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MARVEL: A Most Marvelous Development emerges
MARVEL: A Most Marvelous Development emerges

By: Chelsea Mayuga

03/10/2023

By: Chelsea Mayuga

03/10/2023

With the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as FIRe or the 4IR, a cyberverse melding technologies in daily living, in both worlds of physical and virtual, is rapidly breaking ground. Standing to gain phenomenal advantage from FIRe is the field of Education, along with the students, teachers, and schools that make up its ecosystem; which is why the advent of the MARVEL Facility of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) was met with much pomp, enthusiasm, and optimism.

Inaugurated last 21 February 2023 at OLFU’s RISE Tower, MARVEL or the Multiple Applications for Reality-Virtuality Experience Laboratory showcased its auspicious beginnings with its first volley of cutting-edge equipment that brings to fore virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality technologies— sure to be game-changers in the overall learning, research, and training experience.

MARVEL is a collaboration between OLFU, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the DOST-PCIEERD (Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development), OLFU’s RDIC (Research Development and Innovation Center), and the Sigma Phi Gamma Chapter.

Profusely thanking the DOST and DOST-PCIEERD during the launch event, Dr. Caroline Marian S. Enriquez, OLFU President, said the MARVEL would not have become a reality if not for the project funding courtesy of the DOST. Referencing the Marvel superheroes, Dr. Enriquez averred that a new set of superheroes will arise from the MARVEL collaboration and this will be OLFU’s bright, future-forward students. Grateful for the trust DOST has bestowed on the University, the OLFU head pledged that MARVEL is not just a two-year commitment but, rather, one that will be lifelong— thanks to the far-reaching effects that are to be gained from the researches, learning, and best practices (“catalysts of hope”- Dr. Enriquez) that are to be birthed from the MARVEL Facility. Simply, she is excited to witness how MARVEL will spawn health care and maritime innovations and, hopefully, expand later on into other areas such as business, hospitality, education, criminology, engineering, and more.

To infuse even more dimension into the MARVEL concept, Dr. Enrico Paringit, Executive Director of the DOST-PCIEERD, underscored his institution’s mandate which is to develop institutions “gearing up for research development and innovation initiatives for the country”. Giving due credit, he lauded the efforts of Dr. Michael Joseph Dino, Director of OLFU’s Research Development and Innovation Center (RDIC), for having the vision to initiate the MARVEL collaboration, tirelessly rallying for funding and support. And as to why OLFU received the backing of DOST-PCIEERD, Dr. Paringit said that they saw OLFU Valenzuela as being in a part of Metro Manila that has not yet been saturated with support in terms of research and technological innovations. Moving on, Dr. Paringit reflected on how a collaboration like MARVEL addresses the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Virtual-, Augmented-, and Mixed-Reality (VR, AR, MR) innovations, he said, hold the power to provide virtual solutions to city planners for their infrastructure projects; to impact on training in the industry and manufacturing sectors; to simulate effects of climate change on varying ecosystems; to enhance and expand the scope of education; to lead towards a greater acceptance of gender-equality; to hasten economic growth via wider access to finance and economics, and to use immersive technologies in promoting health and wellbeing, among a wide host of reasons. In short, Dr. Paringit shared that a project like MARVEL is about “leveraging new ways of addressing the world’s problems and challenges.”

In his plenary presentation during the launching program, Dr. Michael Joseph Dino recounted a trying period during his second year of college in Nursing when he failed a return-demo which he very well knew he could have passed if only he could have taken home the manikin and had more hours for practice. Alas, the practice manikin had to be shared between classmates during their one-hour class. Such a first-hand experience serves as an inspiration to solve teaching and learning limitations through MARVEL and its VR-AR-MR innovations.

MARVEL entails the creation of virtual assets, Dr. Dino says, which can have multiple applications. It is the first of its kind in Philippine research and development, and the third facility of its kind in Southeast Asia. The said facility is currently equipped with a motion capture lab, top-of-the-line computers, and a head-mounted display.

The motion capture area itself has 12 high precision cameras that can support three actors, a short-throw projector, a 16-megapixel sensor (up to 120 frames per second), face capture HMC support, two high-end, 3D modeling computers, sanitation and atmosphere-controlled cabinets, and more.

On the other hand, the Hololens 2 is an augmented reality headset. The gear is mounted on the head and, when demonstrated, users were able to interact with a virtual, life-size, three-dimensional skeleton, giving full access to the parts of the anatomy as users prodded, turned, and shifted the skeleton at will… of course, in augmented reality scenario!

The point of MARVEL is to transform the teaching and learning experience— smoothly blending the physical and virtual world. Whereas learning in a physical space involves learning vs. exploring, structure vs. unstructured, and program vs. experience— the virtual learning space can entail socialization on networking sites, interaction with content, and experience with virtual objects, Dr. Dino explains. He further expounds that MARVEL will benefit three clusters, namely: Allied Health, Education & Society, and Business & Enterprise.

Well-attended by a battalion of partners during the inauguration, Dr. Enriquez did not fail to recognize long-time allies in the common pursuit of educational excellence such as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), and Apple Inc.

DOST Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr. and Sigma CEO Rita Munley Gallagher likewise sent their well-wishes and special messages through videos, as did OLFU Executive Vice President Don August Santos who, in-person at the launch, said he was extremely proud to collaborate with DOST-PCIEERD and Sigma on pushing for the advancement of health and non-health professions.

To cap off the affair, OLFU Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Heracleo Lagrada, led the toast, wishing for MARVEL and all its forthcoming initiatives good cheer and great fortune. Key representatives from OLFU, DOST, DOST-PCIEERD, and other honored guests then proceeded to the MARVEL Facility on the 5th floor of the RISE Tower for the blessing, tour, and demonstration.

Aside from Dr. Enrico Paringit, other DOST-PCIEERD key players were in full attendance. From their Management Team were: Engr. Ninaliza Escorial, Deputy Executive Director; Mary Grace Buenavides, Chief of the Industrial Technology Development Division; Engr. Nonilo Pena, Chief of the Energy and Utilities Systems Technology Development Division, and Edna Nacianceno, Chief of the Emerging Technology Development Division. From their Innovation Council were: Grace Estillore, Chief of the Policy Coordinating and Monitoring Division; Dr. Ruby Raterta, Chief of the Human Resources and Institution Development Division; Russel Pili, Chief of the Research Information and Technology Transfer Division, and Sonia Cabangon, Chief Administrative Officer of the the Finance and Administrative Division.