Suffolk, Carnegie Mellon Universities Join Transatlantic VR Partnership

The cross-cultural initiative aims to develop soft skills for university students with Bodyswaps and Meta technologies

Carnegie Mellon Suffolk University VR programme
Mixed RealityLatest News

Published: November 27, 2023

Demond Cureton

The University of Suffolk is set to join a massive transatlantic research project in virtual reality (VR), it announced on Monday.

Aimed at building soft skills for young learners, Carnegie Mellon University and VR soft skills training firm Bodyswaps have launched the programme.

With it, students and learners joining the initiative will train to boost their public speaking, job skills, and other key skills for the workplace. According to photos, the programme will use Meta Quest headsets, and the university will receive two additional ones to facilitate the project.

The news comes after Carnegie Mellon University selected 25 institutions to participate in the trial across the United States and the United Kingdom. It will last six months and kick off at the end of November.

Why VR Soft Skills?

According to the University, it began using VR headsets for the initiative in the spring last year and will allow students to build their confidence for upcoming presentations or job interviews.

It also aims to boost its available customer service, equity, diversity, and inclusion (DE&I), management, leadership, and healthcare skills, it explained.

The project means the university will be able to expand its modules to include customer service, equity, diversity and inclusion, leadership, management and healthcare.

Amy Carpenter, Head of Careers, Employability and Enterprise, University of Suffolk, said in a statement,

“Embracing VR technology has been a great way of developing the soft skills of our students who need more support, and complements the wider advice and guidance our Careers and Enterprise team offers”

She continued, stating that the courses were “widely recognised for preparing students for employment.” Bodyswaps technologies were “one way of helping students become job ready,” she added.

Carpenter concluded,

“We are beginning to embed this technology within our courses to provide professional development options, and we have already seen the transformative impacts it has on our students who have used the headsets. Taking part in this research project will enable us to expand our offering to students and help more learners benefit from these programmes”

Conor O’Leary, who studies computing, explained that he had found the Bodyswaps technology “really useful.”

Concluding, he told the media: “[It] has helped me hone my skills in presentations and interviews, which will be invaluable for the future,” he said in a statement. It’s really a bit of a blend of career support and new technology which I think works really well.”

Meta Partners with US Universities for VR Education

The announcement comes after Meta Platforms launched a massive 15-university-strong initiative in September to boost VR adoption rates in the education sector.

Meta’s huge partnership will demonstrate how efficient XR technologies can integrate into the classroom. Doing so will allow universities and institutions to drive growth for the XR industry with detailed use cases.

Bodyswaps has begun providing its solutions to Stanford University and the latter’s business school to teach soft skills.

Other universities such as Arizona State University, New Mexico State University, Purdue Global, University of Iowa, and many more have entered strategic partnerships for the programme.

Meta’s Quest Store will host a lineup of education apps for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses.

University of Glasgow Debuts FUSION Initiative

News of the announcement comes just days after the University of Glasgow received funding to develop a project to boost engagement at virtual meetings.

According to the FUSION initiative, it received £1.75 million to build ‘phygital’ meeting spaces, allowing people to join their colleagues as physical people and avatars.

The solution incorporates computer vision cameras, sensors, and other technologies to allow people to interact with each other via mixed reality (MR) headsets.

Set to take place over five years’ time, the programme will provide voice, spatial context, and gestures for groups to detect while in meetings to enhance non-verbal communication.

Universities, XR Firms Open XR Research Centres

Building on the successes of previous ventures, the University of Suffolk and Carnegie Mellon University follow a long tradition of exploring XR technologies among institutions.

Several have already developed research facilities to enhance student knowledge of XR technologies. For example, San Diego State University (SDSU) launched a massive XR studio in January last year to integrate virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) solutions in classroom curricula for students.

Via its Virtual Immersive Teaching and Learning (VITaL) centre, SDSU will teach its students how to implement, learn, and develop XR tools for their future vocations.

Additionally, the University of Portsmouth opened its Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality (CCIXR) to instruct current and future developers of immersive technologies.

Founded in October 2021, the facility became the first in the UK to offer a full suite of XR tools to students to upskill, train, and prepare students amid the ongoing job skills crisis.

Finally, Epic Games kicked off its Augmented Reality Center (ARC) with Oakland University Michigan. The real-time 3D (RT3D) platform collaborated with the OU College for Creative Studies (CCS) to deploy AR technologies for students set to build XR solutions.

The novel programme will merge companies, students, and academic experts to develop tools for the XR manufacturing sector, including digital twins, and RT3D content, and to develop ecosystems for hardware such as haptic gloves XR projectors, headsets, and many more.



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