For as long as he can recollect, Jonathan Dotse ‘13 has been obsessed with a world beyond this. So when he discovered virtual reality (VR), even though the technology was still in its fledgling state and largely inaccessible, he could hardly wait to be a part of it. So he took apart his old pair of binoculars and built himself a VR headset kit. “I am drawn by the idea that you could have another world where you could do anything and also where your imagination is the limit,” he says.

These days, Jonathan doesn’t have to wait impatiently for VR technology, or fabricate them by himself. Now he and fellow alumnus Kabiru Seidu’ 14 are co-founders of NubianVR, a startup that creates virtual reality and augmented reality content. Not only do they create content, but lately they have become VR evangelists. Aside showcasing their content at local exhibitions and international conferences, Kabiru and Jonathan have been working with educational institutions to introduce young people to VR.

“Before the exhibition at Chalewote festival, our initial plan was to find content online and demo it,” said Jonathan. “But we found that it was going to be better if we created the content ourselves, and then show it to people so that they can see that this kind thing is accessible, and also that the content can be created here in Africa.”

While technology companies are fast developing kits for the VR experience, the need for relevant content has become essential. “The opportunities with this technology can be summarized as a brand new world, any world, at your fingertip,” says Kajsa Hallberg Adu, lecturer at the Department of Arts and Sciences. “Entertainment, education, even the world of work will likely be changed forever. A major opportunity is shifting your perspective – when you put on your headset and headphones and see the world from the viewpoint of someone else it is likely to create empathy and new ways of thinking.”

At Ashesi, in collaboration with the Arts and Sciences department, the NubianVR duo is leading a series of sessions for staff, faculty and students, aimed at brainstorming ways VR can be used not only in the classroom, but also on campus. “Ashesi as a multi-disciplinary liberal arts college is well positioned to contribute to the VR ecosystem as well as also take full advantage of the benefits of this emerging technology,” says Kabiru. “The sessions more than introducing the Ashesi community to virtual reality are also about generating ideas with members of the community on how the university can harness this technology.”

Virtual reality is at the forefront of education and it presents limitless possibilities for an immersive experience. For the Ashesi community, virtual reality opens new ways of interacting with content in the classroom, the rest of the world, and also from their imaginations.

“I think Ashesi will in the next year use VR in a host of courses like French, Design and Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Written and Oral Communication and Text and Meaning,” says Kajsa. “We can have morning class by the Eiffel tower in Paris, travel in a blood vessel through the body in the second period, fly after lunch, deal with an ethical dilemma in 360 degrees, and experience expressionist art in the world’s top museums or go to a refugee camp before the day is over. A challenge is that the sector is new, and content is still scarce. Hence we will also produce educational content for virtual reality.”  

Nubian VR is a pan-African creative agency dedicated to making Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences accessible in Africa. Nubian VR aims to support the development of a sustainable VR ecosystem that will enable people in Africa to take part in this new media revolution.