Monday morning at the UBC Okanagan campus, some graduate students were getting a virtual tour of the university’s actual future.
“As you go into the simulation you will be able to walk around,” Joel Thiessen tells one student as she straps on VR goggles.
Thiessen is part of UBCO’s new visualization and emerging media studio.
Using an Oculus headset and a massive monitor wall, Thiessen helps demonstrate how virtual reality or VR, will help form a new ‘immersive technologies’ program at the university.
“Virtual and augmented reality is a really new technology for a lot of people,” Thiessen told Global News.
“We are going to educate and train the students in this new emerging field,” said Dr. Abbas Milani from the UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering.
Milani is the head of the new “CREATE Immersive Technologies’ program.
According to Milani, B.C. is a global hub for ‘immersive technologies,’ a field that has seen a big boost in demand since the start of COVID-19.
“Certainly, I think (the) pandemic, one lesson that it gave us is that the virtual world is very critical in our day-to-day business,” Milani explained.
However, the missing link has always been a university curriculum to develop skills amongst students to use the technology.
But now, UBCO is developing a $4 million program using a $1.65 million grant from the federal government that will offer a six-year master’s degree and a PhD.
“It’s the first program in the world of its kind,” Milani explained.
“To have a new program like this and to have the opportunity to explore these technologies in an academic setting is going to open up huge potential,” Thiessen said.
That’s why 11 different UBC Okanagan faculties, including nursing, engineering and mathematics, will all access the program.
“I think this will really be a game-changer,” Milani said — even though gaming is not what it’s all about.
“What we are trying to do here is making the future, but be also part of the future and building these technologies as they develop,” Milani said.
The new ‘CREATE Immersive Technologies’ program is slated to start this fall.