$2M grant supports collaborative research on virtual humans

Sheridan and its partners have been awarded a highly-competitive $2 million grant to support the creation of a universally accessible, open-source solution for the animation of virtual humans. Virtual humans are becoming more prevalent for training, simulation and health care, presenting a need for applied research and development to provide innovative solutions to the challenges of procedural generation.

Sheridan’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) will work in collaboration with Durham College’s Hub for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence for Business Solutions (AI Hub) and Mixed Reality Capture Studio (MRC), Cégep de Matane’s Centre de développement et de recherche en intelligence numérique (CDRIN) and the Cégep de Rivière-du-Loup’s Le Living Lab en innovation ouverte (LLio).

The Applied Research and Technology Partnership (ARTP Option Two) grant will enhance regional capacity for the media and screen industries and create more efficiency and creative control through improvements to their existing systems, processes, and products. The research team will conduct dual-language, cross-sectoral research and development focused on procedural animation workflows that incorporate advanced, data-driven analysis and leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow for automation and procedural generation of complex and intricate virtual human movements, including hand, limb, and body.

“Sheridan is thrilled to be a recipient of NSERC’s ARTP funding, this project just one out of seven projects nationally supported under stream two. This initiative presents a new level of partnership across academic institutions that marks a big step for Sheridan, and further underscores SIRT’s strong leadership in their sector. SIRT continues to be at the forefront of innovation for screen-based technologies,” said Andrea England, Vice Provost of Research at Sheridan.

A diverse and highly-skilled group of researchers and students from the four institutions will conduct research and development using a human-centred design approach in collaboration with 11 leading companies: The Holy City VR; Marion Surgical; Transform AI; Ubisoft; 9 Story Media Group; Occupied VR; Kavtek; ReImagine AI; SPIN VFX/BrioVR; CloudConstable Inc.; and Advanced Micro Devices. These companies are at the forefront of innovation and leadership in the industry, and this new research will enable the expansion, growth and development of their virtual human pipelines.

"I am pleased that the Sheridan Screen Industries Research and Training Centre has received funding to support their ongoing innovation and creativity in the media industry. The development of virtual human technology is groundbreaking work that will be an important addition to our digital world," said Julie Dabrusin, MP for Toronto-Danforth.

“Science and innovation lead to a stronger and more resilient economy. As a government we will always be there to support small and medium-sized businesses as they adopt new technologies, and our college sector plays a crucial role in supporting these businesses. Today’s announcement will see strong partnerships that will foster innovation and support the next big idea all while providing top notch training to Canada’s future generation of skilled workers,” said The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

“Sheridan’s SIRT Centre is grateful for the support of NSERC in this innovative project. The development of this dual-language open-source system is critical to the success of businesses in Canada and beyond and will enable them to access the critical technology components required to evolve quickly in a highly competitive industry. We also thank all our industry and academic partners for their participation in this leading-edge solution,” said David Dexter, Director, SIRT.

NSERC has also announced three additional ARTP grants that Sheridan is involved in:

  • Awarded a $900,000 ARTP Stream One grant, the Sheridan Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT), Sheridan Centre for Mobile Innovation (CMI) and Sheridan Centre for Elder Research (CER), will join forces with three key partners in industry and community to develop tools and solutions for safe health technology applications.
  • Led by Centennial College, in collaboration with CMI and CAMDT, Humber College and the Kite Institute of the University Health Network, this grant will support Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises to develop functional e-textile wearables for commercialization in the developing global health e-textile market.
  • Led by Niagara College, in collaboration with the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) network of research centres that includes Sheridan’s CAMDT, this grant will support research undertaken to support economic recovery for small and medium-sized enterprises through sustainability, profitability and growth.

This collaborative project has been supported by an ARTP Option Two grant, made available through the Tri-agency College and Community Innovation (CCI) program, managed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The ARTP Option Two grant supports a group of colleges undertaking a set of research projects targeting national or sectoral challenges, with involvement from community and/or industry partners.

Source: https://www.sheridancollege.ca/newsroom/news-releases/2022/04/2m-grant-supports-virtual-human-research

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