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About Mike

Mike Ellis is co-director of Bath consultancy Thirty8 Digital, BathCamp founder and Creative Director of Bath Digital Festival. In past lives he has been Head of Web at The Science Museum, Digital Strategist at Eduserv, Production Manager at Waterstone's Online and - once - a picture framer. At a push, he'll bang on about mobile technologies, social media, ubiquitous computing and innovation but ultimately he believes that shiny technology pales into insignificance next to the content it allows people to share. Mike lives in Bath with his wife and two sons.
Author Archive | Mike


I was introduced to Matt Brown by Guy McCusker, who works at the University of Bath. Autostitch has become my favourite-by-far photo app on the iPhone and when Guy told me it had been developed here in the city, I went in search of more information..

Q: First, please introduce yourself

I’m Matt Brown, a Lecturer at the University of Bath and a founder of Cloudburst Research, a startup specialising in Computer Vision on mobile devices. I first heard about Computer Vision when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, then moved to Canada to do a PhD in the area. I started doing some research in object recognition and panorama stitching, and out of that came Autostitch.

Q: What is Autostitch?

Autostitch automatically combines photographs into seamless panoramas, using object recognition techniques to recognise overlaps and align the images. It’s based on research I did as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Later, I teamed up with Professor David Lowe and Dr Bob Hearn (also from UBC) to form a startup company called Cloudburst Research, which is now developing and improving the software for iPhone, iPad, Android etc.

Q: How does it differ from other products that do a similar thing?

Autostitch is a very flexible approach to panorama stitching as it can work with photos from any source and in any arrangement. Other panorama apps have a constrained capture process, such as a single sweep in the case of Apple’s panorama stitcher. They also tend to use lower quality and often blurry video footage, whereas Autostitch works with high resolution stills. This approach, combined with advanced algorithms for alignment and blending, gives us the highest quality on the App Store and results that are comparable with professional desktop software.

Richmond panorama

Q: Without getting too scientific (!) can you describe how it does what it does so well?

A key part of the approach is the use of Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT) features to find matches between the images. This approach was developed by one of our co-founders, Professor David Lowe, and has been revolutionary in the field of Computer Vision. We are then able to implement the remaining stages of a professional panorama stitching pipeline, including bundle adjustment for optimal alignment of all the images, and multi-bland blending for high quality output. Dr Bob Hearn provided a lot of expertise to allow us to implement this efficiently and beautifully on iOS.

Q: What next for Autostitch?

We’re working on a new Android version, as well as several improvements to our iOS versions for iPhone and iPad. Our team has grown to 5 people, and we’re looking forward to the future of Computer Vision and Photography on mobile.

Q: What’s your favourite panorama taken with Autostitch?

That’s a difficult question! I spent a lot of time in the mountains when I was in BC and some of the most amazing panoramas I’ve shot were taken there. But now that Autostitch is always in my pocket it’s much easier to share panoramic views from anywhere… I stitched a really great panorama inside the stadium at the London Olympics last summer, for example.

Autostitch is available on the app store here.

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Explay comes to Bath

Tell us who you are and what you do
I’m Korash Sanjideh, co-founder of ExPlay and organiser of the ExPlay Festival, numerous Game Jams and our bespoke training programme, Explay Bootcamp.

What is Explay?
ExPlay represents the independent games development and design industry across the South West of England. We hold an annual Festival and support growth through training, business support and networking events whilst showcasing the best games companies the region has on offer. We create opportunities for talent, build communities through meet-ups and regularly hold Game Jams, all helping to elevate the regional games industry.

This years’ Festival will take place on Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd November 2012 and will build on last year’s successful event in Plymouth by bringing talks, panels and discussions from recognised industry figures under three tracks: Inspire, Create and Share.

The conference programme is designed to inspire creativity across all areas of game development, from design and writing, to code and art, helping creators share their experiences and stories around all areas of game development. There will also be sessions that are designed to have practical take-aways, talking about tools, content creation, design and more. We are also showcasing some of the freshest game development talent in our Expo area with demos, interactive toys and playful experiences that will take you off the screen and past a controller!

Why is it coming to Bath?
Bath is historically playful and we wanted to bring our special brand of fun to the city, highlighting the South West games industry and helping to raise the profile of the companies and talent we have in the region. We felt Bath was a natural fit to grow the Festival into something that is regarded as a new national event on the games industry calendar. With its strong digital industries, excellent Universities and gorgeous setting we are hoping to leave more than a distant memory: we aim to help build a sustainable games community that will continue growing for years to come!

Who should come along and why?
If anyone is curious about how to break into the games industry, is looking to connect with some of the UK’s finest indy game studios, needs to meet developers that can make ideas come to life, or is curious about how you make your own game idea a reality, then ExPlay is for you.

The event is designed to be lots of fun, with a lineup of excellent speakers that are all at the top of their game, along with a raft of social events to help build a community of likeminded people. If you work in the digital industries, want to know how to get into games or even if you just like playing them, then ExPlay is not to be missed.

Anything else you think would be of interest to readers?
TIGA are also holding their inaugural national game awards at ExPlay this year, which will truly celebrate and honour the best games, the best people and the biggest contributors to our amazing sector! To be hosting the Awards this year is very special for us, and certainly puts the Bath and the South West on the map as an developing area in the UK games landscape – http://www.explay.co.uk/tiga-awards

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Chris Anderson – Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Watershed, 18 September 2012 18.00-19.00

If a country wants to remain economically vibrant, it needs to manufacture things. In recent years, however, many nations have become obsessed with making money out of selling services, leaving the real business of manufacturing to others. Chris Anderson’s new book Makers is about how all that is being reversed.

Over the past ten years, the internet has democratised publishing, broadcasting and communications, leading to a massive increase in the range of participation in everything digital – the world of bits. Now the same is happening to manufacturing – the world of things. Chris Anderson, bestselling author of The Long Tail, and editor in chief of Wired Magazine, explains how this is happening: how such technologies as 3D printing and electronics assembly are becoming available to everybody, and how people are building successful businesses as a result.

Whereas once every aspiring entrepreneur needed the support of a major manufacturer, now anybody with a smart idea and a little expertise can make their ideas a reality. Just as Google, Facebook and others have created highly successful companies in the virtual world, so these new inventors and manufacturers are assuming positions of ever greater importance in the real world. The next industrial revolution is on its way.

Price: £8.00 / £6.50. Contact Watershed, Bristol on: 0117 927 5100, book online, or visit in person.

CHRIS ANDERSON is editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and is the author of the internationally acclaimed The Long Tail, which was shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award in 2006 and won the Loeb Award for the best business book in 2007. His next book, Free, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Northern California with his wife and five children.

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StoreNextDoor – an interview with Dom Moorhouse

I recently caught up with Dom Moorhouse … a serial entrepreneur, business book author and angel investor. Dom built and sold the successful professional services business (Moorhouse) but now – after many years ‘travelling the line’ to London is now focusing his work activities within his home City of Bath.

ME: Hi Dom! A quick one to start. Have you always been an entrepreneur?

Partly. I spent my twenties as a Royal Marines Officer so that was clearly a different phase in my life; albeit, this still gave me some excellent lessons in leadership and organisation which I have always found invaluable in business. Prior to this, at University, I had a small advertising business – publishing student term planners – which covered my living costs. Since leaving the Royal Marines though – bar a short stint at Deloitte Consulting – I have been somewhat of a serial entrepreneur. Firstly, with the concerted eight-year project that was Moorhouse and now with a ‘basket’ of exciting, new projects.

ME: Tell me a bit more about the start-up you are involved with.

StoreNextDoor seeks to shake up the traditional self-storage model as serviced by the large corporate incumbents (Big Yellow, SafeStore etc). As part of the ‘collaborative consumption’ wave, we are going to build a community-based alternative. Through our site, people with stuff to store can link with people in their neighbourhood who have spare space and – by linking at a private level – enjoy a match that saves money (and provides a welcome extra income stream for the space owner) as well as, often, being more convenient and local. Trust is clearly the key issue here so we have worked hard to build a professional site/service – member profiles, identity verifications, proper contracts etc – all fully backed by an insurance product that has been developed for us by Aviva.

ME: How did the idea come about?

As always, it is less about the idea per se but about people … and how, when you bounce ideas off of talented people, a creative serendipity ‘kicks in’. For me, the project came to life when I discussed it with two other Bathonian friends … Dan Hilton and Rosie Bennett. I had just come back from the 2011 Wired Conference and mentioned the excellent talk given by Rachel Botsman on the ‘collaborative consumption’ phenomena (Airbnb being the oft-cited ‘poster child’). It really got me thinking as to where else there was ‘spare capacity’ in our lives that could be better matched via the internet. Space seemed like the really obvious asset. Loads of people have redundancy here and, equally, loads of people really need it at core ‘pressure points’ in their lives. By example, over a Bath ale, Rosie got talking about how she had just received a sailing dinghy as a hand-down from her dad; Dan, similarly, had just become a father to his second child and needed to de-clutter a room to make a nursery. In this instance, I could offer some garage space to Rosie and Rosie could help Dan, with storage of his items (she just didn’t have a room for a dinghy). It just got us thinking as to how many other such matches could be better facilitated by a well built site. The real ‘eureka’ for me though was just a recognition as to how complimentary our skill sets were. Dan is a CTO par excellence and Rosie is a very experienced digital service designer/marketer. As importantly, we enjoy working together, so the development of the proposition and business model kind of grew naturally from there.

ME: When does the site launch?

Development thus far has been a part-time concern for us all; but, we have recently ramped this up (working from the excellent Dispensary) to prepare for a September beta-launch. Thereafter, the plan is test the idea locally in a Bath/Bristol trial for c. 6 months (looking closely at some central financial hypothesis we have as to its take-up and the cost of contract acquisition etc). During this phase, we know we need to work hard to promote what is a very new concept – primarily offline and with real innovation. In fact, you should look out for Rosie driving around Bath in a squirrel costume (our company mascot). If we pass ourselves out of this local test, we will seek to then start to move it to other regions via a series of dedicated offline marketing campaigns.

ME: Having built and sold a successful professional services business, what lessons do you think cross over to this venture?

There are some aspects that cross-over identically but there are also aspects I realise that are totally new – and potentially unknowable – in relation to this specific venture. In terms of the fundamentals, that I have learnt from previous experience, the key is to work with people brighter than yourself (tick), to collaborate in a really dynamic ‘make and break stuff’ fashion (tick) but not to get seduced by the ‘we don’t need a business plan, school of cool’ (we have spent as much time modelling/discussing the numbers as we have conceiving the service/site). A pure tech start-up is, however, pretty new ground for me so I recognise there is much to learn here. Fundamentally, we are also building something that requires a fundamental behavioural shift in how people currently ‘consume’ self-storage. The question as to how much inertia is in this market – and how best to encourage a behavioural shift to our new model – remains a very large, open question.

ME: What role do you think entrepreneurs play in the recovery of our economy?

A pivotal one. I have recently written a series of mini-books (also to be launched in September) that talk to this topic focused, specifically, on entrepreneurial owners of professional service firms (consultants, web design, creative firms etc). Ultimately to entrepreneur is ‘to dare’; start-ups rarely makes sense from a pure ‘risk management’ perspective not least because risk probabilities are not well understood at this stage. Entrepreneurs break this logical impasse and just start to make things happen … a kind of unpredictable serendipity then emerges. If you get it right, there is no better satisfaction in knowing that the vision, spark and force-multiplying enthusiasm of the founders went onto create a mini-economy that others then also gain from. For sure, the UK needs more such people and start-up teams to rescue us from our current economic malaise. 

ME: What’s your take on Bath as an entrepreneurial City?

It has been a real revelation to me. For the last decade, Bath was really just the beautiful City I came home to after another long week at work in my London office. Since stepping back from Moorhouse last year, I have seen Bath through a new set of eyes. It is clear that there is a real glut of talent in the City particularly so in the digital, creative space and I have really enjoyed meeting people in this network. Hats off to you Mike in this regard for being such a facilitator of these kinds of forums – they are a really important part of the entrepreneurial equation.

ME: Thanks Dom. Last question, how can our readers contact you with questions?

In relation to this venture, I can be contacted on dom@storenextdoor.com or – more generally – on dom@moorhouse.com; @dommoorhouse.

If anyone wishes to help us with the Bath trial for StoreNextDoor they can sign up on the website now and/or like our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/storenextdoorUK).

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New talent? Why not grow your own…

Getting into the world of work is tough for new entrants, with many jobs in creative industries over-subscribed. Yet it can also be hard for small and medium sized companies to find the right new talent when they’re hiring – whether it’s a sole trader taking tentative steps to recruit their first employee, or an agency choosing the right fit for an established team.

For eight years I’ve run a range of projects between private, public and education partners to find and place emerging new faces with creative companies – from the BBC and large indies, to digital start-ups and partnerships. I’d love to say I’ve found a magical solution as a result of making those many successful discoveries, but alas I can’t. There are no short-cuts, it takes time and nurturing.

Something I have learned is that talent can be found in unusual places and whilst graduates make the best fit for some roles, there are many talented young people who are ready for work and teeming with ideas straight from school or college, they just need the right environment and encouragement.

With that in mind I’ve been enthusiastically wearing an ‘apprenticeships’ hat for Creative Skillset as they’ve rolled out a suite of creative workplace-based qualifications for non-graduates, including the Advanced Apprenticeship in Creative & Digital media. It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s certainly an option to look at, with many success stories already coming through. This summer will see a new ‘Pick the Tick’ accreditation for apprenticeship providers to help recruiters find quality assurance, and the soon-to-launch Higher Level Apprenticeships will broaden the offer to a wider range of creative jobs.

Gone are the traditional, fixed ‘day release’ models, replaced now by more flexible employer-friendly solutions – and for a limited period in 2012 smaller companies can access government grants to help cover the cost of their first apprentice. So while you’re wondering whether to place an ad, call an agency, or visit those graduate shows, take a look at apprenticeships and weigh up all your options – if you’re willing to invest a bit of time for the right person, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you get.

You can find more at: www.creativeskillset.org/qualifications/apprenticeships

Based near Bath, Lisa Howe is a freelance project manager specialising in developing creative people, their talent and skills. www.howe2.net

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10 Pixels

I was poking around Twitter the other day when I spotted an interesting looking tweet from 10 Pixels talking about a exhibition they’ll be running next week here in Bath.

I emailed them to find out more, and they said this:

Q: Please introduce yourself and your project
A: We are 10 Pixels, a group of ten young designers from Bath Spa University. We are in the final year of the Foundation Degree Digital Design course based at City of Bath College.

Q: What are you doing..and why?
A: We are showcasing an exhibition in Little SouthGate which will feature our photography, film, animation, print and web design work to mark the end of our Foundation Degree.

Q: Give us some logistics information for anyone who fancies coming along..
A: 10 Pixels Digital Design Exhibition will be open to the public daily from 12th-15th May 2012 in Bath’s Little SouthGate.

10 Pixels are on Twitter and have a website at http://10pixels.co.uk/.

Go have a look…

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Startup Weekend Bath

I caught up with Phil Thomson recently who is putting together an awesome tech-related event the weekend of 8th-10th June 2012. It’s called Startup Weekend Bath and if you’re entrepreneurial and technical, you’ll want to come along. I asked Phil to tell us a bit more…

1) Can you tell us what Startup Weekend Bath is?

First and foremost StartUp Weekend is a lot of fun. It is about getting a group of people together who are enthusiastic about entrepreneurship and technology and making something happen – fast! Startup Weekend is a non-profit, community-building event at which attendees form teams and start companies in just 54 hours. The participants that wish to have 60 seconds to make a pitch (optional), the pitches are whittled down to the top ideas, and then teams form around the ideas to come out with several developed companies or projects. Finally, the weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors. It probably is also worth mentioning that food and drink is included in the ticket price all weekend!

2) Who should come along?

Existing entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone who has thought they would like to be a part owner in a new business venture. People of all backgrounds including software developers, marketers, designers, and online business enthusiasts.

3) Why have you decided to run it in Bath?

I moved to the area less than two years ago. I immediately fell in love with the place, having no idea until then just how vibrant the technology scene was in Bath. The contrast between the historic fabric of the city and the leading edge business environment is unlike anywhere else I have worked. It also helped that we found a fantastically positive and helpful attitude from everyone we spoke to about the idea of bringing StartUp Weekend to Bath.

4) Tell us a bit about you and why you’re involved with the event

I have been an online business enthusiast for many years. However, like so many other people I talk to, I never seemed to find a way to get any of my ideas off the ground. That changed after my business partner and I attended a StartUp Weekend in London last September. We were both hooked (as well as having a really great time) and the rest is history.

5) Anything else we need to know?

Sometimes I think people might be put off by the thought that they have to pitch (get up and sell) an idea for a business. Many attendees don’t actually get involved in pitching an idea at all, rather they go to choose which they think is the best idea and then work as part of that team for the weekend.

See http://bath.startupweekend.org/ for tickets and further information

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Bath Digital Festival cometh…

About 18 months or so ago I had the idea of running a festival of technology in or around the Bath area. At the time I sketched down a bunch of thoughts for what such a thing might entail and – possibly as important – why.

It took maybe six months before I plucked up the courage or found the time to tell anyone my thoughts. Once I did, though, the response I got pretty much set the tone for everything that has happened since then: an incredible, wonderful and infectious enthusiasm.

It turns out this wasn’t so much an idea that I’d had as one which was waiting to be had by someone.

Initially I thought that a festival (as in a festival in a field with tech stuff going on amongst noodles and bands) would be a good idea. I still like this idea, by the way, so watch out…but…once it started to become clear that this whole thing might be turning into a real plan we started to shift our focus to the {slightly} more practical idea which we now have.

Over ten days, from the 15th to 25th March, we have 28 events running at venues around the city. Speaking events, conference events, talks, debates, workshops, creative events, pitches…

The thing that has blown me away about this whole thing has been the realisation of exactly the thing I believe most strongly about technology: tech people are amazing – but things get even more amazing when you mix things up with business people, creative people, innovative people, authors, writers, artists, musicians – and anyone else who wants to play. This is the belief which has underpinned The Big M, BathCamp, Bath Digital, The Digitality.. and for me it is this variety that I’m most excited about on the eve of Bath’s first Digital Festival.

To fully understand this variety, you’ll have to head over to the festival website rather than listen to me trying to stumble through it all, but to give you a taste there’s stuff for entertainment people, mobile people, business people, not for profit people, terrified people, geeky people, publishing people…a huge, wonderful, creative mix of stuff.

Much of it is free thanks to the generous support of an incredible array of sponsors. Go book now: you too can be part of the beginning of an amazing thing!

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‘Enlighten us, but make it quick’ – Ignite comes to Bath

As a part of the Digital Festival we are running the first ever Ignite Bath on 23rd March, 1-2pm.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ignite, it is a global phenomenon which came to life in Seattle in September 2006.

An Ignite event is a get-together of speakers who have something to share. What makes it fast, fun and fairly furious is the fact each speaker has five minutes and a slide deck comprising of 20 slides timed to change every 15 seconds.

It is fun and you will leave knowing more than when you arrived.

Bath being a hotbed of creativity we are hoping to attract a range of speakers. All ideas are welcome and we will help you with setting up your slide deck.

If you fancy attending (it’s free!) then check out the event listing on the Bath Digital Festival site – we also need speakers, so drop us a line using the festival contact form if you’d like to present.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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