Sheridan College is among the leaders in educational programming related to emerging technologies, including Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), which have applications across multiple industries including media and entertainment, healthcare, marketing and training. They continue to be of growing interest to big players such as Google, Facebook, Samsung and Apple. While VR/AR are not yet mainstream, Sheridan has been active in the VR/AR space to help prepare students and industry for the expected explosion in growth of these new technologies. In the industry, VR/AR is synonymous with Mixed Reality and Cross Reality (MR/XR)
We recently did our own informal survey to find out what Sheridan College is up to in this space and what is being planned for in the future. Spoiler Alerts: As is the nature of technology and constant change in the industry, Sheridan's programs are also subject to change at any point in the future. The information in this report was collected in December 2018.
What VR/AR courses and programs are being offered at Sheridan College?
- Honours Bachelor of Game Design (PBGDS) and the post-graduate certificate in Game Level Design (PGLDS) — students apply VR or AR solutions to design challenges if they make sense to their project. Typically, this is seen in a student’s capstone project.
- Bachelor of Film & TV — Students get an introduction to VR/AR/MR/XR in a 2nd-year mandatory course called Transmedia Storytelling (MEDA 20065).
- Advanced TV & Film — VR/AR/MR/XR is part of an elective called Digital Media Strategies (MEDA 55708)
- Bachelor of Computer Science (Mobile Computing degree) — Computing in Augmented Reality (PROG46122)
- Computer Animation, Visual Effects, Digital Creature — this program introduces students to VFX and VR.
How are VR/AR technologies being used to support teaching and learning in other courses and programs, or across research centres?
Advanced TV & Film — This past semester, the program used the HTC Vive to allow post-grad film students to explore their film set (for the projects called ‘3x3’s) before the set was actually constructed at Cinespace. This helped the directing and camera students to plan their shots. The program is hoping in the future to expand this approach and allow production design students to virtually dress the set while still in development/pre-production.
Bachelor of Interaction Design – Two student projects featured augmented reality solutions. One project was to create an augmented reality experience in a showroom entrance using Canon projectors and interactivity (https://www.daesigner.com/canon.html), and the second was to create an AR theme park hide-and-seek game (https://www.daesigner.com/doodlear.html).
The Centre for Elder Research – With funding from the NSERC-CCSIF program, the Centre for Elder Research is evaluating the impact of using VR technologies for older adults living in long-term care homes and living with dementia. The work will include developing appropriate staff guidelines for the use of these technologies. The project is in partnership with Acclaim Health and Sienna Senior Living (both service providers for older adults) and Owlflix Media (a VR content company with a keen interest in the older adult user). The centre is also supporting a second project funded by the SSHRC, led by John Helliker, Dean of Innovation and Engagement, that is exploring how VR experiences, specifically with virtual character interactions, may promote feelings of empathy and pro-social behaviour. With collaborators from the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies (FAHCS), character narratives and an evaluative framework are being developed to study empathy in this context.
What VR/AR-related research and/or development activity is occurring at Sheridan?
As a research arm of Sheridan College, we at SIRT have been exploring VR/AR through applied research, prototype content production, training, and a variety of evolved services. Together with our partners, we've developed new technology, workflows and business models.
Notably, SIRT is developing the Intelligent Virtual Humans Cluster with the following six companies:
- Secret Location, an Entertainment One Company - https://secretlocation.com/
- SEED Interactive - http://seedinteractive.co/
- Quantum Capture - https://www.quantumcapture.com/
- AMD - https://www.amd.com/en
- CreamVR - https://www.cream360vr.com/
- SideFX - https://www.sidefx.com/
This cluster is centred on the development and application of believable intelligent virtual humans characters within VR/AR experiences, with applications across Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Training, Corporate, Healthcare, and Media/Entertainment.
In addition to SIRT, the Sheridan Centre for Mobile Innovation has conducted applied research in VR/AR including an AR healthcare application with company partner Cloud DX.
Has VR/AR been applied to other areas, such as recruitment, marketing, outreach, the library, and student services?
Sheridan College’s Library group has used Aurasma (now HP Reveal) for a few displays/events. For a History of Science event at the Oakville campus, they partnered with the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and linked images on posters to videos and articles about the history of science. Again, partnering with CTL for Sheridan Creates at HMC, the Library used Aurasma to link photos taken by Elijah Williams with content about Indian status and identity.
What are Sheridan’s future plans in the VR/AR space?
While these plans are tentative, we're excited that the college continues to look at ways to use this technology in education.
- Sheridan College’s Architectural Technology (HMC2) program is investigating ways VR/AR can be used in future courses.
- Bachelor of Computer Science - Visualization and Simulation plans to have courses in VR/AR
- Computer Animation, Visual Effects, Digital Creature is currently revising and expanding their programs and VR will likely be included in the curriculum.
- Journalism New Media - VR will be used this winter for an elective called Interactive Documentary Production (MEDA 54737).
- Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (CCIT) – A new course this winter is called Immersive VR Journalism (CCT 449H).
- The Centre for Elder Research – The centre is hoping to begin work soon in the area of immersion as it relates to therapeutic applications (e.g. reminiscence therapy), which will likely include VR technologies as part of the exploration and evaluation process.