Imagination Technologies announces new mobile graphics teaching course

1st April 2020
Joe Bush

Imagination Technologies has announces that its Imagination University Programme (IUP) is now offering a complete mobile graphics course designed to teach undergraduates how to create graphics for mobile devices. The 2020 Edition now includes support for OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.2, and Vulkan, as well as new hardware platforms such as the Chromebook and BeagleBone Black.

Electronic Specifier caught up with Darren McKie, lecturer and fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Department of Computer Science and Technology at The University of Hull, and RobertOwen Director of the Worldwide University Programme, Imagination Technologies, to find out more.

It is estimated that there's over three billion smartphone users globally. And back in 2018, the global gaming industry brought in $130bn dollars, of which around half was mobile gaming. So, there is a huge market for graphics.

McKie commented: “Designing graphics for mobile devices is challenging but essential, as more content is consumed through smartphones and tablets. Students must understand the complexities of working with mobile technologies, from coping with multiple resolutions and relative pixel sizes through to using a fluid layout.

“For over 50% of hardware design, developers are actually using single board computers like BeagleBone Black to actually produce their prototypes of their new systems, and so the teaching materials we have developed are actually targeted for mobile devices.”

Darren McCvie

The new module is a self-contained introduction to mobile graphics, teaching students how to engineer, code, and optimise rendering applications, particularly for mobile devices. “Most mobile gaming is going to run on a battery or are low powered. One of the things that we wanted to get across is that developers could throw all sorts  of things into a game, but it would only last ten minutes before the battery would be flat, so your customers are not going to want to play that sort of game.”

To this end McKie explained that the module includes tools that will help developers identify where they can save on performance and battery. The module utilises the Imagination Technologies’ software development kit (SDK), which is cross platform, and can run on BeagleBone Black, Linux, PC, Android, Chromebooks etc. “It’s been written so that even if the student or developer using it has little to no previous experience, they can still undertake it. So, it does take everything from the very first principles,” he added.

McKie further explained that given the huge market for mobile gaming, there isn't that much available in other universities dedicated to mobile graphics. So, the aim for the University of Hull’s module is for it to stand out more to curricula that doesn’t do graphics per se, and particularly those that don't do anything around mobile graphics.

Imagination University Programme (IUP)

Delving further into the IUP, Oweb explained the programme has two fundamental aims. The first is to take the company’s technologies and present them in way that excites teachers and makes them want to deploy them in their activities. To achieve this, he commented: “We always use commissioned material by academics, written for academics - we do not try and write these in-house, which quite a few other companies do. A common mistake is trying to repurpose training material as educational material. Training materials are written for customers, and customers want a different outcome to students.

“We are targeting an undergraduate and a masters audience. So, we commission materials from academics like Darren who are experts in their field with usually a pedigree in teaching. He's also strong in this subject, which is why he stood out as the potential author for this mobile graphics module. It’s all about enriching the curriculum of teaching using our technologies.”

robert owen 

To this end the capability of this particular module has been extended so that it can be undertaken by individuals and hobbyists – the primary reason why the BeagleBone Black board has been used - a $50 platform of which there are around two and a half million currently in the market and readily available.

Secondly, using the company’s materials helps promote future use of Imagination’s products. “There's a good commercial reason to promote into universities because we want to grow our market and stimulate future graduates to use our tools,” Owen added.

“We want to create a preference - people tend to gravitate towards what they’ve learnt and used at university when they go into work. Over time, Imagination will have a very attractive set of materials, all of which will be written by leading academics who are experts in their field and these will be offered free of charge to universities around the world to use in their courses as they see fit. Some people may adopt these materials exactly as Darren's written them and follow the structure. Others may add in their own materials. For academic use we actively encourage people to use the materials in whatever way is useful to them.

“Obviously, to have a lab in a university that’s using our technology raises our profile, and that makes it easier to recruit people, the university becomes more aware of our existence and what we do. Also, it stimulates the students to take an interest in Imagination Technologies. So, although the awareness helps recruitment, specifically the goal of this course is that new graduates, particularly those coming out of gaming courses, have a real appreciation of the differences between graphics on a desktop and how that differs with interaction on a handheld device.

“If they understand some of those, then that's good for the industry. If they know that Imagination is a leader in that area, and they're familiar with our software development kit, then even better, because they'll have a preference to look at us first as a solution if they start to work in that area.”

As the business develops, Imagination are expecting around half of its business in the next two or three years to be coming from Greater China. i.e. Mainland China plus Taiwan. For that reason, every teaching material package produced will be available in English and Chinese. The Chinese translation of these materials will be available around the end of April / beginning of May.

A video further explaining the Imagination University Programme (IUP) can be viewed below.

STEM gap

Tie ups between companies such as Imagination Technologies and universities will be crucial in addressing the skills gap within STEM subjects in the UK, and in particular the lack of young girls entering into courses of this ilk.

To this end, Imagination set up its Women in Technology Group, part of which is a STEM outreach programme to local schools with the aim of encouraging boys and girls, and also trying to address the misconceptions that people have about working in STEM. Namely that it is geeky, solitary, and only for a certain type of person. However, the reality is that it’s much more about collaboration, problem solving, is challenging, fun, and engaging.

“We've also supported some students’ societies,” Owen continued. “For example, two weeks ago, there was a hackathon at Bristol University, and this year Imagination is a primary sponsor of BEEES (the Bristol Electronic and Electrical Engineers Society) and is in fact the largest student engineers’ group in the country.

“We particularly like BEEES because the students that are running it are all young, female undergraduate engineers. So, it's a very good advertisement for women in engineering. And I think every company involved in the technical sector should be doing something - particularly for the people that are immediately around them and from where they will recruit. For example, we have an operation in Bristol of around 50 people, and we recruit regularly from that city.

“So, we’re putting something back in the STEM area and I think that if every technology company could do something similar, it would help the skills gap issue. However, we also need to look to government to provide funding and a central structure so that those individual efforts by companies can be aggregated and used constructively.”

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