Australia

Industry, new uni course drive AR/VR rise

Industry, rather than consumers, are driving virtual reality and have led an Australian university to start AR and VR courses to address a skills gap.

Augmented reality goggles that show virtual instructions aren't helping build Ikea furniture just yet but have made their way into mines and utility businesses.

The surge in industry backing augmented reality and virtual reality has led one Australian university to open a course on building virtual worlds.

RMIT on Wednesday launched the world's first university short course in VR and AR using Amazon's Sumerian platform, which doesn't require any specialised programming or 3D graphics expertise.

The announcement came in the same week as consultancy firm Capgemini released a report showing half of all large businesses not already using AR or VR expect it to be mainstream in their organisation within three years.

Capgemini Australia digital strategy and transformation director Peter Meliniotis said AR, where digital images are imposed over the real-life environment, as in Pokemon GO, had a lower barrier to entry than VR, which requires an immersive digital environment.

Mr Meliniotis said AR was being used in safety goggles in mining while those inspecting utility boxes on the street were turning to glasses that overlay instructions over the box, rather than workers picking up a paper manual.

He said VR so far was lending itself to training situations especially where workers face the threat of death or serious injury.

One such example is Australian-designed FLAIM Trainer that puts firefighters in virtual fires.

"It's really interesting that enterprises are actually embracing AR and VR ahead of consumers," Mr Meliniotis told AAP.

"Having augmented reality safety goggles is a really easy step for a miner to take whereas getting consumers to wear glasses every single day to provide them with an AR experience is a lot more onerous."

Two big challenges remain.

Especially in mines in remote locations, a competent telecommunications network is a must, as is access to the people who can build such technology.

RMIT Online chief executive Helen Souness said students tackling the university's new short course will be mentored by experts from Amazon, Versent and Eliiza.

"These courses are delivering a community-driven, industry mentored experience that not only teach up-to-the-minute skills but also connects students to future work opportunities in cutting-edge industries," she told AAP in a statement.

Amazon Web Services' Brad Coughlan said AR and VR represent some of the hottest areas in technology and the new courses would address the skill gap.

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