A woman uses a headset to take a 360 degree virtual tour of St Stephen's Hall at the Palace of Westminster inside the Houses of Parliament. Source: AFP/Ben Stansall
Immersive technology is blowing up everywhere, and that includes higher education. As Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Technology (VR) transform the way we shop, play games and even construct military strategies, universities are fielding increased demand from employers and aspiring students to produce graduates with the skillsets to work in this field.
In the UK, the result of this is a growing number of AR/VR courses being offered at the pre-university, undergraduate- and postgraduate-level. From software development to digital art to imaging in engineering, this emerging technology is popping up in a wide range of disciplines.
In the UK, these are the universities offering qualifications in this pioneering industry:
This two-year course aims to prepare students for higher education, a degree apprenticeship, a level 4 apprenticeship or employment in this field. Year one is focused on the learning of the fundamentals of IT, AR/VR, the Internet of Everything, project management, product development, mobile technology and computer systems. Year two follows with classes on topics such as cybersecurity, cognitive computing, cloud technology, application design, games design and prototyping, etc.
If you have plans to become a designer in the AR/VR industries, this could be the perfect bachelor’s degree for you. Students will learn the “skills required to create VR/AR simulations, games, visualisations and apps”, according to the university’s website. This includes creating 2D and 3D digital artwork, as well as computer animation and sound for VR/AR. There will be collaboration with the school’s BSc Virtual and Augmented Reality (Software Development) programme as it is fundamental for students to see the production ‘pipeline’ in VR/AR development.
This is a degree best suited to those looking to gain a unique skillset to become AR/VR developers, computer vision architect/engineer, unity/unreal engine developer, C++/C# developer, and more. Students will use industry-standard software, including game engines, source development kits, as well as the latest commercial peripherals, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Electroencephalograms (brainwave interfaces), heart monitor and facial recognition systems. A salaried placement year is part of the course to enhance classroom learning.
For UoL’s new Master’s programme, the focus is on sensory presentation engineering, as well as the hardware and software needs of immersive technology. Students will learn about “human perception and its practical delivery via virtual reality”, according to UoL’s website. It’s a postgraduate qualification catered to those seeking a career in digital engineering, research or a PhD within the discipline. With Royal Holloway’s close proximity to the South East regional hub of electronics businesses, students can also benefit from links to some of the top UK-based electronics companies.
This is the Master’s course for those seeking to “explore and develop the application of VR technologies across filmmaking, visual effects (VFX), animation, games and immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences”. During the one year and three-month long course, students will receive technical resources and specialist guidance needed to test and develop virtual experiences across a range of media platforms, including 3D computer animation, 360-degree filmmaking, games and interactive AR applications.
This engineering doctorate is run by the UCL Centre in Virtual Environments, Interaction and Visualisation (VEIV). VEIV is a world leader in the science and engineering of computational capture, rendering and simulation in a diverse range of applications. This DEng serves as an alternative to the traditional PhD for students who want a career in industry. For this three-year programme, candidates will undertake a PhD-level research project under the supervision of two academics and complete five Milestones.