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Students of the University of Rhode Island get Engrossed in Augmented, Virtual Reality

The utilisation of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) runs over many industries and disciplines.

The interdisciplinary character of this budding technology lead the University of Rhode Island to encourage students from every major to take part in 2nd March’s Immerse-a-thon show.

The event took place in the market space in the university’s Rober L. Carothers Library where thirteen students contended for the prize-money of $500 for the best design.

The winning team of the 2019 Immerse-a-thon was, from left, Fatima Issa, Joshua Gyllinsky and Nathan Ankomah-Mensah.

The director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Undergraduate Research at the University of Rhode Island, Deedee Chatham said that the enthusiasm and energy of the students, mentors and judges who turned up to engross themselves in AR/VR design were motivating.

Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering, Bin Li and many students studying in his Smart Networking & Computing Laboratory orchestrated the show and provided several exhibitions of how the virtual and augmented reality tech could be incorporated.

Li said that his primary goal was to get students to understand that augmented/virtual reality can be utilised for more purposes than just gaming. He added that it had implementations in training/education, transportation, health care, manufacturing design, social networking and many more.

Mentors such as Bin Li and Deedee Chatham met with the teams before they started the design process.

Upon viewing the demonstrations, teams were formed by the students and they brainstormed concepts and spoke with the mentors. The mentors providing technical advice consisted of graduate students, professors of URI and also industry experts.

After viewing the presentations, every team was given 3 minutes to communicate their ideas to the judges, who based 50% of their scores on market value and scalability, and 50% on originality and design ideation.

Few of the ideas included style design for hair salons and architectural visualisation for building designs and application.

One of the projects was on AR-based textbook visualisation. Students in this project can use a smartphone to identify a 2D image in a physical textbook and the device will automatically create a 3D virtual material. The students can, then, view the object in the device with the help of VR glasses.

The team that won included Fatima Issa, Joshua Gyllinksy and Nathan Ankomah-Mensah. They designed an app that can be utilised for social bias training for law enforcement and police personnel.

Ankomah-Mensah said that their idea was a virtual reality police drill to break social bias. By presenting challenging situations to the police in which they need to make a choice in the bat of an eye and are likely to depend on their earlier experiences or implicit/social bias rather than logic, artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to rate if their actions were biased.

The remaining teams did not go back empty-handed. A non-profit initiative called Rhode Island Virtual Reality (RIVR) made sure that all the participants are rewarded for their participation, enthusiasm and hard work. RIVR donated Google Cardboard to all the participants as prizes. The organisation is focussed on cultivating an augmented reality and virtual reality industry groups in Rhode Island.

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