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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Degrees to digital avatars of students to ‘mixed reality’ tech: IITs’ convocation during COVID-19

IIT-Bombay held its convocation in August using virtual reality and digital avatars of students were awarded degrees using the technology

By: PTI | New Delhi | Updated: October 25, 2020 7:00:20 pm
convo 1200IIT-Bombay held its convocation in August using virtual reality and digital avatars of students were awarded degrees using the technology. Representational image

From digital avatars of students receiving degrees on a virtual stage to using ‘mixed reality’ technology, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are merging real and digital to ensure they do not miss their convocation ceremonies because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The IIT-Madras is holding a unique and a first-of-its-kind convocation using “mixed reality” (MR) where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in realtime. MR is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations.

“We are conducting the 57th convocation of the institute using the technology where the real and virtual are mixed to provide an online virtual experience for viewers,” IIT-Madras Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi told PTI. “The technology being used is not an animation or a virtual reality. Warm friendships, vibrant academia among others will forever be cherished by the graduands,” he said.

The IIT-Bombay held its convocation in August using virtual reality and digital avatars of students were awarded degrees using the technology. “While students couldn’t congregate for the convocation, where Nobel prize winner Professor Duncan Haldane was invited as the chief guest, they were seen along with guests in their digital avatars on a virtual stage,” a top official of the institute said.

“This is for the first time in the institute’s 62-year history that we gave away medals, awards and degrees to virtual avatars of students on the day of convocation. We did not wish to deprive the students of the sense of achievement and pride of passing out of the premier engineering institute,” the official said.

Prime Minister Narnedra Modi had tweeted to praise IIT-Bombay’s convocation. “Wonderful mix of tradition and technology! An interesting convocation at @iitbombay. Great effort. Congrats to the Class of 2020! I fondly recall my visit to this brilliant institution for the convocation in August 2018,” he had tweeted. In IIT Kanpur’s convocation held last week, students were awarded medals online.

“A convocation comes as a milestone in the educational journey of every student. It is a memorable occasion for students as it celebrates their achievements and hardwork. It is also a time when teachers can see the fruits of their labour,” IIT-Kanpur Director Abhay Karandikar said. Therefore, it was important to hold the convocation despite the COVID situation, but to ensure the safety of students, it was decided to hold the convocation online and avoid a large gathering on the campus,” he said.

“This is for the first time that the convocation was held online and we are overwhelmed by the fantastic response from students as well as faculty members and others who logged in from their homes across the country,” Karandikar said. IIT-Roorkee, which is in the process of planning its convocation, is gearing up to make the experience a memorable one for its students.

“Convocation is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our graduating students. We will try to make the virtual convocation memorable even though students and their families will be unable to come to the campus to participate,” said Ajit K Chaturvedi, Director IIT-Roorkee. He, however, did not divulge what is being planned.

Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16, when the Centre announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as part of measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. A nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 and since June, restrictions under it are being relaxed under the ‘Unlock’ process.

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