All about country’s first VR convocation at IIT Bombay

In a first, IIT Bombay organised virtual reality (VR) convocation ceremony amid COVID-19 outbreak for students graduating this year. The idea emerged from informal discussions among the administration and faculty who had some ideas to make the event special for the students. It was inspired from the recently completed project on the virtual museum of Ajanta Caves by Sumant Rao, who is a professor at the institute’s IDC School of Design. Rao was also a member of the convocation organising committee.

The virtual campus was created using the Gather web platform and students could visit places on their computers just like video games and interact online with their peers. But, a lot of technical hard work went into organising the event.

“For creating digital avatars for more than 1300 students, we gathered photographs from students. Followed by sequencing and scripting the entire 2-hour event, digital editing and overlaying of faculty members to provide a simulated effect of a simultaneous presence, creating virtual maps of hostels and departments, along with various other bits and piece of work,” says P Sunthar, professor of Chemical Engineering, who was one of the members of the organising committee.

Deepank Verma completed his PhD at IIT-B’s Centre for Urban Science and Engineering this year and attended the virtual convocation from Lucknow. “We left the campus in March due to the pandemic and travelling for the convocation would have been risky. But, attending the VR convocation was an exciting experience, we can keep our personalised digital versions as memorabilia,” says Verma.

All the students were asked to submit their front and side facing photographs, a full-length profile photograph and height measurements to create the avatars.

MTech graduate, Ram Babu from Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh, attended the VR convocation from his hometown and cherishes it as a unique experience. “It felt like we were on campus once again. We visited our hostels and departments virtually, through Gather, where we could video call and chat with friends and professors, and could involve in fun activities organised for us,” adds Babu.

The convocation has become an irreplaceable memory, on the hand, it emphasises on the translatability and absorbability of such technologies for the benefit of society and industries.

IIT Bombay director, Subhasis Chaudhuri, says that it is important to note that VR does not necessarily have applications only during the current pandemic crisis, but has plenty of applications that the industry must take into account. “Our job as an academic institution is to demonstrate the usefulness of any technology. If any industry wants to take it up and develop it as a service for all such occasions, then that would be a productive development,” adds Chaudhuri.

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