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HKU deploys VR tech to enable interactive teaching and learning

Image Credits: HKU, Press Release

With the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) of the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has deployed an innovative interactive platform based on internet technology and virtual reality (VR) to deliver online teaching and learning, in order to reduce contact among students.

At the beginning of February, after the Chinese New Year this year, the Department completed the setup of the interactive platform.

Two courses, including one from the Industrial Engineering curriculum – Virtual Reality of Systems Engineering (IMSE3137) and an HKU Common Core course – Virtual Worlds, Real Bodies (CCHU9056) – have made use of the online video communication platform Zoom and the imseCAVE VR technology.

This is based on research and development from HKU researchers at the Department of IMSE with support from the Innovation and Technology Commission and Industrial collaborators.

The platform enables teachers and students to communicate and exchange knowledge in an interactive virtual environment over the Internet.

The platform facilitates teaching and learning over the cyberspace which overcomes geographical limitation and across different hardware platforms, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.

Professors and teaching assistants can deliver course materials and multimedia contents, such as videos, 3D-images and VR scenarios, by using imseCAVE, various software and whiteboard simultaneously.

While professors are going through the presentation, students can use real-time tele-text applications to post their questions and obtain real-time responses from professors and fellow classmates.

The Associate Dean of Engineering (Innovation) stated that since the launch of the platform in February, students have actively participated in the online cyber-classroom, with many more Q&A discussion sessions going on as well as a high participation rate, i.e., over 80% in both courses that are using this platform.

The Dean of HKU Engineering noted that there was overwhelming support from students. This initiative enhances the student engagement in the online classroom, and pretty much pave the way for an interactive online teaching and learning paradigm.

We hope this platform can be popularised among other departments and faculties in the future.

About imseCAVE

The imseCAVE is a fully-immersive and interactive visualization system that provides extremely vivid stereoscopic views of sceneries in 3-D designed and is developed by the research team in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) of the Faculty of Engineering at HKU.

The system developed is based on the technologies of distributed and interactive virtual reality, with real-time motion capture capability.

It is a low-cost, high-performance generic Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) system that is versatile and powerful for cost-effective design, analysis and evaluation of complex engineering systems and operations; e-training and e-learning.

The imseCAVE has recently been deployed in the Occupational Safety and Health Council and Construction Industry Council.

VR tech popularity on the rise

According to another article, VR tech is on the rise across the world.

For example, virtual reality can bring immersive environments into the classroom. It is more cost-effective than going on an actual trip, the Associate Professor from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Education stated.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are among the technology pillars of Industry 4.0. While they are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two. VR removes users from the real world into a simulated one.

The immersive nature of VR also enables transduction, where students can interact with virtual objects in a micro-world, such as in the cells of the body.

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