Let’s get digital: Manchester Central Library celebrates turning 80 with gadget-fest

Manchester Central Library ‘got digital’ to celebrate its 80th birthday to showcase the brightest cutting-edge technology on the market today.

Members of the public got their geek on with top gadgets, such as the Oculus Rift and Google Glass, in the library’s newly-refurbished state-of-the-art facilities as part of the Get Digital Festival 2014.

The event offered Mancunians the chance to try out the latest gadgets and attend seminars and masterclasses, which promoted use of new technology in start-up enterprises.

Councillor Rosa Battle, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “Our aim was to broaden the appeal of the library and to reach out to include people who had never ventured through its doors before.

“With visitor and library member numbers rising, we can safely say that Central Library has re-established itself as one of the must-visit, key attractions in Manchester city centre.

“Through the wide range of activities happening in the library, we want to make sure that the library really does have something for everyone in city.”

HI-TECH: The festival showed off the library’s state-of-the-art

One nifty gizmo on show was a friendly Nao Next-Gen Robot, who delighted audiences by asking questions and doing ‘the Robot’ to ‘Gangnam Style’.

David McLean, Admission Tutor at MMU, emphasised the robot’s more productive uses and said: “It’s not currently a consumer product – it is used more for research and training purposes.

“It’s also being used with children with autism – it helps them discuss emotions in an easier way as they can relate to a ‘thing’ rather than a person.”

ROBOT’S BEST FRIEND: Nao and Aibo are top cyber friends

If dog is man’s best friend then cyber canines also fulfil the same role in the robot world and Nao got a companion in Aibo – a mechanical pooch which can be kept as a household pet and security guard.

McLean said: “The dog is actually more advanced, it will develop personality reflective of its owner and has the ability to learn.

“Also, there is a camera installed in its nose which will take a photo of any unrecognised faces in its owner’s house.”

Children and adults alike were itching to experience the trippy Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, an ‘immersive’ motion-sensitive headset that visually transports you to a virtual world.

RIFT ME UP: MM’s Jess Murdoch tries the Oculus Rift

The VR headset, which has made a multi-millionaire out of 21-year-old creator Palmer Luckey after Facebook bought his company for $2billion (£1.17billion) earlier this year, is hotly-anticipated in gaming circles and is reportedly heading for the consumer market later this year.

Schoolboy Adam, 13, from Manchester, was one of the first to try it out and said: “It’s a bit weird. It doesn’t make you feel motion sick – but I have a strong stomach!”

Again however, the device isn’t just for fun and games, as Vin Sumner, Managing Director of Manchester IT group Clicks and Links, explained: “It has more serious applications for training.

“You can imagine you’re in a factory, for example, or experience something that hasn’t been built yet. It really feels like you’re inside it.”

Another demonstration that amazed spectators was the cutting-edge UP Portable 3D printer, which used a computer image to fabricate a 3D plastic duck, layer by layer, before their very eyes.

QUACKING: The duck was produced by an innovative 3D printer

Mike Mead, Client Technology Manager at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “It’s the software that’s the clever bit, it designs the model then the software slices it up and produces it one layer at a time.”

He described the restriction to the gadget to be ‘limitation by imagination’, underlining the endless opportunities that technological advances are opening up.

Mr. Mead said: “It’s a very community-led thing – the first 3D printer was actually released in 1983.

“But over the recent years it’s been the community that has brought it forward and given real meat to its bones.”

‘Wearable computing’ was a common trend, seen in the stylish Smartbeanie, a hat which wirelessly connects to phones or iPod and the innovative Google Glass.

BEAN ME UP SCOTTY: The Smartbeanie connects with phones and iPods

Manchester Metropolitan University’s Creative Augmented Realities Hub has developed a new software, in connection with Manchester Art Gallery, which utilises Google’s new pioneering glasses.

The software provides those viewing artwork through the lenses with background information and directs them to other pieces with similar themes.

The applications of these technological advances were described across the board as a ‘new way of getting information that makes it more interactive and exciting.’

The occasion not only gave the public a glimpse into the advances of technology, but also the advances taking place within the Central Library’s itself. 

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