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Ulster Launches Edutainment Research with 360 Production

29 August 2012

Gerard Downes, DEL CAST Ph.D. student, Professor Paul Mc Kevitt, School of Creative Arts and Technologies, John Farren, Owner / Creative Director, 360 Production and Catherine Ross, Senior Producer / Director, 360 Production, in front of the Foyle Arts building, Magee.

The University of Ulster has teamed up with leading ‘Impossible Pictures’ media production company, 360 Production, the makers of hit series ‘James May’s Things You Need to Know’ and ‘Dig WW2 with Dan Snow’, in a venture that could revolutionise educational television viewing.

Researchers have launched a three-year project investigating the potential of fusing interactive TV with game-based learning and gamification to widen access to educational and entertainment content for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The project will combine the interdisciplinary expertise of Professor Paul Mc Kevitt in digital creativity, intelligent multimedia and creative technologies and Dr. Tom Lunney in ambient & distributed systems.

Professor Paul Mc Kevitt from the Computer Science Research Institute at Magee said: “Combining educational and entertainment content – also known as ‘edutainment’ – is an exciting and innovative growth area in the creative industries and this project puts the University of Ulster at its forefront.

“Derry and London-based 360 Production, a leading provider of factual content for the BBC, National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel and Channel 5, are always looking for ways to blend great TV with great technology and that is our aim with this project.

“Our ultimate goal is to widen access to edutainment by developing software for multimedia, mobile, web and online platforms, incorporating games technology to maximise the interactive potential of TV content.

“The factual nature of 360 Production’s TV programmes such as ‘James May’s Things You Need to Know’ (currently airing on BBC 2), or ‘Titanic with Len Goodman’, provide the perfect canvas for this type of edutainment project.”

The new software, called 360-PlayLearn, will enable viewers to access Virtual Learning Environments populated with video content on STEM subjects as well as history, archaeology and general knowledge.

John Farren, Owner and Creative Director at 360 Production, added: “The University of Ulster’s innovative research in the area of digital creativity, intelligent multimedia, creative technologies and ambient & distributed systems makes them the perfect partner for our award-winning company.

“We first consolidated our relationship with the School of Creative Arts and Technologies through a ground-breaking Magee research workshop on digital creativity during Easter 2010 focusing on Derry’s Imagineering Quarter. Since then we have worked closely with the University, employing several high calibre graduates and placement students.

“This new venture marks an exciting development in our strategic plans and is set to produce unique IP in the digital media and TV production industry.”

Further detail on Professor Mc Kevitt's research is available at:

Further information on 360 Production is available at:

Notes to editors:

The project, to run initially for three years (2012 -2015), funds a Co-operative Awards in Science and Technology (CAST) enhanced Ph.D. studentship jointly sponsored by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) and 360 Production.

360-PlayLearn will be underpinned by another software platform, 360-MAM, for Media Asset Management (MAM), managing the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital photographs, animations, videos and music.

Edutainment content will be hosted on a secure storage 360-Cloud and may utilise for content distribution, Project Kelvin -- a secure, high capacity dedicated broadband link (10 G. LanPhy), direct to Canada, USA, Europe and rest of the island with a delay of only 2 milliseconds.

360 Production and The University of Ulster sit on the Digital Action Team (DAT) of Digital Derry and participate in Derry's CultureTECH Festival (Hosted this week).

360 Production is screening `James May's Things You Need to Know' at Sandino's Bar, Derry, on Thursday 30th August, 6-8 PM, as part of CultureTECH 2012.

360 Production was awarded Best Digital Business 2012 at the Derry/Londonderry Business Awards 2012 hosted by Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and City Centre Initiative, in partnership with Money Exchange.

Further details on The Imagineering Quarter are available at: