UAE: Two MBZUAI students win $5,000 with innovative metaverse solutions

They have also received a paid internship with DP World, the Emirati multinational logistics company


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Published: Tue 13 Dec 2022, 3:39 PM

Last updated: Tue 13 Dec 2022, 3:46 PM

A team of two students from Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) have won DP World’s Big Tech Project.

The project is a competition for students in the UAE and India to solve global trade challenges through the power of the metaverse.

Team Digicortex duo of Dhanalaxmi Gaddam, a machine learning student from India, and Abbas Bamidele Abdulsalam, a computer vision student from Nigeria, created an innovative two-in-one metaverse-based solution to claim the top prize.

These future innovators are among 52 students who will graduate with master’s degrees in machine learning and computer vision from MBZUAI during an inaugural commencement ceremony on Wednesday. MBZUAI is the world’s first graduate university dedicated exclusively to AI research and post-graduate studies.

Later, Gaddam and Abdulsalam will commence their prize of a paid internship with DP World, the Emirati multinational logistics company. They also received a $5,000 cash prize.

MBZUAI prepared duo for any challenge

Abdulsalam said the first idea they pitched was flawed and had to be developed again. They came out on top with their third idea. Also, the metaverse theme was new territory for the duo, and unrelated to their thesis research.

Gaddam’s thesis is: ‘Attention-based Methods for 3D Object Detection and Classification using Point Clouds,’ while technically is not the same but prepared her to combat anything.

“How we do our research, the process, identifying the common problems and their risk; so, we were prepared. It gave us both confidence that we could walk into any business and make solutions for them. We never knew that we could create solutions for this industry,” she said.

“We have been exposed to practical things that we had not experienced before. And working with our mentor from DP World has been invaluable and given us an understanding of process and planning. Every time I felt fear, Abass (Abdulsalam) told me to be positive and that as long as we work hard, we can win this.”

Having written his thesis on adversarial attacks on vision transformers (ViTs), Abdulsalam recognised that the metaverse is different.

“It’s kind of a completely different research domain. Mine deals with exploring the limitations of machine learning and computer vision models. Metaverse is different, but whoever has knowledge of computer vision or machine learning or AI in general can identify the commonalities. MBZUAI taught me how to apply what I have learnt in a real-world situation,” said Abdulsalam, who is the first in his family to achieve a master’s degree.

Two parts to a winning solution

Abdulsalam described the winning solution as two ideas in one – using the metaverse, virtual and augmented reality technologies to enhance training and productivity at DP World’s ports and terminals. The first solution is a virtual training simulator for new employees to gain near real-life experience with port equipment without having to physically visit the terminals.

“It focused on how to operate port terminal equipment by giving the employee the feeling of being physically present, for example, lifting a shipping container from one location and dropping it in another location using a gantry crane,” he said.

“DP World operates more than 70 inland and marine terminals, and this metaverse-based training solution could help new employees have access to training 24/7,” noted Abdulsalam.

The second solution uses Google Glass to enhance efficiency and maintenance at ports and terminals by providing easy-to-access instructions and tutorials on the spot. Technicians can also troubleshoot and perform maintenance with remote experts. Together, the solutions will reduce the risk of accidents by facilitating virtual inductions and increase efficiency by streamlining operations.

“We deployed on an augmented reality lens where staff could use these glasses for easily accessing maintenance guides, and receiving daily routine check reminders on the job,” Gaddam explained.

“They enable the technicians to use a hands-free system by accessing a step-by-step maintenance guide on a screen overlayed in front of them. We used it mainly for inspections, however, in time it could have more functionality where the application could be managed through a web app,” Gaddam added.

Both have been granted a Golden Visa from the Abu Dhabi Residents Office, and plan to look for further opportunities in the UAE, after they complete their paid internship.


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