Dissolving the walls

Bachelor of Property students, for the first time ever, are taking a ‘virtual’ tour of a construction site at which a former leaky building is being repaired.

The students, from the course ‘Introduction to Property’, are being given Google Cardboard headsets – low-cost virtual reality headsets resembling Viewfinders from the 1980s but with the addition of a special space to insert a smartphone. When photos and videos captured on a special 360-degree camera are played on the smartphone, they appear in 3D, allowing students to be immersed in the experience.

Senior lecturer Dr Michael Rehm, who drove the VR initiative, says it will allow students to see places that would be difficult, if not impossible, to see in real life. “We have about 225 students in this course alone. It would be impracticable to take them all into a construction site at once, and the recent changes to health and safety regulations would make it even more cumbersome, if not impossible. VR is the next best thing to being there. And they can do it from wherever – their home, a café. It really takes learning out of the classroom.”

Through VR, students will also explore the hidden working organs of the home of the Business School, the Sir Owen G. Glenn Building, including the heating and cooling equipment on the roof and the plant rooms in the basement.

Another idea is to use computer modelling to produce a virtual tour inside a cladding system engineered to be weathertight, as if the viewer could shrink like superhero Ant-Man.

“This will allow students to ‘explore’ places too dangerous or difficult to visit in real life,” says Business School Dean Professor Jayne Godfrey. “VR has the potential to dissolve the lecture theatre walls, allowing students to go anywhere imaginable.”

Ingenio: Spring 2018

This article appears in the Spring 2018 edition of Ingenio, the print magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Auckland.

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