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Digital solutions are permeating every industry as companies find new ways to engage and excite their consumers. At Procter & Gamble, four SIT-DigiPen (Singapore) students had the chance to help the company explore new ways of engaging with consumers through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies as part of a three-month internship.

The multi-national consumer goods corporation is already a firm believer of utilizing technology to solve real-world problems and was exploring new applications of the latest AR and VR technology for their prestige skincare brand, SK-II. As such, they recruited the help of four final-year students — Chan Ka June, Lim Ying Xiu, Loke Zhi Hui, and Ang Wee Kiat — who were finishing up their GAM 400 VR project at DigiPen (Singapore). Ka June, Ying Xiu, and Wee Kiat recently graduated from the BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation program, and Zhi Hui was from the BS in Computer Science and Game Design program.

As undergraduates working on a game project, the four students initially didn’t think their skillsets would be relevant to a company like Procter & Gamble. But all that changed once they had an initial meeting with the SK-II team. Not only were they excited about the project scope, they also realized that the internship was an opportunity to build upon their existing knowledge and gain experience in developing AR and VR applications for the real world.

Upon joining Procter & Gamble, the students were split into two teams. Ka June and Wee Kiat helped to develop AR and web applications to support the marketing teams, and Ying Xiu and Zhi Hui worked on VR applications for internal training projects. A few months later, another recent graduate, Dexter Hong from the BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation program, also came onboard SK-II as an intern to work on a new AR project. Eventually, Dexter and Ka June also worked on developing a web application and had to pick up JavaScript as a result. “It was a slow start initially, but things gradually got better as I realized that this programming language also had many similarities to what we’ve learned before in school,” says Dexter.

When working on the VR applications, Ying Xiu and Zhi Hui used VR Unity to build an entire training simulation from scratch. Ying Xiu mainly worked on improving the app’s UI/UX, ensuring its usability, scalability, and portability. Zhi Hui was in charge of the core application flow of the project. He also made Android plugins for features that were not available in Unity. Having previously used VR technology only for games, Ying Xiu and Zhi Hui initially found the project challenging. For example, they had to design simulations that were user-friendly without the use of controllers.

Besides honing their technical capabilities, the internship was also the first time that the students had exposure to the world of branding and marketing in a big conglomerate. “We gave the interns a chance to liaise directly with our creative agency so that they would get a taste of how different roles come together in the corporate world,” Deepak Gopal, brand manager, SK-II, Future Experience at Procter & Gamble says. “I told them that this was their project, and they had to take ownership of it.” Deepak also often challenged the interns to push the boundaries and aim for excellence. He says: “I would ask them, ‘If this project is launched the next day and 500,000 users interact with it, is it good enough?’”

Knowing that the stakes were high, the interns banded together and worked hard as a team. It helped that they were already familiar with each other’s working styles, having previously collaborated in their GAM 400 project class. Though the projects at Procter & Gamble were very different from anything the students had done previously, all of them said they enjoyed the process. “From this internship, I have learned that there are so many uses of VR technology beyond just game development,” Zhi Hui says. “Thanks to the project, I also got a chance to do VR development outside of Oculus and Vive.”

Ka June, Ying Xiu, and Zhi Hui also extended their internships with SK-II beyond the initial three-month period in order to see their projects come to fruition. Dexter was also still interning at the time. Wee Kiat already had another internship offer lined up and could not stay on for quite as long. Nevertheless, he’s glad for the opportunity to work for a prestigious and established brand like SK-II. “I’m thankful for the chance to work on a product that has gone into the market to be used by thousands of consumers,” he says.

Impressed with the performance of the DigiPen (Singapore) interns, the Procter & Gamble team offered Ka June and Dexter full-time positions even before their respective internships ended. Both graduates gratefully accepted the offers and Ka June is now an IT associate manager in application development, while Dexter is an associate manager and marketing technologist in the SK-II team.

Ka June is glad for the opportunity to work with the latest technology in both hardware and software where he can create fun, interactive experiences for users. Dexter agrees, adding, “I feel really lucky to have landed this role as it is an extremely rare opportunity. I enjoy the fact that this job challenges me to step out of my comfort zone. Furthermore, I am given the chance to develop and experiment with the latest technologies. My supervisor has been extremely supportive as well, and I will work hard to make the most of this experience.”