New 360imx takes immersive learning to new heights and depths
A class of Geography and Environmental Studies students are all set for their overseas fieldtrip. They will first trudge through a rainforest in Borneo to learn about its tropical ecosystems and glimpse its unique fauna and flora, before plummeting to the depths of the stunning marine world and coral gardens surrounding Sipadan Island. All these will be done in a matter of minutes, and in the comfort of an air-conditioned space.
The students are no strangers to such fieldtrips. As part of their classroom learning, they get virtually transported to places by watching 360° films on VR headsets during the pandemic when they could not travel. But this experience is different. No one needs to wear a bulky headset. Students get to engage with the content as a class while interacting with one another and asking the filmmaker questions. It becomes a shared immersive experience which deepens classroom engagement and understanding.
Over at the newly launched 360imx (pronounced imax) facility located at Level 4 of the NUS Central Library, staff and students can get teleported to a remote, exotic or even dangerous corner of the earth and immerse themselves in the virtual environs all from the safety of campus.
A six-metre-wide cylindrical installation fitted with 360° panoramic projection and surround sound technology, the 360imx offers the NUS community a fully immersive, collaborative space for visualising a wide range of content, including 3D models, design concepts, simulations, 360° videos and interactive VR applications.
NUS is the first academic institution in Singapore to feature the 360imx. “Through an environment enriched with new experiences, our library seeks to complement the University’s mission of bringing transformational change to the NUS community,” Mrs Lee Cheng Ean, NUS University Librarian, said. “With the 360imx as our latest addition to the library’s offering of technology-enhanced facilities, we hope to inspire new teaching methodologies and breakthroughs,” she added.
“What distinguishes the 360imx is the ability to share an immersive experience among a group without the use of VR headsets,” said Dr Gretchen Coffman from the NUS Department of Geography. Dr Coffman was one of the first to try out the 360imx during a virtual fieldtrip to the tropical ecosystems of wild Borneo. “I was really thrilled when I heard the library has a new state-of-the-art facility that could augment the use of 360° films in my modules. The students who attended the preview were equally thrilled with the surround experience which makes everything more immersive. Cutting-edge technologies such as the 360imx aligns well with our approaches to pedagogical innovation,” she enthused.
Students, faculty and staff across the University can utilise the 360imx in various ways. Science and Engineering students can visualise and share their 3D designs in an immersive shared space, while Medicine faculty members can create simulated environments to teach students about the realities of working in hospitals, to name a few possibilities. Teaching staff and faculty can create their own 360° videos to offer students a more fascinating and holistic learning experience or virtually transport students to anywhere in the world simply by using Google Map’s Street View mode.
As an immersive workspace, 360imx offers research teams the chance to conduct more engaging discussions. The facility also offers the flexibility to be converted into an experiential space for students to relax and de-stress from their studies.
By NUS Libraries