Walton Institute is getting a holographic equipment upgrade

28 Nov 2023

The Walton Institute NetLabs Integrated Research Building. Image: Patrick Browne

The institute said this advanced equipment will let users interact with virtual representations of models, which could benefit various industries.

The Waterford-based Walton Institute has secured Irish funding to purchase a batch of immersive equipment, including hologram technology.

The funding came from Ireland’s Capital Equipment Fund, which is administered by Enterprise Ireland. Earlier this month, third-level institutions across Ireland secured a total of €16.5m through this fund to purchase new equipment.

The Walton Institute – based in the South East Technological University (SETU) – said it will use the funding to enhance its Mixed Reality Lab and deliver new innovations for various industries. The new equipment will include a hologram room, a holographic table and extended reality headsets.

The holographic equipment will let users view and interact with virtual representations of various models, such as building plans or machinery. The institute said this technology has a lot of potential, particularly for design efficiency as users can look at the holograms to find any issues in early-stage designs.

Stephen Barns, the senior project manager at Walton Institute’s Mixed Reality Lab, said this type of equipment could be beneficial for architecture, engineering, education, the arts and “many other sectors”.

“It would greatly enhance real-time collaborations with users being able to view and interact with the same content,” Barns said. “Holographic tables and rooms are capable of displaying life-size virtual objects and even 3D animated models, so it would be possible for users to view and interact with a scan of an entire landscape.”

The institute said its holographic room will be filled with projectors and tracking equipment that is capable of making the room’s walls ‘invisible’ to users, in order to create a more immersive environment.

Users will wear streamlined eyewear and can even make eye contact with others while in the room. The institute said this will give them improved spatial awareness and less motion sickness compared to other VR options.

The Capital Equipment Fund gives awardees access to various forms of equipment hosted by technology gateways and technology centres across Ireland. These gateways and centres work on strategic research, development and innovation projects in co-ordination with Ireland’s research institutions.

The Capital Equipment Fund has invested €44m over the past four years. In 2021, the fund supported 61 projects with a total of €12.4m.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic