When His Royal Highness The Duke of York visits the University of Wollongong tomorrow, he will receive an insight into some of the ground-breaking research at the SMART Infrastructure Facility.
From robots to virtual reality to the Internet of Things, the Duke will be given a glimpse into the future.
The Duke will visit SMART to launch the Global Leaders Development Program, a strategic initiative of the university designed specifically for top achieving high school students aspiring to become the next generation of global leaders.
It will incorporate two courses – in commerce and computer science – and offer study opportunities to domestic students at the university’s off-shore campuses in Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Thanks to the facility’s partnership with Southern Coal Services, the Duke will experience the latest in virtual reality safety training, learning first-hand how to put out an underground fire.
Associate research fellow Shiva Pedram has been studying the effectiveness of virtual reality training.
‘We will ask His Royal Highness to put on a headset and then put him in a situation where there is an underground fire and he uses his controller to operate a fire extinguisher,’ she said.
‘The beauty of this is that he will be able to see an avatar who will talk to him about the fire, why it happened, and the best ways of extinguishing it.’
The Duke will be visiting the University of Wollongong as part of his program to give entrepreneurs the kick-start they need through his personal project, Pitch@Palace.
Founded in 2014, Pitch@Palace has given hundreds of entrepreneurs exposure to the most powerful CEOs, influencers, mentors and business partners.
Selected entrepreneurs will attend a boot camp at the university, where they will receive support and guidance on how to develop their pitch by leading Australian and international business leaders.
A selection of these businesses will then be given the opportunity to pitch their ideas at the national final, to be held in Sydney on Wednesday (September 27).
Professor Alex Frino, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Strategy) has just returned from London where he and Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings visited The Duke of York at Buckingham Palace to agree final details.
Professor Frino saw Pitch@Palace last year and was impressed by the level of excitement and enthusiasm.
‘Together, we are confident that we will deliver an event that is not only exciting and innovative, but one that is sure to expose some great ideas from the brilliant minds in this country,’ he said.
While at SMART, in addition to virtual reality, the Duke will also learn about the uses of augmented reality, where graphics or information are embedded in the landscape and accessed via a smartphone.
Dr Johan Barthelemy will be showing the Duke a flood sensor developed by SMART that will be used to monitor creeks that run through the university campus.
‘There are some issues with the creeks flooding, so these sensors will warn with emails, a text message and through a real-time dashboard before the situation becomes critical,’ Dr Barthelemy said.
He hopes the sensors, as part of the Digital Living Lab will be used by Wollongong City Council to provide data on flood areas, and warning of maintenance issues and critical events.
Robots dodging obstacles will also be demonstrated, thanks to Nathan Larkin from the Faculty of Engineering, who works out of SMART to help design innovative software for robots.
‘Our research is around improving the ways you can program robots,’ Mr Larkin said.
‘Robots are usually pretty costly to program, but this software – developed by PhD student Andrew Short, reduces that cost.’
Equipped with an 3D sensor, the robot is able to find its way around a new environment, dodging obstacles placed by students.
‘We want to show that the robot can navigate an unfamiliar environment by itself, without having to be programmed to do,’ Mr Larkin said.