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DTI moves to the future


The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has just announced it is to open an "envisioning centre" at its headquarters at 1 Victoria Street, London. The centre, called futurefocus@dti, is to open in the spring of next year. The DTI says the aim is that it will "stimulate creative and innovative thinking in British industry and government by illustrating future business scenarios and concepts, using the latest computer technology, multimedia and virtual reality technologies".

It is being developed by information technology services company ICL in collaboration with SGI and Trimension. Gill Ringland, scenario planner and futurist at ICL, provides an example of what the centre will offer. She says that while banks are closing branches as more and more people bank online, few of them think what they could do instead with their prime location properties.

Recently the company demonstrated some options using computer generated graphics and SGI's immersive virtual reality technology - which presents 3-D moving images. The team showed banking premises converted into a bar to offer customers technology-based self-service options, as well as customer entertainment, while they waited to see a member of staff, for example. The idea was to extend our usually brief visits to the bank, making these less of a chore and more enjoyable.

When futurefocus@dti is opened it will incorporate a virtual reality theatre and an interactive and entertainment zone which will demonstrate all sorts of new technologies, from speech recognition and global positioning systems to prototypes of the next generation of mobile devices.

A creativity lab will have computer systems equipped with all types of applications and trainers on hand to assist visitors. There will also be a resource area with reference materials including books, videos, multimedia presentations and online resources.

Stephen Byers, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry says: "Such new ideas are the threads from which the future is woven."


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