There's been a huge impact of COVID-19 on schools, not only for students and teachers in the classroom, but also for parents looking for new schools for their children while being unable to view the school and its facilities. When a relative mentioned that they couldn't view a prospective school for their son, newly-formed capture tech company CaptureVista UK saw a potential solution.
We caught up with co-founder Mike Bennet about whether his vision for enabling school tours for prospective parents could also be the solution for at-home teaching.
Q: What inspired the 3D capture of Knightwood Primary School?
I set up CaptureVista in February 2020, just before COVID-19 hit, doing residential properties. But we realised we needed to up our game over lockdown. I saw Matterport on YouTube and was blown away with the quality of the system: I had only just bought the Pro 2 camera from Matterport, after cutting my teeth with 360 work using the Insta One R.
When a relative mentioned to us how they couldn't get in to view a prospective school for their son, we realised Matterport would be able to help us solve this problem, so we decided to approach the Head Teacher about doing a 3D tour.
Although initially he was hesitant as he was not aware of what the technology could do, I knew from looking at other school scans that he would be impressed by the results and the Matterport technology. We offered to do the school for free on the basis that if he liked it he might pay; there was also the possibility of adding on additional services like video and photographs at a later date.
Q: How have school faculty, parents and children been able to use the 3D models of the schools?
Our scans generated over 2,500 views in the first 4 weeks after we uploaded them to Google streets view, and the feedback from the Head and his staff as well as parents and pupils has been amazing.
The Head loves the scale and ease of use plus the fact that we can constantly add to the tour. The parents love the fact that they can view all the classrooms and see the COVID-19 precautions in place, and that they can also see the playground and sports facilities.
But there is so much more. At the moment, we are looking at adding Zoom meetings for parents as well as live streaming events from within the tour. So, on Parents’ Evening or before a potential student attends the school, they can go into a classroom, click a link and watch a video from a teacher, then click another link to join a live Zoom call.
Also, children will be able to showcase new pieces of their work, because it can be displayed on a virtual wall. Teachers could even do science experiments by creating a video that could be posted to the classroom through the same process. This would significantly improve the at-home learning experience for everyone involved.
Q: What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why?
I want visitors to explore each individual space and watch the videos and messages so they can truly get a feel for the school staff and children.
The vision has always been to create interactive, ever-evolving tours. Rather than just a one-off where parents and kids look once, we wanted something organic and always growing so people could keep coming back to see new additions and updates. I am extremely happy with the work my partner Simon did with filming the teachers and children in a natural way and editing it all together with the scans. It shows the school as a fun and happy place to be and gives the parents an insight into its ethos and atmosphere, as well as keeping the viewer engaged.
Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring the school?
I would like visitors to take away the fact that it is easy to navigate the experience and the films, highlighting the school atmosphere and the genuine feeling of happiness and fun that the school enjoys.
Another takeaway would be the ability to see the sizes of the facilities and classrooms alongside how the school has implemented COVID-19 precautions.
Also, I also love the fact that we can now make the school completely work for the public via online and open it up to Zoom calls and live streaming, keeping people coming back for more.
Q: Did you run into any difficulties scanning the school?
The Head had to follow me around and before I scanned each area he individually covered each child's face or name on the wall as we didn't want to include that without their parents’ permission. That said, Matterport is rolling out new features like the ability to blur content, which will prevent this issue going forward. The Pro 2 was a great bit of kit no issues at all.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
I find the biggest issue when talking to prospective clients is that they just don't understand the technology and what it can do. But once they see it they are impressed with the results and the Matterport technology itself. Also, each scan shows Matterport’s capability for helping other schools.
We are now working with other schools as well as Museums and Art Galleries. I feel confident that we have a benchmark and I know each job will get easier and quicker as we go along. We learned a lot from this whole process.
I've just bought the Oculus 2 and when you watch Matterport tours on it, it really does show the scope of what we do, to its fullest potential. We are looking forward to the future of VR with Matterport technology.