Victoria University of Wellington
Thursday 4 October 2018
Concurrent Session 4B
Connecting Worlds: Spearheading The Digital Future By Supporting Virtual, Mixed And Augmented Reality Projects
This submission brings together support of virtual, augmented and mixed reality applications and research projects, and a platform for highlighting current projects and collaborators in a dynamic, interactive and consolidated web application. It showcases the role Information Technology can play in providing access to cutting-edge technology to inspire research projects; assisting with the development of applications in virtual, mixed and augmented realities; and highlighting communities of interest and potential collaborations. It also demonstrates how prototypes built for a specific context can be open-sourced and repurposed for wider benefits in an institution, and how encountering prototypes can open up conversations to new ways of doing things.
The core enablers of this process were funds to acquire equipment, and the ability to provide a consultancy and coordination layer that sits alongside a number of multi-disciplinary projects, and enables knowledge sharing, skill diversification and a mutually beneficial confluence and specialist and generalist mindsets.
As a university in a competitive knowledge economy, engaging in novel technologies and highlighting the distinctive strengths of the institution are both of significant importance. This project has assisted with the development of a suite of productionised applications, research environments, business delivery prototypes and proof of concepts across the University. Collectively, these showcase an area of strength at Victoria, closely aligning with the institution’s primary strategy of adopting a distinctive academic emphasis. Prior to this project, there was no ability to easily see the range of research being undertaken in a particular area/technology that transcended disciplinary silos. Not only did the project deliver a solution to this problem, it also facilitated skill sharing and and community building that can be capitalised on further in future projects.
It has also provided a reusable network visualisation platform to showcase areas of research strength, highlighting opportunities for collaboration, showcasing training support resources, and even facilitating enterprise data visualisation.
This project directly supported Victoria University of Wellington’s primary strategy of by highlighting work done in the virtual reality space. It has also fostered interdisciplinary collaboration, with supported projects involving participants from the humanities, biology, design, architecture, psychology, computer science and business (among others).
Initially, equipment was sourced from a central IT research innovation fund, which enabled a central IT team (Learning and Research Technology) to become more familiar with the technology, and to engage a wide range of staff and students by publicly showcasing it. This had a flow-on effect seeding ideas (in one case, a desktop application was transformed into an award-winning Virtual Environment; in another a chance encounter with a PhD student saw them alter the methodology of their thesis to incorporate virtual reality).
To initially gather information on VR/MR/AR research activity across the university, a steering group comprising two academics (Film and Computer Science) and one professional staff member (ITS), designed and distributed a survey across the campuses. This data was then used to develop a network visualisation undertaken by design and computer science students.
Challenges such as collaboration and gear loaning were offset by the utilisation of Office 365 groups, with shared mailboxes, file storage, calendars. Issues with particular projects were mitigated by having an IT generalist take a consultancy role across a range of projects, matching talent with opportunity and facilitating cross-project knowledge sharing.
CytoScape.js based bespoke network visualisation, prototype live at connectedworlds.surge.sh. As a suite of connected projects, it is tricky to describe in words benefits and outputs of the submission – definitely a case of showing being easier than telling.
Matt is a Digital Research Consultant at Victoria University of Wellington. He is a specialist in strategic engagement and creative thinking, with a background that spans the arts and information technology. His job sees him as a ‘digital interpreter’, working with researchers from different disciplines to utilise technology in innovative and transformative ways. He’s assisted with the development of a range of open source projects, augmented reality applications and research tools.