Page last updated at 09:47 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 10:47 UK

Inside the Distance Lab

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Inside Distance Lab and snap shots of some of its ideas

The metal sheep atop an eco-friendly turf roof give a clue that Horizon Scotland on the outskirts of Forres is no ordinary office building.

Distance Lab's staff work from rooms inside the property, which is branded a "business incubator".

And Distance Lab itself is not a conventional operation.

Its chief executive, Stefan Agamanolis, can be found punching and throwing himself at a shadowy opponent on a large mattress laid up against a wall.

Catching his breath after a quick session on Remote Impact - one of the products being developed by the company - he said: "Distance Lab is a creative research institute based in Scotland.

"What we are trying to do is bring together technology, design and the arts in order to overcome the disadvantages of distance.

"We work mainly in the area of digital media technologies."

Backed by 3m of public money, Distance Lab is expected to raise 2m or more and become self-sustainable in just over three years.

Metal dog

There is a plan for a spin-off textile technologies company, Lost Values, and other hopes of increasing its workforce of six full-time staff.

Interns and visiting academics and artists are frequently brought in to work on ideas.

Mr Agamanolis said: "Our approach is to mix disciplines in a very creative way.

"We have people here who are fine artists, computer experts, electrical engineers and product designers all under the one roof and speaking different languages because they come from different educational backgrounds.

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Distance Lab chief demonstrates the fighting game

"That's a very positive thing because you can throw ideas out and the other people will give an insight into it you didn't think of."

Products in development, or in finished form, include children's toys and a photographic exhibition with barcodes which give text and audio messages about them when scanned.

There is also a small video and voice recorder to be used by craftspeople so they can pass down skills to other generations.

Mr Agamanolis believes that Distance Lab is one of a kind in the UK.

He said: "I have been told there isn't anything else like it.

"I have searched for something similar and haven't found places that are."

Meanwhile, out in the corridor it looks fairly normal - except for Horizon Scotland's metal dog sculpture. It seems to be looking for something - maybe the steel sheep on the roof.


SEE ALSO
Lab cooks up hi-tech fashion firm
28 May 08 |  Highlands and Islands

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