A recent RMIT Vietnam graduate was the country’s sole representative at a major technology conference which took place in Bangkok, Thailand.
Dang Ha Thanh Vy, a senior who studied Bachelor of Design (Digital Media), showed off her virtual reality (VR) application at the 10th SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia, held in the Thai capital from 27-30 November.
According to the conference’s website, SIGGRAPH “attracts the most respected technical and creative people from all over the world who are excited by research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education and emerging technologies.” This year’s event focused on VR, augmented reality (AR) and machine learning.
“My project is called Room VR,” Vy says. “It’s a virtual reality mobile application for children who have bedtime fears of darkness, imaginary monsters or animal sounds. The application is meant to help them overcome the fears by exposing them to the fear through simulating a virtual bedroom.”
The program makes use of a new psychological treatment method called virtual reality exposure therapy, or VRET. This has been used to help soldiers overcome PTSD, for example.
“I came up with this idea because I want to make this treatment accessible to children,” Vy shares.
Erik Young, an RMIT lecturer who advised Vy on her project, explains the mechanics of the app further. “We built out a bedroom that would look like a child’s room in a house, and in the environment there are different types of – we would call them objects – but monsters or characters that in the dark would appear scary or aggressive, but as soon as you shine a light on them, they become these friendly inanimate objects,” he says.
“So a monster might turn into a stuffed animal, or something like that. It’s meant to show that what we see and what is real are not the same.”
Vy, for her part, never thought she would have the opportunity to take part in SIGGRAPH. “My lecturer advised me to try and participate, and I didn’t expect a lot because I thought this event was too big for me,” she shares. “I was shocked when I got accepted.”
In fact, not only is Vy’s Room VR project the only one to have been accepted to the conference from RMIT, it was the only application to be chosen in all of Vietnam. “There’s a lot of work here from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea,” Young says, “but we’re the only representatives from Vietnam.”
The lecturer believes this bodes well for RMIT Vietnam’s VR and AR courses. “These are really new on a whole so we’ve tried hard to establish ourselves and build more mature projects. I think we’re at the start of some really interesting things,” he says.
Mr Young added that the University has recently opened a state-of-the-art Mixed Reality Studio where students can research and develop VR, AR and MR (mixed reality) projects. RMIT Vietnam also hosted a SIGGRAPH virtual reality event at its Saigon South campus on 3 December.
Meanwhile Vy – who graduated with distinction last month – is excited to see what possibilities this field holds. “It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of energy to learn and do it at the same time,” she explains. “But I think this kind of technology has a very promising future because it’s not about design or traditional technology; here people can see designs in a different way.”
Story: Michael Tatarski