The Department’s commitment to academic and research excellence is backed by facilities of the highest quality. This includes world-class lecture halls, research facilities and discussion rooms that create an academic environment for students. The state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Centre forms the core of the Department’s interactive immersive technology (IIT) drive, which has been expanded to include a blast wall.
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Virtual Reality Centre
The Department’s Virtual Reality Centre is changing the face of teaching and learning (as well as design in mining and beyond). It is establishing UP as a leading institution in mining engineering on the continent. This impressive facility was the first of its kind in Africa. The Virtual Reality Centre presents an environment for “immersive” experiences, and enhances education, training and research in operational risk across industries through an innovative approach to information optimisation and visualisation.
It strives to be an innovative resource for bringing real-world scenarios to learners to enhance their exposure to their chosen industry, and allowing technical and other practitioners to simulate plans and designs in a risk-free environment, with minimal time and resource allocation.
There are numerous operational benefits to be gained from interpreting and portraying actual data in the high-quality and realistic visual format offered by virtual reality:
- Operational productivity and overall effectiveness can be achieved by playing out different scenarios before committing resources to a particular course of action.
- Engineers, planners and other stakeholders are better placed to make choices that take the long-term and socioeconomic consequences of their financial and technical decisions into account by first considering these in a virtual environment.
- Incidents that impact on operational risk can be minimised when one can simulate activities without actually exposing people or equipment to harm.
- Multiple data sets can be converted into strategic business information. Once decision makers are exposed to an immersive experience, which portrays their data visually, it becomes easier to make decisions and improvements on their project design and other activities that operationalise their strategies.
By introducing this level of innovation into the educational space, faculties can differentiate by offering unique learning opportunities. Companies and consultants in an operational environment can visualise activities, which guides decision making and allows them to be more competitive in terms of cost and efficiency.
The Virtual Reality Centre provides a unique, full-service, integrated virtual reality resource that incorporates the physical infrastructure, as well as expert consulting and technical support services.
These include the following:
- An all-in-one 3D stereoscopic, immersive visualisation platform that comprises a lecture hall, 3D stereoscopic theatre and 3D 360-degree cylinder
- Access to virtual reality simulation products and modules, representing a wide range of existing environments and practical scenarios
From an education and training perspective, users derive value from contemporary experiential education in a safe, virtual world, which simulates real-life, high-risk scenarios in a low-risk, high-impact manner.
A variety of conceptual and software modelling techniques can be integrated and explored through the simulated environment, and different technical and planning scenarios can be set and analysed.
All stakeholders have access to the same visualised scenario, which assists in managing expectations and minimising misinterpretation.
Walk through the Virtual Reality Centre
The digital technology that was established in the Virtual Reality Centre has been expanded to include a blast wall, which provides training in a “practical” environment through the use of virtual reality (VR).
The Department’s VR blast wall enables learners to plan and execute the blasting of a rock face in a controlled and safe environment. By means of VR and augmented reality, they are able to design the blast, mark the blast holes and blast hole timing sequence activities, and actually execute the blast and experience the “explosion” on an interactive screen. This has the advantage over teaching in a traditional classroom environment, as the learners are able to visualise and fully comprehend the concepts being taught, while gaining practical experience in a user-friendly, safe and erasable environment, where mistakes can be made without any consequences.