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THE HIGHLY IMMERSIVE Visualisation Environment (HIVE) at the University of Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa is being paid for in a matched funding arrangement between the University and BP.

Prof. Paul Carey, who holds the Chair of Petroleum Geology at UWC and will also be the director of the BP HIVE, explained: “With funding provided by BP, financial and resource commitments from the University, and excellent technical support from Virtalis, we have expanded our original idea of a Virtual Reality (VR) facility into something much bigger.  Our HIVE will be sited in a brand new, custom-built unit within the Department of Applied Geology.  A central Dell server coupled with a dedicated optical fibre line will link our 30, high-end, 3D modelling computers with our two-channel, tracked ActiveWall and the postgraduate research suite.  This in turn, will connect us to the University’s multi-terabyte data storage system via 10Gb network connectivity, enabling high speed data transfer and advanced modelling of very large data sets.  Once we’re up and running, we’ll have the most advanced VR system in South Africa.”

The HIVE will manipulate and model data using a wide range of industry-standard software packages to create highly detailed models and virtual environments.  Principal among these are Schlumberger’s reservoir and fluid modelling suites, Petrel and Eclipse, Midland Valley’s MOVE 2D, 3D, 4D structural modelling software and Virtalis’ own GeoVisionary, a tool which enables geoscientists to visualise, analyse and share large datasets seamlessly in an immersive, real time environment.  Fugro NPA, specialists in geological and surface modelling using advanced visualisation techniques, will enhance the overall service and technical quality of the facility.

“We realised pretty quickly that the Virtalis team is unique because they make all this technology work together, so the University accepted that they are the best people to do the job”, said Prof. Carey. “Their design goes way beyond specifying Christie M Series WU7 projectors and Dell workstations; they even position the power sockets and offer advice on the most efficient layout of the HIVE to provide the optimum 3D experience for the users.  We can always pick up the phone to them in the knowledge that they will provide knowledgeable and specific support. Virtalis has expressed hopes of developing a long term relationship between themselves and the University, an approach which, in my experience, is uncommon in modern business.”
Students using the HIVE initially will be reading for MScs and PhDs in the South African Petroleum Studies Program and MScs in Applied Geology, but this user body will expand as relationships with other disciplines are grown.  The HIVE staff see no limit to the range of disciplines that the Virtalis solution can be applied to.  It is expected that approximately 40 per cent of HIVE’s time will be booked by commercial organisations, especially those with interests in petroleum, mining and land use.  In fact, demand is expected to be so heavy that UWC has already placed an additional order for an Optoma projected ActiveMove, Virtalis’ recently launched, transportable, interactive 3D visualisation system.