VIRTUAL reality (VR) has grown tremendously in popularity over the past year thanks to powerful new hardware like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR making waves.
However, though the hardware is ready and available, there is still a lack of content for these VR platforms. Therein lies the opportunity for content developers to jump in early and conquer this relative greenfield.
Faisal Athar (pic) recognises this golden opportunity for his students who are specialising in VR at Multimedia University (MMU).
“VR will be the new industry to watch in the next five years and it is rapidly growing. We should be aiming to fulfill this content gap,” the assistant lecturer said during the Virtual Reality and Games Convention at their Cyberjaya campus.
MMU is one of the few local universities to offer a Virtual Reality programme to its students. The programme which comes under the faculty of Creative Media is part of its Bachelor of Multimedia degree and has been running for 12 years.
“Every year we organise a VR game day where we showcase games that our students have made. Normally it is an internal event but this year we have opened it up to students from other universities and invited companies in the VR industry to present to students as well,” he said.
Faisal, who is himself an alumnus of MMU’s VR programme, explains that the objective of VR game day is to expose students to the VR industry in Malaysia and connect them with companies in the industry.
The event was organised by his second year student Lee Jia Zhi with supervision by Faisal and program coordinator Siti Noraishah.
While VR hardware and equipment may have changed over the years, students are trained in the basics of virtual reconstruction, animation and game design so they are able to adapt regardless if they are using Unreal Engine, Unity and Cry Engine.
Admittedly, while VR is still a niche subject matter, acceptance for VR is now more open compared to 10 years ago.
“In the past, graduates of the programme were limited to just research and development but that has now changed – it has gone mainstream,” he says.
“VR is not just for the games industry. There are many use cases outside of games such as architecture, simulation, engineering and city planning,” he points out.
He goes on to say that VR can also be used to preserve cultural assets like virtual reconstructions of old buildings that may no longer be around so that future generations would still be able to experience and appreciate them.
Graduates of MMU’s Virtual Reality programme have gone on to become animators, 3D modellers and even the lead artists for Malaysian animation productions such as Agent Ali and BoBoiBoy. Some have ventured into the oil and gas field where they create virtual models of oil rigs.
With the VR industry set to take off, the future looks bright for the undergraduates as their skills will be in demand as more companies look for talent in VR.