University of Canterbury to boost immersive gaming

Initiative is part of the Tertiary Education Commission’s Entrepreneurial Universities programme

The University of Canterbury will pump $4.2m into an Applied Immersive Gaming Initiative (AIGI) with the aim of accelerating research and public use of immersive gaming applications.

The initiative, supported by $3.2m of Government funding, is part of the Tertiary Education Commission’s Entrepreneurial Universities programme.

The university says it will bring three international entrepreneurial academics to its Human Interface Technology Lab New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) — an international, multidisciplinary research lab that delivers postgraduate degrees from research at UC — to break new ground on effective use of immersive gaming technologies.

The trio of academics will help with the new UC School of Product Design, which offers a bachelor’s degree majoring in Applied Immersive Game Design and will work closely with the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship.

The university says the research will use the motivation that games provide “to engage people in carrying out tasks that might otherwise be boring or difficult, such as learning at school, exercising or quitting smoking,” and will use virtual reality, augmented reality, and social and artistic aspects, merging digital content with an otherwise physical world.

The grant will support three PhD students and a postdoctoral researcher, as well as a game artist, to help create content. The university said, as part of the project, it aimed to create a pathway to commercialise student and staff projects in applied games.

Director of the HIT Lab NZ, UC professor Rob Lindeman is leading the initiative. He said the technology could be used in training and education, for remote collaborative activities and had proved useful in rescue situations and other health-and-safety scenarios.

“Developing innovative immersive gaming applications has a role in improving personal and social educational and health-related outcomes,” he said.

The university also intends to boost the computer gaming industry, which Linderman said was an increasingly important contributor to the New Zealand economy.

“By supporting technical innovation research through this project, we can help address the skills shortage in New Zealand’s growing and lucrative gaming industry."

In August 2018 the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA) issued a bullish forecast for the industry when it released the results of a study that, it said, found New Zealand’s game developers earned a record $143.0m in the year to 31 March 2018, a 43 percent increase on the prior year.