A far reaching vision by London South Bank University (LSBU) to get its students learning interactively has led to commission a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality (VR) suite from Virtalis.
The £300,000 contract has resulted in the recent installation of both a VR Auditorium and a Head Mounted Display (HMD) Suite, which together enables four avatars to simultaneously interact with each other collaboratively.
Tony Roberts, Academic Director, Department of Engineering & Design within the School of Engineering at LSBU, explained: “We wanted to give our students a hands-on experience of using VR as a development tool. We also know that this technology gives a better insight into complex concepts. We are challenging the next generation of engineers to think differently and develop more creative solutions, because VR changes the way we interact not only with our designs, but with our colleagues too. This a new chapter of engineering teaching and LSBU will have a leading position in delivering the kinds of skills industry needs.”
The VR Auditorium is dominated by an ActiveWall with a 6 m x 3.2 m screen from Da-Lite, enabling appreciation of models at 1:1 scale. ActiveWall is an installed, immersive, interactive 3D visualisation system and is Virtalis’ best-selling system and probably the best selling VR system in the world. Boasting projection from a Christie Mirage, the fully tracked system uses Intersense wireless tracking and navigation is via a wireless MicroTrax controller. The workstation powering the compute element of the ActiveWall is powered by an NVIDIA graphics card and additionally there is 3D navigation via a 3D Connexion’s SpaceExplorer and an additional review monitor. So that large audiences can be accommodated, Virtalis has supplied 100 ActiveWorks stereo glasses, plus five tracked glasses for those interacting within the virtual environment,
The VR Auditorium is divided from the HMD Suite by an electrostatic glass wall that can be made opaque at the flick of a button. The systems have been designed so that they can be managed by the students, who will learn how they fit together, with a live link between the HMD suite and the VR auditorium so users can understand how the VR world is developed using high tech physical sensor based rigs. The three ActiveSpaces, Virtalis’ HMD-based system, feature nVisor’s ST50s HMDs. ActiveSpace deploys Virtalis’ integrated head and hand tracking solution, enabling the user to navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate component parts in real time and make decisions on the fly.
“Our pre-existing Rapid Prototyping Suite will complement our investment in VR because together they encompass projects large and small, as well as being a valuable tool for engineers from all disciplines – manufacturing, electric, chemical, design and mechanical”, said Roberts. “Postgrads, undergrads and even children from our affiliated academy school will all benefit from these facilities. We now face a blank canvass as to how we deliver the courses to maximum effect. We are talking to our industrial partners to help us integrate content into the curriculum using real life projects. We think we might bring our expertise to other areas too so that VR can be integrated into the curriculum in disciplines like medicine, sports science, architecture and the built environment and applied science.”
The Virtalis VR at LSBU will be closely allied to the Project Based Learning Suite – a purpose built high specification CAD suite equipped with a 23 workstations running a range of CAD software from Autodesk, Ansys and Siemens. The facility is also home to a rapid prototyping suite with the capability to facilitate both post production and evaluation of solutions created in the CAD suite. Physical prototyping is available in the form of the 3D printing solutions from Stratasys including the Fortus 360mc and the Connex Objet260.
LSBU has also invested in Virtalis VR software, with the installation of Visionary Render, StereoServer and Virtalis Exchange adapters. This will enable students to develop their own 3D models and analyse how CAD data is improved by rendering in 3D to create virtual, interactive environments at 1:1 scale. Students will be able to perform detailed design reviews, rehearse in-depth training tasks, validate maintenance procedures or verify assembly and manufacturing processes. Visionary Render software is unique in that it delivers advanced rendering of huge models in real-time with ease of importing from a range of data sources, maintaining naming, hierarchies and the all-important metadata.