The city of Tshwane and EON Reality, a software company that specialises in virtual reality (VR) education, announced the inauguration of the Tshwane Interactive Digital Centre (IDC) this morning.

The aim of the centre is to enhance the local business and investment environment while creating high-skilled, sustainable jobs. It will form part of EON Reality’s global IDC network.

The initial capital investment is worth over R140 million, contributed by both parties, and is part of the city of Tshwane’s 2055 vision. The centre is the result of a 17-year relationship EON had with local VR company, the Naledi3d Factory.The centre will train 50 students a year, free of charge, in interactive 3D skills. The promising students will go on to work for the centre and create VR content.

The IDC has four sections: the first is the showroom where VR and AR solutions are on display; the second is the VR academy; the third is a content development studio; and the fourth (not yet built) is a 4D theatre.

Dave Lockwood, originally from Naledi3d, is the centre director.

Lockwood says: “VR and AR have huge potential across the whole of Africa, as a way to support, but also to transform, how we learn complex subjects. For example, vocational skills at university, and maths and science at school.

“Language barriers, as well as low literacy levels, tend to reduce how we understand what is being said and taught. By showing a concept, in a way that we can also play with it, means that we can ‘see’ what is been taught; hence, we can understand it better and also remember it much longer,” says Lockwood.

Future VR creators
To get into the free course, students need to have some qualification in multimedia, programming or graphic design. Applications for next year open in October.

At the moment there are 32 students enrolled in the training centre.

Lockwood says the current students come from a range of educational backgrounds: a few mechanical engineers, one sound engineer and one student who never went to university but has been playing with 3D for years.

Trainers will come from all over the world, from different IDC centres in Singapore, Manchester and the US, for a few weeks at a time, to teach the students.

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