Monday 6 February 2017
Adnan Salehin, Ayush Verma, Aniruddha Ray and Giorgi Karkashadze won a Europe-wide tech clash in November 2016 with their idea to create a collaborative virtual reality platform for education. We caught up with Adnan and Ayush to find out a bit more about the event, why they think their idea had the winning formula, and what this means for the future of virtual reality in education.
Firstly, please tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you study at QMUL
Adnan: I’m currently in my first year of my undergraduate degree studying computer science and I’m due to graduate in 2019.
Ayush: I’m also studying computer science and I am in my third and final year at QMUL.
Could you tell us what the Student Tech Clash is all about?
Ayush: The Student Tech Clash was an event created by the Reply network. We were supposed to come up with an idea to use technology in day-to-day life, especially in the field of virtual reality (VR), to improve the lives of regular people.
Adnan: The idea was to come up with new solution in which to use VR in new ways and to demonstrate something that has not yet been done. In our case we went with VR in education. We wanted to demonstrate how we could revolutionise education by making use of VR.
How did you become involved with the event?
Ayush: I received an email from the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science advertising the competition and calling for applications. I had a discussion with the other members before we submitted the application and we then registered as a team.
Adnan: In my case it was a little bit different. I first applied by myself and originally attended alone. I was still pretty much in my first two months when I decided to take part in this event so it was quite a new experience for me. When I arrived everyone else had a team so I wasn’t sure what I could do. But, the good news is that the other three members of the team were missing one of their partners so I was able to fill in for him, so that’s when I joined this team!
What was the inspiration behind your winning idea?
Adnan: We wanted to do something out of the box and help ourselves while doing so.
Ayush: We wanted to come up with solution which we could be proud of, something which could help us as students and we wanted to help others too. We came up with the idea of using VR in education because everybody likes technology, and if you are able to learn something new from this technology then that’s even better. So, we came up with the interactive ways by which you can learn, and ways in which we could make learning fun. For most other things like videos and photos there is already a platform available; for social networking we have Facebook, for videos we have YouTube, but for VR we actually still don’t have a platform like this. We wanted to dig deeper into it and try to create such a platform and to give an idea of how this would work. We also wanted to show how we can build partnerships and how we can get other companies, universities and institutions on board to help build it.
Do you think your idea has the potential to be introduced in the near future?
Adnan: It’s a definite possibility. VR is becoming quite a big area now with products such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and the companies undertaking these projects are turning out to be quite successful in this sense. If more and more people become interested in this platform then maybe we can bring this to life.
Ayush: So many companies are investing a lot of resources into this, especially Google and Facebook, who are also competing against each other and making new products. The tech is therefore progressing very quickly and I think it’s a huge market which is largely untapped. I think it will become a reality very soon.
Why do you think your idea was chosen as the winner among all the other universities?
Ayush: As Adnan mentioned, our idea was out of the box and something that has never done before. We had a solid business idea and we also put forward suggestions for how we can build partnerships with other companies and get other universities on board, so I think that was the winning factor.
Adnan: I think it was because our idea was actually achievable and doable within our lifetimes, so maybe that was one of the reasons. I should also mention that our presentation was really good. We did really well in terms of getting it across to the judges. Some of the other ideas that I saw were maybe a bit less practical or less necessary.
Ayush: I think some of the other ideas were more focussed on one particular area, such as using VR in shopping or using VR in travel, but our idea was large in scope and covered a wide range of different aspects, so we definitely had an edge there.
It must have been a great opportunity to take part – what did you learn from the experience?
Adnan: If you ask me it has to be teamwork. Without everyone working together it would never have been possible. We had very little time to plan our presentation. We had 20 minutes to come up with all the things we were going to talk about during the presentation, including making all of the slides. We started very early in the day and coming up with the ideas and what we needed to discuss took a lot of time, but actually putting together the information and presenting our idea was limited to the 20 minutes. I noticed that some of the other teams didn’t really include much detail in their slides but we decided to do this, and we were only able to do so because everybody worked together at the same time. Maybe that’s why we were also chosen as the winners.
Ayush: The main thing for me was also learning to work as a team. It was definitely a team effort and we all contributed a lot. The opportunity to develop my presentation skills was also incredibly valuable. Your product may be very good but if you’re not able to market it properly, it won’t sell, so presentation and team working skills were factors which I learned the most about.
Adnan: Aniruddha did a really good job talking about our idea. He stood out as he continued to explain the idea to the judges in length for quite some time and was very passionate about it.
Ayush: We are all passionate about technology and once we had the chance, we just couldn’t stop talking about our ideas.
Adnan: Before going on stage we were overflowing with ideas about what we wanted to talk about. Maybe if we had more time our presentation would have been huge!
So where do you hope to take this in the future?
Ayush: We have formed a new society in Queen Mary called VR (Virtual Reality) society where we plan to showcase the best of VR technology. It is not just for tech guys but for everyone. We will be building and exploring 3D virtual models, playing VR related games and watching 360-degree videos on our brand new HTC vive. Our aim is to promote and make others aware of VR and AR (Augmented Reality) technologies and their capabilities.