The Grid: Pakistan’s first Virtual Reality Lab at NED University
As I walked through the gloomy alleys of Petroleum Engineering Department at NED University, I noticed the sorry state of the infrastructure. Being one of the oldest departments of the university, its corridors and classrooms are reminder of the presence of its past students. I noticed that the wall paint was chipping away and the floor had grayed. The feelings totally changed when I entered a futuristic room named The Grid.
As I enter this fully carpeted and furnished minimalistic room, I am told that this space used to be a junkyard for the department! Comfortable on their bean bags, I see four figures enthusiastically discussing drones, looking them up on one laptop and tweaking with some hardware. Mr. Mohsin Yousufi, the Founder of The Grid, is their mentor.
The Grid is a first of its kind Virtual Reality Lab cum Media Center at a university’s level in the country. This facility recently launched its operations for students, faculty, and industry personnel for collaborative learning pertaining to Virtual Reality and using it to educate engineers. The lab provides support to students and faculty in their work on simulations via Unity 3D, a popular software for various field work around the globe. The 360 Panoramic shots, shared by the Petroleum Engineering Department’s alumni working in oil fields, are helping students to get a first-hand experience of field work as if they are actually there.
The facility currently consists of four VR stations equipped with high-tech state of the art equipment including VR headsets along with remote controllers, a tablet-based media hub. The big screen allows one to share the data from the tablet with everyone using a chromecast interface. The media hub consists of visual data and simulations from alumni which can be shared with users anytime. Mohsin Yousufi told that the media lab is not restricted to the students of Petroleum Engineering and is open to everyone who want to create their simulations and test their projects.
Organizing field trips are difficult due to isolated locations of work fields, here this lab is bridging the gap by enabling students to have an experience whilst being on campus. The lab has already connected the alumni to academics and alumni are now sending in 360 Panoramic shots to help students gain an insight into the field work. Mohsin Yousufi believes that the lab will help faculty in imparting practical knowledge to students and giving training to engineers by adopting VR as an enabler tool. With an ambition to expand the lab and make it a play-area for engineers, Mohsin is striving hard to make this space a game-changer for the academia as well as the industry.
The Grid is a Petroleum Engineering Department Alumni Project and is being funded by the alumni of NED University.