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Source: University of Canterbury

28 September 2021

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel learned about aerial firefighting and toured a virtual reality hospital during a hands-on visit to the University of Canterbury.

  • Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel tries out a virtual reality aerial firefighting training tool at the University of Canterbury’s HIT Lab.

The Mayor was shown around the Human Interface Technology Lab New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) at the University’s Ilam campus today.

The HIT Lab NZ opened in 2002 and is focused on using new and emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and applied immersive game design, to solve real-world problems.

During the tour Mayor Dalziel tried out a VR training tool for aerial firefighters developed by UC postdoctoral research fellow Rory Clifford and tested a VR game where the user can move around a virtual hospital completing a series of tasks to review the building layout and design.

The hospital design project is the work of UC Master of Human Interface Technology student Emma Buchanan, who has a background in architecture and healthcare design.

Mayor Dalziel said it was exciting to see the work going on. “I really do think it’s the way of the future. It’s like playing; you get to sit in a helicopter or walk through a design. You can see the incredible uses that it can go towards in training, design and all of those different areas. It’s got great capacity for making a real difference.”

Her tour of the Lab was partly inspired by the 40th anniversary of Christchurch’s sister city relationship with Seattle, Washington, where the original HIT Lab is located and which she has also visited.

University of Canterbury Professor of Applied Immersive Games Stephan Lukosch welcomed the Mayor’s visit.

“We’re very proud of the ground-breaking research that’s happening in UC’s HIT Lab NZ and it was wonderful to host the Mayor and see her so interested and engaged in the work that’s happening here in collaboration with local and New Zealand partners.”

Associate Professor Heide Lukosch says the initiative she heads at the HIT Lab NZ, the Applied Immersive Gaming Initiative, aims to take a playful approach to real-world problems.

Professor Stephan Lukosch is on the organising committee for the IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces which will be hosted at Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre from 12 to 16 March 2022. It will be the first time the prestigious international conference has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.