British Council SPARK

British Council SPARK Festival

British Council SPARK Festival: The Science and Art of Creativity (Hong Kong, 17-19 January 2018)


Nottingham SPARK VR Team – Danzhao Cheng, Eugene Ch’ng, Cynthia Yue Li, Mengdi Li (PhD graduate) and Shengdan Cai

We wish to thank the University of Nottingham and the British Council for a great opportunity to present our interdisciplinary research at the exciting SPARK Festival, an event which facilitates dialogues at the creative intersection of science and art. SPARK as a brand-new British Council festival of ideas celebrates creativity across the ‘arts, sciences and education’, the three keywords are core to research conducted at the NVIDIA Joint-Lab on Mixed Reality, a research centre at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. We develop digital technologies for the reproduction, storage and sharing of cultural heritage, and make use of science to understand how best to interface users with virtual worlds in a way that can create value for heritage and culture. Technology is there but used in conventional ways, but creativity in both the Arts and the Sciences is needed for impact. We combine the art and science of virtual environments and employ data science to understand and create impact for our global stakeholders. 

News Media filming our demo at the SPARK Festival

We projected a Qilin, an ancient chimerical beast from the Beijing Palace Museum to the entrance of our ‘Tent of Time Travel’.

There, at SPARK, we were able to showcase some of our latest developments and thus reveal the potential impact of our laboratory works to the public. Presenting cutting-edge technology developments such as VR and Augmented Reality to a broad range of audiences in an uncontrolled environment, away from our laboratory is a true test of our technologies and we were able to gain insights from the experience. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to all types of visitors and thought that we have impressed many of them as well as inspired children and teenagers alike on the potentials of digital technologies for exploring past worlds created by the University of Nottingham’s research. We’ve had Chinese scholars from various industries and academic institutions such as Suzhou University, curator of the Hong Kong Science Museum, ShadowFactory, and UoN alumni asking about our work and making connections. 


Children getting excited as they explore an 800 years old ancient seaport.

What we love about such an event requiring complex coordination is that it has brought some in UNUK, UNMC and UNNC closer together. Colleagues from the UNUK were really wonderful people, it has reminded us that Nottingham colleagues can be pleasant to work with. The support and encouragement we have received were beyond our words to express. We love collaborating in such a way hope for more in the near future. This has been one of our best Nottingham public engagement event ever in the last 5 years! 


An elderly man guiding his wife into our reconstructed ancient world.

Most importantly, my three brilliant PhD students were extremely diligent and resourceful in the preparation leading up to the event, I thought that they were very capable and confident, and that their organisation and coordination of the event was highly commendable. The maturity from which they were able to communicate with various parties – UoN colleagues and the British Council belies their youth. They are very much treasured as a team and their reports are below for our joy – Nottingham alumni and now PhD students at the NVIDIA Joint-Lab on Mixed Reality!

~ Prof. Eugene Ch’ng, UNNC.

PhD Student Testimonials:

Father and son marvel at ancient Chinese artefacts brought back to life via Augmented Reality.

I am Yue LI from the NVIDIA Joint-Lab on Mixed Reality. The SPARK Festival was one of the most valuable and enjoyable external engagement experience during my PhD research. It has provided me with a great opportunity to present my work as well as to receive helpful feedbacks and suggestions from the public. My observation and conversations with audiences have also helped develop my understanding of public technology acceptance and use for cultural heritage which gave me insights on how to make improvements. More importantly, SPARK gave me a chance to meet a group of brilliant people from the UNUK and to see and experience their fantastic works. This was a very well-organised event and we were all taken very good care of. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the University of Nottingham and the British Council for supporting us in the SPARK Festival in Hong Kong.

~Yue Li, UNNC Computer Science graduate, third year PhD Student
NVIDIA Joint-Lab on Mixed Reality, University of Nottingham Ningbo China


The SPARK festival brought our VR work to a wider audience of diversified backgrounds. All their valuable inputs and contribution has truly inspired our next-step in research and where to go. I was very honoured to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with other featured researchers and guests from different areas and the industries. Also, I was so proud of my university for it encourages the public to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, and science and technology, and engaging with them via a thought-provoking and creative series of free events.

~Shengdan CAI, UNNC International Studies graduate, second year PhD Student
NVIDIA Joint-Lab on Mixed Reality, University of Nottingham Ningbo China


The SPARK Festival gave me a chance to show the VR reconstruction of the Yuan Dynasty Sanjiangkou site, which I have spend a lot of effort building and developing. Thanks to the public display, I have gained insights through observing many interesting phenomenon of public use. For instance, children generally picks up the use of VR very quickly and tried their best to mess about as many things in the virtual environment as they can. Adults and older people are comparatively slower and tended to put everything back to where they belonged after interacting with them. Through observation, I have learned how to improve the use of VR for future, better user experience. Apart from the insights I’ve gained, it was delightful to witness the growth of trends in the science and the art of creativity. It has given me further motivation to reconfirm my decision for a research career, which allowed me to combine the two areas I enjoyed most – art and science.

~Danzhao Cheng, UNNC Computer Science graduate, first year PhD Student
NVIDIA Joint-Lab on Mixed Reality, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

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