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Prof Herman Engelbrecht

Inaugural lecture:

November 9, 2023 @ 17:3018:30

Building the metaverse

The metaverse is the fusion of virtual reality and virtual worlds. A virtual world is a computer-simulated environment where multiple users can simultaneously and independently explore and interact with the virtual world, while also communicating and connecting with other users in that world. Virtual reality, on the other hand, is a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel as if they are immersed in their surroundings. Since the 1962 invention of the first virtual reality system called The Sword of Damocles, the ultimate aim of the metaverse has been to make it indistinguishable from reality so that users cannot differentiate between the real-world experience and a digital version thereof. In this lecture, Prof Herman Engelbrecht gives an overview of the modern approach to building virtual worlds and the metaverse. Instead of focusing on computer graphics or head-mounted displays, he discusses the underlying architecture that allows thousands of users to interact in the metaverse. Finally, he shares some recent research that aims to improve the scalability of the infrastructure used to build the metaverse.


Short biography

Prof Herman Engelbrecht is a Stellenbosch University (SU) alumnus through and through, from enrolling for his undergraduate studies in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1997 to obtaining his PhD in Electronic Engineering ten years later. He co-founded the MIH Media Lab, funded by Naspers from 2008 to 2016, which graduated more than 61 postgraduate students. In 2013, he also co-founded Custos Media Technologies, an SU spin-off company that specialises in digital rights management. Prof Engelbrecht was responsible for the introduction of the Data Engineering curriculum at the Faculty of Engineering in 2019. Since that year, he also serves as the chair of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. His research interests include distributed systems (specifically infrastructure to support massive multi-user virtual worlds) and machine learning (particularly deep reinforcement learning). The aim of his research is to scale virtual worlds to enable more than 100 000 users to interact in a single, contiguous virtual world. Prof Engelbrecht is a registered professional engineer, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and a C2-rated researcher of the National Research Foundation.



November 9, 2023

Organizer (event)

Olivia Adams


Reitz Hall, Engineering Faculty
156 Banghoek Road, Stellenbosch Central
Stellenbosch, Western Cape 7605 South Africa
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