Slowly Virtual Reality makes its art known
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STUDENTS from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Thomas Changa (first left), Amon Mfuruki and Judith Matunda (first right), share a light moment with the then visiting, Damien Gires, from Paris-France, while he makes use of a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, in the just-ended “Semaine de la France” (French Week), at the National Museum and House of Culture, in Dar es Salaam, last Thursday. (Photo by Iman Mani)

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ALTHOUGH he had five days in the country last week Damien Gires, from Paris- France, says he didn’t see much of the country.

Reason being, from his arrival on Monday he was immediately caught-up with featuring French Art in the area of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets from Herve, in the just-ended “Semaine de la France” (French Week), at the National Museum and House of Culture, here in the City Centre.

All-the-same, before leaving on Friday, he talked about getting a pleasant feel of the country from the locals, so left with definite plans of coming again, only this time he would make sure he has some space to see a little of the City and the country in.

“I came here with an exhibition and VR technology, for the global Institut Francaise, to promote the French Art. We decided to present six different productions from French actors of VR. Within the six is a short movie, a cartoon, games and a documentary.

You see, VR is the new way to live experiences inside of stories,” he said, with a little more composure than a child would talk about a new toy. The tools for this are headsets, which are specially made to work with smart phones.

Now when connected and put on, the wearer is able to see all around them, as if they’re part of the experience being viewed. From being virtually inside of the film, he says, presents the advantage of feeling differently.

There’s also an advantage, he added, merely from the way the viewer is able to learn in a completely different way. This method of “watching a film from within”, he added can also be used as a medium of education, simply by making adjustments in the choice of content.

The possibilities of venturing far in this area, according to Gires, are many. He even went as far as to say this helps make learning become not only faster but also better, when the viewer is inside of the subject.

Just in case, one may think this was all, he reminded the ‘Daily News’ that the technology is also being used in the field of health and medicine. In this case, the technology is being used to bring another practical dimension to what he says, in essence is an “Art Form”.

“To sum it all up, this Art Form has introduced a new way of communicating, learning and playing games. You can call it a new medium if you want,” he went on to suggest. According to Gires it has been a long time since people have been working on this technology in France and elsewhere in the world. However, it’s only in the last three years since it started becoming famous in French society. Now it is being used not only on smartphones but also on computers, after hooking-on the relevant attachments.VR is also being used by companies to get a new experience in communicating without travelling.

“It is also used for more physical practical things like on a building site. Through VR a construction company can visit a building, which is made in 3-D, before it has been constructed,” he said.

A surprised bonus for the visiting Frenchman was having three engineering students, from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), helping him to present these exhibited technologies to visitors.

One of these students is the fourth-year Telecommunications Engineering student Thomas Changa. It was he who told the ‘Daily News’ that their duties were to show locals what the VR technology could do, its boundaries and how interesting it is.

Viewing an environment from within, as is the case with this VR technology, Thomas says gives a more complete image from which to understand it, as opposed to a one-dimensional view.

It’s the next best thing, he adds, to actually being there in that particular place. Before this exhibition his previous memory of this technology was hearing of it coming with a popular cellular phone company’s gear.

This was Thomas’ first time to come face to face with VR. From the actual equipment itself, he got an insight as to the level of technology other countries have reached and from watching some of the films he has learnt, in a short time, some things he didn’t know about France before. His colleague, Judith Matunda, Electronics Science and Telecommunications student, admitted not knowing anything about VR, in a practical way.

“But when I came here to this exhibition I got the full picture, which is that this VR can help in a lot of ways, such as with studies, watching movies, playing games and even helping and understand societies both near and far.

I really enjoyed it and got a lot from being here because besides studying it, I also got to interact with different cultures in diverse ways,” she said.

Thomas and Judith’s colleague Amon Mfuruki, also a fourth-year Telecommunications Engineering student, at the UDSM had the previous experience of watching a film wearing a 3-D glasses, in one of the local cinema halls. This experience he had enjoyed but couldn’t compare it with what he got at the exhibition.

This he says, wasn’t limited and provided to showcase where VR is used to do more than just watch movies. From the knowledge and exposure, he got over the four days assisting the then visiting Gires, Amon has seen how such equipment can be used to improve his society.

The fact that French people are doing this has opened his eyes to finding out ways of using the technology to benefit his society.

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