In another first for the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), its Faculty of Arts and Design can now be explored virtually. A closer look at every nook and cranny of its vibrant city campus is literally at your fingertips via a Virtual Showcase. COVID-19 CHANGED COMMUNICATION NEEDS
Speaking about the new venture, Schalk van Staden, Integrated Communication Design lecturer at TUT’s Department of Visual Communication who was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, says the Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed the way people communicate, work, and experience the everyday.
“From that realisation we decided that something needs to be done to showcase the Faculty and the richness of all its programmes to those who might not be able to physically visit this enthralling space.”
Van Staden, together with other Faculty staff, say that from the word go they embraced technology to create an immersive experience highlighting all programmes in one central space. GREAT MARKETING TOOL
“Not only will it add to the Faculty’s marketability, but also become a mechanism to ensure that potential students and other interested stakeholders can immerse themselves in each and every space of the Faculty.”
“The notion of experientiality informed the decision that technology can be more than just providing information and creating connections, but that it enables an experience more meaningful than something static founded on old principles of communication,” he adds.
“The major benefit of the Virtual Showcase is that the Faculty can now reach a much wider audience. It is also a living system that allows for easy changes and updates. For example, guest lectures, symposiums, and virtual conferences could all factor into one platform that is easily navigated and viewed.”
“The Virtual Showcase is proof that the Faculty is far ahead of the game, nationally and internationally.”EASY NAVIGATION
Asked about the execution of the project, Van Staden says the Faculty forged a good working relationship with Modena Infrastructure, whose team provides a service, upon many, to 3D-scan any particular environment, create digital tags on certain scanned areas, and link information or any content viewable to such digital links or tags.
After a thorough needs analysis, it was decided how best the environment could be scanned and set up to tag significant work from each programme and department to showcase the excellence of the Faculty. “We decided that the best means to capture the essence of the Faculty was for each department to set up a space that would best represent their discipline, enticing the new viewer.”
“By using 3D-cameras and Matterport technology, the Modena team started early one morning in September capturing the entire space of the Faculty from entrance to exit across three days. The team moved around the Campus capturing a space exhibited to best represent each department. Tags were placed on identified areas where student work, practices, masterclasses, and demonstrations are viewable. Each space that was 3D-captured has been ‘stitched’ together allowing the viewer an opportunity to experience the Faculty in its entirety, creating a walkthrough similar to being there in person.”
Elaborating on the navigation, Van Staden says, the first-time viewer would find on the landing page of the Virtual Showcase separate buttons that would guide him or her to visit the 3D- scanned Faculty and student work by clicking on the Virtual Showcase button. On the landing page, they can also access links to masterclasses, a welcome message by the Executive Dean, upcoming events, symposiums, contact information, etc.
“By entering the Virtual Showcase, the viewer will be immersed in the Faculty environment and start in the Administration building from where work related to each department is tagged taking him or her directly to that environment. By clicking on the navigation tools, as well as the highlighted rings hovering above the cursor and presented on the floor, viewers can click and move through the scanned environment enjoying a 360-degree view of each space.”CHALLENGES
Of course, a project of this magnitude comes with its own set of challenges, which the team luckily overcome. Van Staden says these challenges included funding, necessary technology, specialised equipment, time frames, content generation, implementation factors such as domain hosting, licensing pricing, online distribution, cloud space, formatting of work content, adherence to technical requirements, etc.POSITIVE RESPONSE
Since the launch of the Virtual Showcase, the response has been very positive. “It especially highlighted the benefits of using such a platform for marketing purposes, building a repertoire of excellence open for everyone to see what the Faculty offers, and positively impacting on recruitment drives.”
Van Staden adds that everything happening at the Faculty can now be documented and simply uploaded onto the new platform.
“I want to stress that we need to embrace technology considering that we are a University of Technology, and to move forward creating lasting experiences for staff, students, and stakeholders,” Van Staden concludes.
The Virtual Showcase is accessible at www.tutfadshowcase.co.za