ITA Inaugurates ‘Sas’ Centre for Virtual Reality

April 8, 2014 9:58 am

The Information Technology Authority (ITA) inaugurated ‘Sas’ Centre for Virtual Reality at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), under the auspices of H. E. Sheikh Al Fadl Bin Mohammed Al Harthy, Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, at a total cost of OR3.723.754. The state-of-the-art center is established to act as regional hub providing the infrastructure required for the development of virtual reality projects and multimedia contents to the local as well as the regional markets.

The center aims at qualifying the Omani entrepreneurs in this field through training programmes to be facilitated at the Centre for a period of 5 years. Sas is based on the concept of partnership between the public and private sectors, along with building on the global expertise in this regard. The Center plans to provide training opportunities for as much as 120 trainees a year, and would qualify the Omani youth to establish their own enterprises specialized in producing reality-simulation programmes.

Reality Simulation
Reality simulation programmes or virtual reality create 3D digital and virtual environment to interact with the user who will be immersed as a part of it. In order to achieve the highest degree possible of reality feeling, special devices are used to present the virtual reality projects to give the user a sense of immersion, along with other techniques used to track the user’s movements to enable the virtual environment to interact with the user’s movements, such as the ‘Cave’, which looks like a room with walls and floor that displays a 3D environment, where the visitor will stand and feel as if in a real environment, as the environment would react with the visitor’s movement and changes just as in reality. Virtual reality applications are used for multiple purposes, such as training, education, experimentation and entertainment in different areas such as medicine, education, oil, gas, tourism, defense, environment, industry, architecture, engineering and heritage.

Sas Center for Reality Simulation aims at promoting and developing the local talent pool in order to bridge the gap between the academic education and the local and international markets requirements through developing the skills in the field of digital design, animation and programming of virtual reality projects. The Centre is also aimed at developing an Arabic Digital Content in the field of multimedia and virtual reality, as well as motivating young Omanis to go in for entrepreneurship and establish Omani businesses in the field of multimedia and virtual reality, and also to support the research projects and promote the national academic institutions in the field of virtual reality.

The Centre is also aimed at encouraging the virtual reality multimedia sector through setting up enterprises for the youth in this regard, and qualify them in order to inject the public and private sector with specialized and trained staff, along with opening channels with the international companies operating in the virtual reality field to transform the Sultanate from the currently consumer to an exporter of projects and expertise, and to promote the research in this regard to help the Sultanate gain the competitive edge in terms of modern technology innovation.

Projects and Innovations
The Centre is currently involved in a number of projects, among which: the Grand Mosque Project, which allows the visitors of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque to go in a virtual tour and experience its magnificent architecture in 3D. There is also the Omani Costume Project, which is an interactive mirror that provides you with a virtual experience of the Omani traditional costumes and jewelry. Through the Wildlife in Oman project you can experience the wildlife in Oman and come close to some of the rare and endangered animals in the Arabian Peninsula, including the Arabian Fox, Monitor Grey Lizard, Arabian Oryx, Ibex and Arabian Leopard. Sas Center is also has Nizwa Fort Project, which offers a unique experience to go through the ‘Icube’ in a virtual tour within Nizwa Fort to experience the architectural ingenuity in the Ya’rubi era.

Structure of the Earth Project is a learning object developed for grade 7 students to interact with the learning object to obtain more information about the structure of the earth. Human Digestive System Project was developed for trainee nurses to display the digestive system, in which learners can interact and learn more about each part of the system. The Solar System Project is developed for grade 7 students to enable them to interact with the learning object and gain more information about the solar system. Another Project is the History Land that helps the audience learn history in an interactive environment. The Center have also developed Autism Screening Project, which is an application created in collaboration with the College of Medicine at Sultan Qaboos University to provide early detection for autism among young children between 6 months to 36 months. KiDiet is a mobile game developed by the Centre to teach the children how to select the healthy food in their daily diet in an enjoyable way.

Training Programme
The Centre provides numerous services, the most notable of which is the training. Regular training is given in order to develop the skills of the Omani youth in the field of design techniques, animation and programming of reality simulation projects, so that they would be qualified to carry out projects that would address the local and regional markets needs.

In line with ITA’s endeavors to enrich the e-content and develop the digital society, ITA has launched, in collaboration with local and international private companies, a training programme that aims to develop the Omani youth skills in terms of 3D design and programming of reality simulation projects. Reality Simulation (Virtual Reality) means the establishment of a three dimensional virtual environment that allows the user to interact with or navigate inside it.

The training is aimed at developing the skills of the Omani youth in the field of digital design, animation and the programming of reality simulation projects, as well as to provide the labor market with qualified Omani cadres in the multimedia and virtual reality fields, and also to nurture the entrepreneurship culture among the Omani youth and help them start their Omani businesses operating in the multimedia and virtual reality fields.

The training contents includes practical training on the 3D design by using the Photoshop programs, practical training on the 3D design using the 3Ds Max software and practical training on the animation, as well as adding interaction to the designs through learning the programming in the virtual reality projects and working in groups to implement the virtual reality projects. To date, 160 trainees received training at the Centre, and it is planned to train 40 Omani every 4 months, i.e. 120 trainees a year over 5 years, so that 600 trainees would have received training by the end of the fifth year.

The Centre boasts a huge hall equipped with state-of-the-art hardware, used to display the virtual reality projects. There are 8 devices for 3D presentation connected with interaction tools through the movements and instruction of the user. There are various devices, including huge display screens and the cave-like room called the ‘Cube’, which comprises three walls and floor, all used to reflect the viewing environment and connected with cameras to track the movement. There are also devices used to show how to install the different apparatuses through a screen and an interactive pen. An electronic podium is used for making remote speeches through the video conferencing techniques.

Admission to training requires the designers to have a background in 2D & 3D design programs and to have the desire and willingness to learn the design applications. Employees can join the training course, subject to complying with the attendance requirement during the training period. Participants are required to attend the training course from 9 am till 4 pm, and they are responsible for the accommodation and transportation. ITA shall pay an allowance to the jobseekers to help them cover such costs. This training course targets all the skilled or specialized Omani citizens without defining any age or specific category of the digital designers and programmers.

The training course will be organized three times annually over a period of five years. Inductions will take place in January, April and September. The first batch will be received in January 2013, and the training course is planned to continue till the end of the year 2018.

Apart from training, the Centre offers projects and content development services, including the implementation of projects relating to the development of e-content and virtual reality for the public and private sectors. The Centre conducts such projects under expert mentoring and by qualified and skilled Omani youth pool who received the training programme. Moreover, the Sas Centre provides consultancy services in terms of projects development, and provide the necessary support to the entrepreneurs specialized in the digital media field.

For more information, please contact:
Ahmed Al Hadhrami
Media Specialist
Information & Awareness Division
Tel: +968 2416 6530
Fax: +968 2416 6604