11 Jan 2012
Virtual world technologies have long belonged to the gaming and online communities but recent developments are seeing it morph into the education sector, with retail not far behind.
AUT's virtual gallery, The Cube
AUT University’s creative technologies research centre, CoLab, have partnered with Exhibbit, makers of virtual gallery and exhibition environments, to build a customised virtual space for AUT’s students and staff to present creative work in a live, three-dimensional space.
“Our students are the first to have access to technology that is redefining how design can be shared in the digital world. It presents all sorts of possibilities for us,” says Frances Joseph, co-director at AUT University’s CoLab.
The 18 metre-squared virtual exhibition gallery has been developed to work across a range of disciplines and can be replicated thousands of times, allowing many students to work with the software and the gallery at any given time.
“It is a fantastic presentation venue for all forms of art and 3D research. Spatial design students can use it to visualise their design, uploading drawings and exporting to 3D printers; art and design students can curate their own art exhibitions, complete with research documentation; computer science students can play with the code to create new functionality for the environment.”
Navigating the Cube
Built using a gaming engine, the software is simple to use. Students select a gallery space, and create an exhibition in it. More technically advanced students can also go about redesigning it to suit their needs.
They can include audio or video functions, add more windows to increase natural light, replace walls or create feature walls, and scan in objects with a 3D scanner and upload, drag and drop it into a chosen space.
The finished exhibition can be embedded into AUTs website, the student’s own website, emailed or shared via social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.
Navigation is easy - by moving the mouse you enter space and move through rooms. You can walk around sculptural installations and up and down stairwells to access other floors.
“By getting our students to think about how they create their work within a virtual space, beyond a slideshow or uploaded photographic work, we are building new capabilities which will help shape industries in the future.”
The software can also be used as a shared online workspace and a space in which to present postgraduate research.
“As we develop the space further, our postgraduate students will be able to present their research findings to thousands of people at once. You’ll be able to enter the space, pick up a copy of the research document off the table, leaf through the pages and then walk into a room where your presentation is playing on a wall – the options are almost limitless for us.”
Commercial opportunities through research
AUT’s CoLab is also assisting Exhibbit with technical research development and conceptual development for the virtual tool. User testing of new parts of its interface is being carried out at AUT’s Human Computer Interface Lab.
“We see significant commercial opportunities with this tool and we are
thrilled to be part of its evolution.”
Exhibbit’s Jason Catterall says what started out as a tool for artists to share their work online now has a new range of applications.
“Think online auction houses, museums, exhibition halls for individual artists, a virtual world within which to display historical works, an educational tool for creative and technology-based subjects within secondary and tertiary institutes; and an endless array of virtual showrooms.
“AUT is the first academic institution to be using this technology -it’s a world first. We’re delighted to be working so closely with them to develop a range of future applications for Exhibbit. We see immense possibilities with this world class platform, not only from the perspective of sharing art globally online, but also as an incredible academic tool.”
Study at AUT
Virtual gallery space