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Lethbridge College has played a leadership role in integrating VR and AR into its programs.Photo courtesy Lethbridge College

Talk about an alternate universe. Virtual reality (VR) and its cousin augmented reality (AR) are changing the way we see the world and opening doors of perception into a universe of possibility for young Canadians.

According to Dr. Kenny Corscadden, dean at the Centre for Technology, Environment and Design at Lethbridge College, the new realities are not only revolutionizing education and training in a wide variety of industries, but reducing the costs associated with delivering both.

“VR is a very cost-effective way of creating a high-powered visual of something that is being created in a two-dimensional space,” he explains. “We’re using it in a number of areas; interior design students can create virtual walk-throughs of potential designs, while multimedia students are using it in a variety of ways, including gaming.”

It also creates safer learning environments. Students in the wind turbine technician program can experience what it’s like to ascend a tower and walk out on top, thereby not only seeing but feeling what it would be like to work in such a precarious environment. The college is also using it in its policing and emergency medicine programs so students can do walk-throughs of the kinds of scenarios they’ll run into on the job. The possibilities are endless. “Early childhood educators could use virtual reality to observe how children interact without their presence influencing their behaviour or becoming a distraction,” he says.

Having the base skills necessary to use platforms for virtual environments will make graduates highly employable across a wide spectrum of industries.

Dr. Kenny Corscadden, dean at the Centre for Technology, Environment and Design at Lethbridge College

Lethbridge College has played a leadership role in integrating VR and AR into its programs, and is anticipating that its growing expertise in these disciplines is going to attract a number of industry partners to its nascent applied research programs. As an example, Dr. Corscadden says the college is already in discussions with the City of Lethbridge about creating a virtual tourism platform that would allow potential visitors to whet their travel appetites and plan itineraries prior to arrival.

To meet the demand for emerging VR and AR expertise, the college is developing two new programs, a Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Certificate and an Architectural Animation Diploma, starting next fall. Dr. Corscadden says the college shouldn’t have any trouble filling seats. According to International Data Corp, global revenue for the AR and VR market is forecast to grow exponentially to $215-billion (U.S.) by 2021.

Graduates who understand the technology, the platforms and the kinds of opportunities that are emerging are going to be in high demand, he adds. “Technology is changing how we’re going to be working in the future, and automation is changing jobs, and this is another step toward helping our students find a place in that future. Having the base skills necessary to use platforms for virtual environments will make graduates highly employable across a wide spectrum of industries.”


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