The rapid increase in the use of emerging technologies to manage and adapt to the current pandemic to achieve operational efficiency, customer interaction and business sustainability has been simply phenomenal.
An ecosystem of technologies that facilitates interaction and allows for real interaction with customers and clients in a seemingly real or physical way is virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (RA).
When combined as a hybrid mix of physical reality and digital content, we get mixed reality (MR), by which the user can interact with the real world along with digital objects.
The next quantum leap in this ecosystem is extended reality (XR), which is revolutionizing space computing.
Most importantly, interactivity, presence, and immersion are three linked touchstones that allow us to distinguish between the three types of simulated application technologies.
Interactivity can be understood as “the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a real-time mediated environment.”
Presence is more often understood as the feeling of being there in one place or environment when you are physically in another place.
Immersion is usually explained in terms of both presence and interactivity.
Diversity of extended reality technology
So how does extended reality (XR) help businesses, universities, consumers, and people in general?
The answer to this is the ubiquitous use of immersive technology in virtual shopping, learning and education, entertainment, health, tourism and many other industries.
These technologies have been deployed in various applications such as the provision of fitness and telehealth services; clinical evaluation and surgical procedures; training in maintenance and machinery; medical education; entertainment and audiovisual games; try fashion designs before you buy; virtual help assistant; virtual visits to museums; and virtual tours of the country.
Many of these activities are done in the comfort of home or work without the need for physical travel.
Goldman Sachs Inc. estimates that VR / AR hardware and software acquisition is estimated at US $ 45 trillion and US $ 35 trillion respectively in 2025.
Aside from the growing popularity and use of VR / AR / MR applications in the public and business sector, consumers have also become an important part of this ecosystem.
Phenomenal growth, diverse business adoption, and increased investment in VR / AR / MR have led to a critical requirement of talent and skills now and in the near future.
XR Studio @ APU: first among Malaysian higher education institutions
To develop talent for the AR / VR / MR ecosystem, the Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) has invested Rs 2.25 million to establish its XR Studio, a first facility of space computing of this type among Malaysian universities. .
Developed in collaboration with the XR Ministry, the studio is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that include a volumetric 360-degree video capture area, EDEX station (extended education experience), proprietary VolCap software, mixed reality smart glasses in the form of Microsoft HoloLens and standard high-spec gaming workstations.
The EDEX station serves as a space computing / XR laboratory, designed for shared and collaborative educational experiences that excite, inspire and stimulate. This immersive space allows technological experiments, research and teaching developments within the instructional design.
This partnership is part of the academic-industry collaboration, which continues to be the main strength of the APU when it comes to having industry on campus, boosting its offering and ensuring the high employability of APU graduates.
APU’s head of innovation, Professor Ir Ts Dr Vinesh Thiruchelvam, led the APU’s XR Studio project and has jointly developed the VR / AR education plan together with the XR Ministry.
“The XR Studio consists of four stations with commitments designed to generate interest in various disciplines and is the only laboratory where students can experiment and take advantage of professional tools to create immersive AR, VR and MR applications,” he explained Dr. Ts Siti Azreena, Professor of Creative Interactive Technology (CIT) at the APU School of Computer Science.
“The study is for lessons related to the development of XR. However, it is not limited to classes and laboratory classes; the study is also accessible for research purposes. We currently have several research grants associated with XR technology and prototype development, ”he said.
The tasks performed at XR Studio also offer curious minds the advantage of distinctive exposure, practical application and knowledge.
With the integration of multiple technologies, students ’skills – technically and creatively – to ultimately generate high-value creative technologists for the new digital economy are refined.
In addition to this innovative XR studio, APU had previously launched and now hosts the Malaysian VR / AR International Association (VRARA) chapter.
This initiative provides an invaluable opportunity for students and staff to interact and share knowledge, interests and development with a global network of VR / AR colleagues and professionals.
Degree in VR / AR
The journey to acquire knowledge, skills and professional qualification in VR / AR begins with the BSc (Hons) in multimedia technology specializing in VR / AR.
Specialized modules in this program include Introduction to VR / AR, Digital Image Production, Audiovisual Technology in Year 1, Principles of VR / AR Design, Advanced VR Technology in 2nd Year, and VR / AR Design Project , Research in multimedia technology in 3rd, which is the last year.
Student projects and assignments at XR Studio are focused on developing space computing skills related to XR’s technical experience, integration of other courses, and XR’s creative experience.
Through unprecedented collaboration between APU and its industry partners, students are inspired to design compelling stories by creating interactive spatial computing systems that support the growing demands of the industry.
To improve their internship skills along with their academic knowledge, students also do 16-week internships in the second year of their undergraduate studies.
There are several options available for internships with APU Industrial Partner, Ministry XR, and other VR / AR companies, through an internship at APU’s XR Studio with guidance from the respective XR professors and industrial engineers.
With the demand for XR technology, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, VR / AR graduates can expect exciting careers in many industries.
The APU Professional Center helps facilitate the transition from a professional graduate to a professional working through job fairs, links to vocational training services, job opportunities, and links with employers.
APU graduates are highly sought after not only in Malaysia but also abroad. According to the latest annual postgraduate follow-up study from the Ministry of Higher Education, 100% of APU graduates were working at the end of their degree.