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Exxaro, University of Pretoria partner on XR reasearch

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Coal and heavy minerals mining company Exxaro Resources has partnered with the University of Pretoria to establish the Exxaro Chair in Extended Reality (XR) Technology.

XR technology refers to all real-and-virtual combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer technology, such as augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality.

The partnership will see the Exxaro Chair in XR Technology offering a framework on how XR technology can be used to deal with challenges faced by the mining industry, and to identify the best technologies for the solutions.

Exxaro's investment will allow for constant research towards a safer, economical, and more environmentally-sensitive form of mining. accordingto the two organisations.

Exxaro will work with the Virtual Reality and Interaction (VRI) Lab, an initiative of the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria, as well as the Department of Mining Engineering. The VRI lab applies XR technologies to create interactive user experiences for various applications.

The programme will help to select the most effective XR technology for each specific application, and will design interactions that can enable intuitive interaction with the virtual environment.

Solutions to be explored include the application of individual and shared VR; mobile, tethered and cave setup VR; communication VR; tracked and untracked VR space; and hand tracking and full body tracking.

It will also offer extensive user testing of proposed solutions to ensure that the solutions address and solve as many of the challenges as possible.

Exxaro CEO, Mxolisi Mgojo says: “Together, we are expanding upon the practical capabilities of XR in the South African context while supporting our need for industry to embrace the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The possibilities of what we could develop are really exciting.”

Professor Ina Fourie, head of Department of Information Science and the inaugural Exxaro Chair in XR Technology, said the partnership is opening new opportunities for the university to excel in industry related XR research.

“They offer us an opportunity to become international leaders in the use of XR technology in the mining industry and mining safety. Many other applications and opportunities can follow,” she ends.

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