VR is a really powerful experience because body language cues like eye contact or personal space feel very realistic in VR. Making eye contact on a traditional computer just means looking out of the screen, but in VR it feels like eye contact in real life. That means that a VR conversation feels real. We can use this type of realistic social interaction to help train people to be better at their professional social skills.

The conference as a whole included many examples of how VR could be used to teach skills that you can only learn by experience. VR is much cheaper and safer than doing things for real, but much closer to real life than a book or video. In the next few years we will probably see a revolution in immersive media for education, and no where is this going to be more beneficial than in one of the most important skills we need in life: how to interact with other people.

You can see Marco’s write up of the talk here:
Purposeful Practice for learning social skills in VR

And this is a write up of the whole conference:
Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education Conference

If you are interested in Virtual Reality you might be interested in our new Masters in Virtual and Augmented Realityor our MOOC on Virtual Reality

MOOCs give taster to pioneering Computer Science degree

Academics from Goldsmiths, University of London have created two new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to give students a taste of a pioneering web-based degree in Computer Science.

The two Moocs, entitled Introduction to Computer Programming and How Computers Work, are now available to students all over the world.

Delivered by online learning platform Coursera, the MOOCs are designed to prepare students for the world-first BSc in Computer Science which has been designed by Goldsmiths and is being offered by the University of London.

The Introduction to Computer Programming MOOC gives participants foundation skills to write computer programs in programming language, as well as learning to create 2D and interactive graphics.

Lead instructor Dr Simon Katan, Lecturer in Computing, said: “In Introduction to Computer Programming, learners will be approaching the fundamentals of code through practical and creative exercises, and also explore how coders think and feel. We’ve drawn on our many years of teaching experience to deliver some cutting-edge pedagogy including our code adventure game Sleuth.”

The How Computers Work MOOC is designed for learners who are proficient with computers, smartphones and the internet but wish to improve their understanding of how they work, or go on to study computer science.

On this MOOC, learners can acquire key computer skills that can be applied to word processing applications, e-commerce, the internet and websites.

Instructor and Senior Lecturer in Computing Dr Marco Gillies said: “I’m really excited to be working with the University of London and Coursera to create a new way of learning computer science for the 21st Century.

“We’re bringing together the best learning technologies and the best teaching techniques to create a fantastic computer science learning experience for anyone, anywhere in the world.”

He added: “How Computers Work will introduce you to some fundamental computer science concepts and you’ll find out how they apply to the kind of computer applications you use every day. It’s a great foundation for starting to study computer science, but it will also give you a better understanding of the technologies that are so important to modern life.”

Sam Brenton, Director of Educational Innovation and Development for the University of London’s distance and flexible learning programmes, said: “This is an exciting time for the University as it prepares to launch one of its most innovative programmes, the BSc Computer Science.

“We anticipate a very broad appeal for this degree programme from students all over the world; not just those working in the technical field but also those from other industries.”


This post was originally written by Tom Morgan for Goldsmiths News

Simon Katan’s ‘Clamour’ at the Roundhouse

Head of Creative Computing, Simon Katan writes about the premier of his work ‘Clamour’ at the Roundhouse in Camden

Last Thursday my work Clamour premiered at the Roundhouse Camden’s Sackler Space. The work is an interactive mixed media theatre performance for live coder which is experienced simultaneously through audience smartphones, projection and sound. The aim is to wryly and reflexively interrogate how technology and social media mediate and influence our knowledge, relationships, and identities. 

 

The piece tells the story of Sealand – a lone outpost surrounded by vast swathes of ocean – the sole surviving nation of global catastrophe. Now faced with an existential fight for its future, its people must forge the tools they require. New rules must be written, paving the way for a new state of being. With their resourcefulness and through working together what could go wrong? Throughout the performance, an inscrutable figure on stage (that’s me) controls all from their laptop – shaping divergent audience experiences with heuristic games that charm, frustrate and deceive. Yet it is the audience themselves, through gameplay with image, sound, and text, who determine the shape of the final performance.

 

I’ve been working on elements of the piece through various commissions over the last five years, and for this final stage I collaborated with digital artist Luke Fraser to bring everything together. Our development process involved numerous user testing sessions with Goldsmiths computing students to fine tune our interaction.

 

After a nerve wracking 15 minutes of dealing with the usual Wifi difficulties, the performance got underway. In such a performance it’s difficult to gauge reactions but a sprinkling of chuckles throughout gave me a good indication that things were progressing to plan. Read a review here http://www.savageonline.co.uk/our-journal/clamour/

 

A programme of regional touring is planned for Spring and Summer of 2019. You can find out more at clamour.org.uk.