In an effort to capitalize on the coming digital wave and improve teaching and learning opportunities for its two campuses in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has announced that it will be creating the first physical-digital twin campuses in the metaverse.
The university said that it is committed to constructing MetaHKUST, an extended reality (XR) campus for both HKUST and its Guangzhou counterpart, which is scheduled to debut in September 2022. By doing so, it is embracing the rapid expansion of Web 3.0, the university said in a statement recently.
As a long-term development strategy, HKUST will build XR classrooms, and deploy sensors, cameras, and visualization tools where university students will be encouraged to participate in a crowdsourced scanning of the actual campuses to help gather the data needed to create the virtual twins of the campuses.
Once an ecosystem has been created, the students from the two universities can create material for the virtual world, such as their own avatars, NFTs, tokens, or virtual artworks, some of which can be used or viewed in the physical campuses using augmented reality (AR) technology.
The exchange of information and administrative processes are also anticipated to become more convenient, allowing for the awarding of blockchain-secured transcripts or diplomas in the form of NFTs and the staging of events like graduation or open day concurrently with or separately from their physical counterparts.
In order to make this work, the University will establish standards and rules for digital assets, unclog technological bottlenecks to speed up development, and define the governance of the physical-digital world.
Additionally, the University will choose and support HKUST member proposals that make the most use of the MetaHKUST platform and aggressively search for metaverse collaboration opportunities with other universities.
Speaking on this development, Professor Wang Yang, HKUST’s Vice-President for Institutional Advancement, who leads the MetaHKUST project, said that the university is ready to take the lead to create a sustainable XR ecosystem to better supplement research and learning. The online-offline interaction between two campuses will also help realize the potential of a metaverse in education.
In a statement released by the university, another Professor Pan Hui, Chair Professor of Computational Media and Arts at HKUST(Guangzhou) and Director of the Center for Metaverse and Computational Creativity (MC2) said, “AR, which is part of extended reality, is one of the primary technology that mix digital content with physical environments. Currently, AR applications are single-user and at present significant constraints in terms of time and location.”
“In order to solve this and provide scalability to the technology that can handle multi-user experiences, the university is working on these key factors,” Professor Hui adds.
The first mixed reality classroom is now being built on the HKUST (GZ) campus by the MC2 team. The cutting-edge classroom, which will measure roughly 2,400 square feet when finished in September 2022, will complement one that is currently being built on the Clear Water Bay site, the statement revealed.
HKUSt said that the infrastructure will allow instructors from the two campuses to attend the same lecture in parallel physical places at the same time.
To provide the best metaverse experience for the HKUST community, the team will also keep improving the virtual world’s display details.
Metaverse expansion around the globe
According to Allied Market Research May 2022 report, the global metaverse market which was valued at around $41.9 billion in 2020 is expected to reach $1.23 trillion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.4% from 2021 to 2030.
Later this year, the University of Tokyo also revealed the incorporation of metaverse technology into its educational procedures last month.
The education and edtech sectors are optimistic about metaverse learning in India as well. The introduction of CL Meta, a metaverse for students with virtual classrooms, study rooms, career counseling sections, and a virtual retail mall for students to buy educational goods, was also announced by the test preparation and coaching center Career Launcher.
For the semester beginning in 2022–2023, IIT–Jodhpur introduced a part-time online MTech program in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for working professionals in June.
More recently, IT giant Tech Mahindra announced a Makers Lab would be established in partnership with Mahindra University to advance research and development in the fields of the metaverse, XAI (explainable AI), and quantum computing.