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Film sets and fashion studios - Norwich students to explore workplaces through university’s virtual reality game

A virtual reality headset. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

A virtual reality headset. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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In the past, taking the first steps into the world of work was an entirely new - and often completely daunting - experience.

A virtual reality game at Immersive VR. Picture: Antony KellyA virtual reality game at Immersive VR. Picture: Antony Kelly

But thanks to a Norwich university’s virtual reality (VR) game, future students will have firsthand - and 360 degree - experience of their new workplaces before they even graduate.

Norwich University of Arts (NUA) - with city-based firm Immersive VR - has announced it will develop the game to help students sharpen their skills and choose careers in the creative industries.

From fashion shoots to film sets, students will be placed in the middle of workplaces and asked to complete various tasks.

Sarah Steed, the university’s director of innovation and engagement, said it would “bring work experience to students”.

The Profile card game, which has inspired the new virtual reality programme at Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Jeanette Bolton MartinThe Profile card game, which has inspired the new virtual reality programme at Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Jeanette Bolton Martin

“When students arrive at NUA without any network of family or contacts connected to the creative industries, it is our role to find innovative ways to bridge the gap,” she said.

“It is hard to place every student in real work experience, and often the opportunities are in London. We want to make sure that every student gets an opportunity to experience what working life will be like in creative industries.”

Students will be immersed in the workplace and asked for observations - how employees dress, various roles and the chain of command.

Then, they will face various challenges and navigate their way through the working day.

Sarah Steed, Norwich University of the Arts director of innovation and engagement. Picture: Jeanette Bolton MartinSarah Steed, Norwich University of the Arts director of innovation and engagement. Picture: Jeanette Bolton Martin

It is hoped the first experiences will be ready by autumn, with an initial focus on fashion and film.

Matthew Martin, managing director of Immersive VR said the scenarios would be “as close to real” as possible.

“VR is really helping to transform the education and training sector right now – giving people the chance to experience situations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to,” he said.

The idea will be funded by £95,000 from NUA and £165,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Matthew Martin, left, managing director, and James Burrows, technical director, of Immersive VR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYMatthew Martin, left, managing director, and James Burrows, technical director, of Immersive VR. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

It follows NUA’s launch of a card game, Profile, last year, which helped students match their skills to what different creative industry employers look for.

Mrs Steed said the game had the potential to be rolled out to a wider audience.

The rise of virtual reality

The Profile card game, which has inspired the new virtual reality programme at Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Jeanette Bolton MartinThe Profile card game, which has inspired the new virtual reality programme at Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Jeanette Bolton Martin

Just a few years ago, VR seemed confined to science fiction.

But it’s already fast becoming a common sight, with plenty of firms using VR headsets to impress customers.

Last June, Open Youth Trust created a 3D map of the building using VR and 3D cameras to help people with disabilities and anxiety explore the building before arriving.

Police piloted the headsets at the Royal Norfolk Show in August to raise awareness of dangerous driving to young people.

In November, Greater Anglia said passengers could explore its trains through the technology, while an event at Norwich Castle at a similar time saw visitors see centuries past through VR.

Earlier this month, Virgin Holidays launched a store in Norwich which included a VR rollercoaster.

When Immersive VR launched in spring 2015, they quickly attracted new clients - including a luxury yacht manufacturer and architects’ practice.

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