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The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has announced plans to launch digital replicas of the institution’s two campuses via a metaverse platform.
The platform named MetaHKUST is set to open in September, according to a press release. It will be the first of its kind in the world and will use extended reality (XR) technology to provide an immersive study experience that will connect student and research activities across geographical locations, the release added.
HKUST maintains two campuses—one in Hong Kong and another in the southern Chinese city Guangzhou. This has posed a problem as travel between China and Hong Kong is severely restricted due to COVID-19. MetaHKUST will solve this issue by allowing students to visit both campuses virtually.
The project is divided into two phases. In the initial phase, HKUST intends to put physical infrastructure in place. The university will install XR classrooms, sensors, cameras, and visualization tools. Additionally, university community members will participate in crowdsourced scanning of the physical campuses to provide images for the virtual twins.
Once the ecosystem is established, it will be open to members of the school to generate content. These include avatars, NFTs, tokens, or virtual art that may also be viewed on the physical campus with augmented reality (AR) technology.
The university will also use the platform to exchange information and administrative procedures, allowing for blockchain-backed diplomas and transcripts to be awarded as NFTs and events to be held on the metaverse platform.
HKUST not the only pioneer of Web 3.0 adoption among universities
The project is being spearheaded by Prof. Wang Yang, HKUST Vice President for Institutional Advancement who is also the projects lead, and Prof. Pan Hui, Chair Professor of Computational Media and Arts at HKUST(Guangzhou) and Director of the Center for Metaverse and Computational Creativity (MC2) at HKUST.
In a statement, Prof. Yang remarked that MetaHKUST would help the university realize the potential of the metaverse and Web 3.0. He added that it also proves that Hong Kong has all the “elements required for the future-shaping development of Web 3.0.”
“The online-offline interaction will not only facilitate a genuine integration of the two campuses under the framework of ‘Unified HKUST, Complimentary Campuses,’ but will also help realize the potential of metaverse in education,” Prof. Yang remarked.
Similar to HKUST, the University of Tokyo recently announced plans to offer a broad range of courses via its metaverse platform. In the U.S., Arizona State University (ASU) also hinted at plans to enter the Web 3.0 race, filing trademarks for the use of its name and logos in metaverse-related goods and services.
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