By Elaine Smith
The 20-year institutional partnership between York University and the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany has been re-energized by a recent collaboration on advancing immersive teaching through gamification and virtual reality (VR).
When researchers at Bauhaus wanted to share their work in immersive, multi-user VR with colleagues outside of Germany earlier this year, they turned to York University, an institutional partner for more than 20 years.
Mojgan Jadidi, an associate professor of civil engineering who works with extended reality (XR) tools in her GeoVA Lab, was intrigued when teaching and learning colleagues at the Lassonde School of Engineering referred the inquiry to her, given her own work with VR. She invited Anton Lammert and Tony Zöppig, researchers working for the head of the Virtual Reality and Visualization Research Group at Bauhaus, to spend a week at York and present a public workshop focused on immersive teaching and virtual reality.
“We discussed different educational applications for immersive, multi-user virtual reality,” said Lammert. “We focused on lecture scenarios, as well as guided tour scenarios, and discussed how immersive recordings (recordings of all interactions that happened in virtual reality) could be used for research and educational purposes.”
The discussion led several interested undergraduate students to approach Jadidi afterward and, as a result, she has recruited new research assistants. At the same time, the Bauhaus researchers also made some new connections at York and revitalized their relationship with York International.
Outside of the lecture, the German team spent time collaborating and exchanging ideas with Jadidi’s lab team. “The visit was a stepping stone for broader collaboration between our labs,” said Jadidi. “We’re aiming to implement their algorithm and concepts in game development to enhance our games for multi-players. There was a lot of knowledge exchanged; they are teaching VR using a VR platform and I teach engineering through VR, so this enriches us both.
“Researchers from other universities bring a different mindset with them, and it re-energizes our students and faculty.”
The new connection prompted Jadidi to encourage one of her research assistants, Alexandro Di Nunzio, to apply for a scholarship to study at Bauhaus this fall, so he’s preparing to leave for Weimar, Germany in September.
Di Nunzio, who is also a master’s candidate in digital media, met the visiting researchers and was impressed by their work.
“Once I met them, I became interested in their work on multi-player VR applications,” said Di Nunzio, “and then I learned that they’re teaching a class about developing virtual reality applications using their multi-player VR framework. We did a little work together while they were here, and when they voiced interest in having me come to Bauhaus, I hastily applied for the scholarship.”
Di Nunzio will study at Bauhaus from October to February, taking the course taught by Lammert and Zöppig, and will incorporate his new knowledge into his master’s research project. He is working on finding a way to implement his current research on real-time audio analysis and music visualization into a multi-player virtual reality setting.
“My main goal while abroad is to become very familiar with VR development,” he said.
Jadidi is pleased that Di Nunzio is taking advantage of an existing partnership – which epitomizes York University’s Internationalization and Global Engagement Strategy – to enhance his own skills and knowledge, as is Lammert.
“The framework exists, so why not use it?” Jadidi said.
Lammert agreed. “Through this exchange, we hope that the student exchange between our two universities will be strengthened,” he said.