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Reflections on the AVATAR2 Launch - Part 2

On Monday 11th January, the AVATAR2 trial went live, with a virtual launch party attended by over 500 people. In this collection of blogs, team members and launch attendees share their reflections on how it went.

Launch in the time of COVID

Professor Philippa Garety

How does a COVID-times trial launch differ from a launch event in ordinary times?

Well, it makes a research team like a film production team.

I was watching the credits of a film rolling by, for minutes, the other evening at home. Cast, supporting cast, body double, screenwriter, director, producer, executive producers, sound engineer, cinematographer, makeup artist, the list goes on and on, and in those other times which we all just about remember, I’ve generally left the cinema before it rolls onto gaffer, best boy, grip, wrangler. Clearly films take a lot of producing.

In planning and running our trial launch we also needed a huge collective team effort. Out front on the set was the cast – the presenters from our team and also our wonderful guest speakers, Sir Norman Lamb and Dr Lisa Cameron MP. The cast had to prepare what to say, but, this being online and our research involving avatars, we also had some ‘body doubles’, one avatar created to open the event, and another one demonstrating the construction of avatars, all of this pre-recorded. We had a video animation on taking part in the trial, and a role play of therapy, and a head-to-camera video by our amazing peer researcher describing the lived experience of voices. Alongside the talks, this was a very rich mix. And it needed a cast of thousands (or dozens anyway) to produce it! So we had our own in-house producer, programme creators, a videoconferencing technician, Q&A curators, twitter leads, slide designers, timekeeper, avatar technology designer, the cast, and the list goes on….

And on the day, what happened? About 400 people attended, from far and wide, many more than would have come in person, and they were able to learn about the trial, its design, see the technology in action and hear from the panel, and all this without consuming fossil fuels to attend. They heard that an Early Day Motion commending AVATAR2 would be presented shortly to the Houses of Parliament. The enthusiasm for the trial was evident in the rousing talks of our guest speakers, and the comments from participants, and we even immediately received some referrals of potential participants to the trial. Which was all great. And the production team repaired at the end to a virtual green room for a much-needed drink!

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