In order to improve teaching and learning opportunities for its two campuses in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) recently announced its intention to establish the first physical-digital twin campuses in the metaverse.
HKUST is constructing MetaHKUST, an extended reality (XR) campus for both HKUST and its Guangzhou counterpart, which is scheduled to launch in September, in order to embrace the quick evolution of Web 3.0. The platform will act as a comprehensive platform for all students, professors, and alumni to create, innovate, and connect across campuses in addition to offering an immersive learning environment.
A long-term development strategy is MetaHKUST. The installation of the physical infrastructure, which includes XR classrooms, sensors, cameras, and visualization tools, will be the first stage. After that, university students will be invited to participate in a crowdsourced scanning project to collect the data needed to create virtual twins of the campuses.
Members of the two universities will be able to create content for the virtual world, such as their own avatars, NFTs, tokens, or virtual artworks, once an ecosystem has been established. Some of this content may also be viewed or used on the physical campuses using augmented reality (AR) technology.
The exchange of information and administrative processes are also anticipated to improve, allowing for the awarding of blockchain-secured transcripts or diplomas in the form of NFTs and the staging of events like graduation or open day concurrently with or separately from their physical counterparts.
In terms of creative pedagogy and programs, e-learning and interdisciplinary teaching were among the first to be realized at HKUST, which has always been a leader in innovative education. Another significant project of HKUST is MetaHKUST, which aims to facilitate immersive learning and link students and research activities across various geographical areas.
The University will lay out the rules for the governance of the physical-digital world, establishing norms and guidelines for digital assets and removing roadblocks to technological advancement. Additionally, the University will actively look for partnership opportunities on the metaverse with other institutions while choosing and funding ideas from HKUST members that could best utilize the MetaHKUST platform.
The head of the MetaHKUST project, HKUST’s Vice-President for Institutional Advancement, stated that HKUST is prepared to take the initiative in building a sustainable XR environment to better support research and education. The online-offline connection aids in realizing the potential of a metaverse in education as well as a genuine integration of the two campuses under the umbrella of “Unified HKUST, Complimentary Campuses.”
While AR, as part of XR, is a primary technology that blends digital content with physical environments, most AR applications are currently single-user and present significant limitations in terms of time and location, according to the Chair Professor of Computational Media and Arts at HKUST (Guangzhou) and Director of the Center for Metaverse and Computational Creativity (MC2) at HKUST.
The scaling up of technology to handle large-sized environments and massive multi-user experiences is what HKUST is aiming to accomplish with this project, he said. This not only represents a primary challenge of the physical-digital vision but also a key factor that differentiates MetaHKUST from other campuses’ metaverse initiatives.
The first mixed reality classroom is now being built on the HKUST(GZ) campus by the MC2 team. The cutting-edge classroom, which will measure roughly 2,400 square feet when finished in September 2022, will complement one that is currently being built on the Clear Water Bay site.
The infrastructure will allow instructors from the two campuses to attend the same lecture in parallel physical places at the same time. To provide the best metaverse experience to the HKUST community, the team will also keep improving the virtual world’s display details.