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Auckland Bioengineering Institute Brings Virtual Internships to Life

A pillar of First Foundation’s unique support is to give scholars an opportunity to experience the working world so they can see potential pathways for themselves. We offered our first Virtual Internships last year with Talk Peach and Spark NZ. They were a huge success. This year, along with Briscoe Group Ltd, the Auckland Bioengineering Institute has opened its digital doors to scholars through a virtual internship. It presented new realities and possibilities – virtually and literally!


The Auckland Bioengineering Institute is a centre for world-leading research that improves medical diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease. It applies engineering sciences and technical innovation to medicine and human physiology. One of the reasons it was such a powerful place to offer a virtual internship is that it brings together so many disciplines.

“Our team is working on everything from artificial intelligence avatars to innovative gadgets, and implantable devices to world-leading 3D models of the human body. We want to inspire the next generation and raise awareness for the life-changing research we do,” the Institute team explains.



Contribution came from the top

Professor Mark Billinghurst oversaw the internship, and the expertise he brings is unrivalled. He has published over 650 papers on augmented reality, virtual reality, remote collaboration, empathic computing, and related topics.

Prof. Billinghurst says, “I mostly got involved to provide an opportunity for the students to be exposed to some new technology they may not have tried before.”

The special perspective that First Foundation scholars brought was a highlight.

Barriers were bumped aside

“There are high barriers to entry with engineering-heavy research. And unfortunately, there’s some lack of diversity still. It was encouraging to see more diversity in these students. There’s definitely a need for that,” says Prof. Billinghurst.

“They are very motivated and hardworking. Even though I gave them fairly minimal supervision, they were able to produce really good work in between those times. The outcome that they produced so fast surpassed my expectations.”

From the student’s perspective, the guidance they enjoyed from Prof. Billinghurst and the other experts was inspiring.

Richard Tong, Auckland Transport Scholar 2020, said, “Our team mentor provided excellent feedback and insight into this project. He was also upfront with feedback, setting us on the right path and ensuring we were aware he was here to support and provide guidance to us where needed.”

Over the three-week internship, the students worked with mobile augmented reality.

Prof. Billinghurst explains, “In particular, they learned how to build their own filters for the snapchat application on a mobile phone. They could overlay virtual content on the real world. And the nice thing was that I gave the students exposure to the technology, and then they came up with the application or project idea themselves.

“For example, one student was studying optometry, so they decided to focus their project on showcasing the anatomy of the human eye. It was perfect.

Results were eye-opening

“The team had an outstanding presentation – they clearly understood the goals of the project brief, aims, and SWOT analysis. I was totally blown away by the professional nature of the presentation and the fact that their app actually worked – and they had two!”

And as far as seeing a new future, the virtual internship was a success. Prof. Billinghurst says he hopes the students might go on to do more with augmented reality.

“I’m confident that they can quickly learn and apply skills. They started the project with no skills in this area, but within three weeks, they built their own applications. Now they have enough skills to keep developing applications seriously if they want to. I hope that gives them the confidence to go further.”

There’s no doubt that for all the scholars involved in the Auckland Bioengineering Virtual Internship, their awareness of possibilities for the future has been wonderfully augmented.