Edge Hill University is set to unveil its Virtalis ActiveCube, the first 4k “CAVE” in the UK, on 19th October.
The state-of-the-art, multi-walled Virtual Reality (VR) Suite is a key element within the University’s new £13 million Technology Hub. The Tech Hub will be officially opened by entrepreneur and former Chairman, President and CEO of world-leading technology company ARM Holdings, Sir Robin Saxby.
Daniela Romano, Professor of Computing and the Director of Innovative Research & Enterprise at the Department of Computer Science at Edge Hill, explained: “This ActiveCube will certainly make an impact, both on students and with our industrial partners. As an experienced ActiveWall user, I tried out the ActiveCube at UCL and was bowled over by the level of immersion it delivers. Although only one to three people can experience it at any one time, it will be connected to a lecture theatre, so that the visualisation can be appreciated on a larger scale.”
Using real research and CAD data, Edge Hill’s ActiveCube users will be able to experience real-life, stereoscopic scenarios in 4k resolution; anything from emergency situations to complex surgery and lab reactions. The VR Suite within the Tech Hub is just one part of the low-carbon building which has been built thanks to £3 million of support from the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The Virtalis ActiveCube is a multi-walled rear-projected 3D VR environment. It is powered by Virtalis clustering technology and is capable of running a diverse range of software packages, including Virtalis’ Visionary Render. Universities are particularly enamoured of the immersive learning that the ActiveCube provides and, as at Edge Hill, they tend to be multi-disciplinary, multi-department spaces that blend teaching and research.
Housing state-of-the-art biotechnology laboratories, big data servers for research and a lecture theatre, the building will also boast a programmable child-sized robot and giant 3D interactive teaching screens. The Technology Hub aims to be a key resource not just for 600+ students, but also employers across Lancashire and beyond, including those in the food manufacturing and digital creative industries.
“Our VR capability will enable us to teach courses in 3D graphics coding”, said Romano, “as well as working with local industry in the way that the AMRC and NAMRC do in Sheffield. The benefits here are clear: our students will become more employable with this knowledge and our industrial partners will become more competitive. However, the interdisciplinary nature of VR means that colleagues from sports science, biotechnology and psychology will all gain from this Virtalis facility, which will also include consumer HMDs for an individual immersive 3D experience.”
To encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas, Edge Hill’s Tech Hub will also feature a ‘Tech Sandpit’ so students and industrial partners can meet to discuss ideas within science and biotechnology. Budding entrepreneurs will also be able to tap into the skills and knowledge of the University and local industry in ‘The Hatchery’, a working space for new business ideas.