Imaginative use of technology won Newcastle-Gateshead the right to host the Great Exhibition of The North.

Newcastle-based Hedgehog Labs put together its bid for the 80-day summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit.

Shaun Allan, director of immersive technologies at the pioneering tech firm, explained how when the time came to present he walked into the room and put virtual reality headsets on the judges.

“We shot a load of landmarks around Newcastle and Gateshead as well as live events such as gigs,” he told BusinessCloud at Prolific North Live last week. 

“We edited it all into a VR experience and took 11 Samsung Gear headsets into the pitch, put them on the judges and said ‘this is what NewcastleGateshead is going to do for the Great Exhibition of the North’. 

“And we won it… tech was fundamental to us winning that bid.” 

Early steam locomotive Stephenson’s Rocket, designed by Robert Stephenson in 1829 and built in Newcastle, is an example of the city’s history of engineering innovation.

“We’re working on an immersive experience to bring Stephenson’s Rocket back to life for the exhibition,” continued Allan.

“Even though a version of the real one is going to be there, we’re doing a time travel VR piece which will place people on the Rocket travelling through the countryside.

“There’ll also be an augmented reality app featuring wayfinding and all that stuff to help people find their way around.” 

From medical breakthroughs at Newcastle University to smart cities at Science Central, robots and a dress made of graphene, the event will celebrate creativity and innovation across the North in the past but more importantly in the future.

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 Stephenson's Rocket

Stephenson's Rocket

The exhibition will be held from 22nd June to 9th September and feature exhibits, live performances and displays of innovation and art.

Thirty venues on either side of the River Tyne will be involved in the festival, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Innovate UK.

There are three main hubs – the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Sage Gateshead and the Great North Museum – with three ‘Get North’ trails centred on art, design and innovation.