Powering the future

Brittany Lee Waller

Gone are the perceptions that universities are merely playgrounds for practice; now we are entering a time where the work done in these institutions is more important than ever before.

We sat down with Jim Cook, Innovation Lead in the University of Sydney’s Techlab, to find out how universities and their students can be an essential partner for progress.

“If you come to the University of Sydney then you get to contribute to world-changing ideas,” explains Jim.

Jim’s role is to connect researchers and educators with cutting edge technologies. His team works to harness the power of technology and match it with the expertise across the University’s teaching and research staff.

“Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality – these are things that have the capacity to  

amplify an academic’s capabilities – you can still do research but now you can do it three times as fast or effectively.”

“Virtual reality is an immersive experience, where you are removed from reality as it were,” says Jim. “Augmented reality takes the existing space and moves something on top of it. Mixed reality has the capacity to do both.”

Being proactive when it comes to technology is a strategic approach that gives the University of Sydney a significant advantage when it comes to solving real world problems, specifically in the health industry.

The immersive lab at the University of Sydney was built so that up to 30 people in the one room could participate in a joint virtual reality experience. This was a first of its kind.

“I can put a cell in my laboratory, make it the size of the room and essentially walk through it or around it,” says Jim. “The ability to be able to take people into your research and show them what you’re doing is astoundingly powerful. Overall, it allows researchers to more accurately communicate their science.”

But it’s not just communicating the actual science that’s impressive, it’s also about the real-world application in the workplace.

“Biomedical engineering students can go to hospitals and actually work on engineering projects that are impacting lives. For example, you can take a CT scan of a femoral head for a child that needs an operation and then components can be replaced and we can print new parts, stints or structures that can help the child maintain quality of life as they grow and develop.”

All of humanity can benefit when universities are the conduit between practice and progress.

In the near future, Jim indicates there will be even more remarkable advancements to come out of the University of Sydney.

“We’re already trialling large scale MRI projections in augmented mixed reality. And, within two years you’ll start to see training on augmented reality happening for people like physicians and nurses in the healthcare industry.”

We’re in an exciting time where virtual and mixed reality technology is allowing educators, students and researchers to experience a paradigm shift. From creating and interacting with realistic protein molecules to investigating an archaeological site halfway around the world, virtual reality is revolutionising our classrooms and laboratories. It’s not technology just for the sake of it. By remaining at the frontier of technological advancements, the University is bringing about meaningful change that can truly improve lives.

Come and visit Jim at the University of Sydney activation at TEDxSydney to play with virtual reality and augmented reality technology as well as a 3D printer. Or find out more about what the University is doing here

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