Aggies Invent: Students help shape the future of augmented and virtual reality

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Dell sponsors event, provides expertise and technology to students

Nearly everyone buys a car at some point, however, driving to a dealership, talking to a salesman, hassling with the negotiation, filling out paperwork and going for a test drive can be a nightmare. Imagine being able put on some glasses, rev the engine and see the car you wanted, right from the comfort of your couch.

Or imagine going to work in a factory and being able to see where invisible chemicals have leaked, alerting you to potential danger and allowing you to escape in time. With virtual and augmented reality, the world is poised to become a safer, more practical place. And if you ask any of the 56 students who participated in the most recent Aggies Invent, an intensive design experience offered at the Texas A&M Engineering Innovation Center, they’ll tell you the world will be a more exciting place as well.

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Augmented and virtual reality is taking the world by storm. Technology leader, Dell, sponsored this Aggies Invent and brought all the latest technology and expertise for students to explore possible solutions to real world problems. Joining them were sponsors from Accenture, who brought the strategy and business side of these solutions. Meta rounded out the technology with their newest virtual reality headset. For 48 hours the students focused on finding a solution to a need statement provided by Dell and Accenture. The companies asked the students how this future technology could solve problems they face today and in the future. Students took these prompts and developed innovative ideas and solutions.

Over the course of the two days, 10 teams created a business model, a presentation and a video. On Sunday, the pressure was high as students presented to a panel of judges, who were experts in augmented and virtual reality. The judges included senior executives from Dell and Accenture, as well as the director of the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M University.

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In the end, a three-person team was declared the champion and each member was awarded a Dell Precision 5520 Mobile Workstation. The winning team developed a business solution called “Shovel” that would allow workers wearing augmented reality glasses to “virtually dig” and see where pipes are located underground, allowing construction workers to know where it is safe to dig to place new utilities.

Team members were Mike Momin, computer science student; and Mike Choi and Ayaz Abdullah, computer engineering students. When asked if they will take their business model and transform it into a real business, they paused and said “why not.”

“It’s all a matter of getting all the resources together and seeing if we can materialize it,” Abdullah said.

And just like that a business is born which, in the end, is the goal of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, according to director Rodney Boehm, creator of Aggies Invent.

“Aggies Invent gives students a chance to solve problems facing today’s society using the latest technology and support from industry and university mentors,” said Boehm. “They are so motivated that when we give them a creative environment and support, they amaze us with what can be designed and built in just 48 hours. We are seeing the next startup companies created right before our eyes.”

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Aggies Invent is open to all Texas A&M students, who participate for many reasons. A big draw for sophomore electrical engineering student, Kamal Kraigheh, was the opportunity to play with augmented and virtual reality.

“I’m in AggiE_Challenge, and I’ve been doing virtual reality work as part of that,” he said. “When I actually started researching virtual reality this year, I realized there is so much potential. We are definitely going to see this in the future, and I’m really excited to start working on it and to be on the forefront of that.”

The second place team developed a business plan called “AKU” which would change the car-buying experience by allowing a customer to interact with a dealer remotely and customize a car to his or her specifications while viewing the vehicle in different environments.

The third place team developed a system using augmented reality, which would allow a construction company to easily see where mistakes are happening in real time, greatly reducing the amount of costly errors. “ARrchitecture” would also allow customers to live stream with experts elsewhere to get assistance, without having to wait for them to come to their location.

Business student Allison Kornher, who was on the third place team, enjoyed the experience because she said it will prepare her for her future career. This is the second time she’s participated in Aggies Invent.

“I wanted to meet students who are interested in entrepreneurship on the engineering side since I am a business student,” she said. “I want to be able to show that I can collaborate with engineers.”

The next Aggies Invent will take place in February, and will be a global collaborative [U] Invent™ event — “Invent for the Planet.”

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