E-HAJJ: virtual reality app trains would-be Hajj pilgrims

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If you are going to perform Hajj or Umrah for the first time, you can prepare yourself for the pilgrimage in the comfort of your city.

A Pakistani startup company has created a simulator application that uses virtual reality technology to train would-be Hajj pilgrims.

“You can get a virtual tour of the holy locations,” project director Adnan Maqbool said on SAMAA TV’s morning show Naya Din on Wednesday.

Labbaik VR is a workshop that trains Hajj and Umrah pilgrims on how to perform the complete set of Hajj rituals in a 3D version of the holy locations in Makkah.

“For people who come to us for performing Hajj, it is important that they go through training first,” Maqbool said.

The training camp is for three days. An instructor is present to guide the person in their choice of language, whether it is Sindhi, Punjab, Pashto or Balochi.

Labbaik VR gives a realistic depiction of the sacred sites of the Hajj so that when they go to perform Hajj, users can perform the rites with ease and safety.

“We have tried to be accurate down to a centimetre to give users the most authentic virtual experience,” said project developer Faisal Khalid.

Khalid said the research went on for many years and the project was completed in 10 years. “We went to Saudi Arabia and examined the architecture and drew the blueprints for virtual reconstruction with the help of experts who collected the measurements.”

He said that over 80,000 textures of the sites were gathered.

“To take measurements of the Holy Ka’aba and Masjid-e-Haram, we used between 75,000 and 85,000 high definition photographs. Many other pictures were used for the depiction of the rites of Hajj,” he added.

“We initially planned to develop the simulator on a 100-foot wide screen with 8k resolution,” Khalid said. The mayor of Makkah and the Malaysian government also extended their support to the company. They met with the Hajj authorities and many religious scholars to make it a meaningful experience.

The startup is currently in talks with the government of Saudi Arabia for a collaboration to take their app worldwide.

Maqbool said they want to be able to provide assistance to Hajj pilgrims in times of difficulty and to guide them if they get lost.


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