LSBU challenges tomorrow’s engineers with Virtalis technology

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To get its students learning interactively, London South Bank University (LSBU) has commissioned a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality (VR) suite from Virtalis.

The £300,000 contract has resulted in the 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 and 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 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 is 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, a 6 x 3.2m screen, enabling the display of models at 1:1 scale. ActiveWall is an installed, immersive, interactive 3D visualisation system featuring Intersense wireless tracking and navigation via a wireless MicroTrax controller. The workstation powering the compute element of the ActiveWall is powered by an NVIDIA graphics card and there is 3D navigation via a 3D Connexion’s SpaceExplorer. 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.

“Our 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”, said Roberts. “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.”

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.