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Students design virtual-reality art gallery

Science & Tech

Four young South Australians have won an innovation award for a virtual-reality product that enables rural students to experience an art gallery without actually visiting it.

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The group from Murray Bridge High School were among 14 iAward recipients at the Australian Information Industry Association’s state awards last Thursday and will now go on to compete in the national competition later in the year.

Teacher and mentor Steven Barclay says the idea for the virtual-reality gallery came from the students – Joshua Davis, Joshua McEwin, Natasha McLoughlin and Joe Davies.

“The students would miss out on opportunities that city students have to visit galleries due to the [travel] expense,” he says.

The invention is made with Google Cardboard, a virtual-reality platform developed by Google incorporating a head mount for a smartphone. It costs only around $15.

The Murray Bridge group got support from the Art Gallery of South Australia and installed on their phone an app which produces images of the gallery’s exhibitions.

Barclay says the iPhone essentially acts as a TV screen and the 3D effect is achieved as the Google Cardboard incorporates two lenses, defined as double convex lenses.

Users can click on a specific painting and a voice gives information about the work.

Barclay says that because most students have smartphones, it made sense to incorporate them into the invention.

At the moment, the virtual-reality gallery is still a demonstration product, but the students plan to develop it into a fully functioning app which they will take to Melbourne in just over two months for the national iAwards.

The state iAward winners ranged from primary school students to start-up enterprises, government departments and companies such as Santos. Other winning innovations included a 3D virtual training simulation for the healthcare industry, an interactive visual novel for children, an intelligent age-care call alert system, and an app to help get people approved for social housing.


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