Singapore team to bring power of virtual reality (VR) to the masses

Nanyang Technological University is bringing the power of virtual reality (VR) to the masses by making it more affordable. Once available primarily in laboratories, powerful high-performance VR systems may soon be available in ubiquitous desktop PCs now that a team from NTU has developed a compact and integrated VR system.

The NTU VR system combines 3D graphics, visualization and interaction technologies in a compact design that can be customized for specific needs. It was developed by a multi-disciplinary project team led by Associate Professor Cai Yiyu of NTU’s School of Mechanical and Production Engineering (MPE) over a period of two years.

VR systems have numerous applications, the common ones of which are entertainment, education and research.

At NTU, the NTU VR system has been adopted to teach Engineering Design and Computational Biology at MPE. Research students and final-year students in the school have also benefited from the system by using its functions in modeling, visualization and interactive interfaces for their projects.

Outside NTU, the NTU VR system is currently being used by students in Chinese High School for the study of molecular structures. The Singapore Art Museum has also capitalized on this innovation to stage a VR artistic display called the “Convergence of Art, Science & Technology”. The Singapore Science Centre is another user of the NTU VR system, having customized it for use as a Hand Foot and Mouth disease virus modeling game at its BioCorridor.

While VR systems already exist, these are primarily very large in size and need to be located permanently. Furthermore, they require high-end operation systems and specialized software to handle the huge processing power required for VR. Neither can these systems be set up quickly.

The NTU VR system, on the other hand, has proven to be a boon to VR users being compact and affordable. Being scalable, the system can be customized for different needs and audience sizes, while its portability enables users the option to use the system at different locations with ease.

Says Assoc Prof Cai, “We hope that the NTU VR system will become a popular research platform for students since it is a system that will greatly facilitate their ability to explore and visualize various fields such as the life sciences. Ultimately, we hope that the system will become as common as personal computers and will become an important feature in education from the primary school to the tertiary level.”

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