After becoming the first university in South Africa to offer an accredited postgraduate diploma in e-skills with an Immersive Technologies Stream - which incorporates Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) - UWC received rave reviews from industry role-players. The programme runs in partnership with a leading immersive technology company - EON Reality.
A recent seminar - which included stakeholders in education, local government and the media - sought to ascertain the immersive technology needs of industries to begin engaging in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Dave Lockwood from EON Reality said Virtual Reality is a true game changer because it overcomes language and literacy barriers which are particularly problematic in Africa. “VR training makes learning fun, increases the level of engagement and improves the quality of learning,” he said.
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) researcher, Dr Tapiwe Chiwewe, said AR has huge benefits for most industries, and that this is an exciting time for South Africa. “Industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail, financial services, transportation, utilities and gaming & entertainment are all already in the process of using Immersive Technologies in their industries,” he said.
So what does the future look like for AR? “In the immediate term, smartphones will be the form factor driving the awareness and growth of this technology, whereas in the long-term wearables such as AR-enabled smart glasses, smart clothing and smart watches will be the key driving force,” Dr Chiwewe explained.
The UWC programme is a collaboration between the Department of Information Systems in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Natural Sciences.
The collaboration has resulted in three innovative post-graduate programmes aimed at bridging the skills gap in industries that rely on technology and data - including the post-graduate diploma in e-skills development.
The other programmes include a post-graduate diploma in computer and media applications (specialising in e-logistics), and a master’s degree in commerce and information management with the focus on big data analytics.
Professor Antoine Bagula, head of the Department of Computer Science, said the Postgraduate Diploma in e-Skills Development is important for South Africa because it offers enhanced learning that is not possible without AR and VR technologies. “Some students around the world show that learning in an immersive environment leads to improved success rates compared to traditional ways of learning,” he said.
He said a recent study in South Africa on the Fourth Industrial Revolution found that all sectors of industry are planning to use AR/VR to increase their productivity. These include retail, mining, construction, engineering, IT software and services, health, education, logistics, finance, real estate, manufacturing and training simulations.