Sheridan College Receives $1.2 Million Grant to Study Virtual Humans and Elder Care Tech

One of the leading creative post-secondary campuses in Ontario has received new funding to explore the evolving world of online interactions.

Sheridan College in Oakville announced today that they have received over $1.2 million in funding through the Colleges Applied Research and Development Fund (CARDF) to be spread amongst three projects, two of which deal heavily with technological innovation. In addition to this, over $1 million will be contributed to those programs by industry partners.

The project with the largest amount of allocated funding is titled “Virtual Human Characters – An Interdisciplinary Approach.” It investigates how computer-generated characters with the ability to emote, speak and gesture are destined to play a role in not only media and entertainment but also in social and individual well-being.

“This funding allows us to offer valuable experiential learning opportunities to students across a span of disciplines, including the arts, applied sciences and business,” said Brian Jervis, Sheridan’s Vice Provost of Research. “By working with innovative companies, students get to apply their skills to real-world problems, which in turn will enhance their ability to contribute to Ontario’s tech-based economy after they graduate.”

The project will have $1 million granted to it from the CARDF over a two-year period, and that will be matched by a combination of cash and in-kind contributions by industry partners, bringing total funding to $2 million. Approximately 20 faculty from various programs will oversee 20 student research assistants each year.

Sheridan College will work with their own machine and deep learning experts to establish research and development activities. The potential applications of the program include virtual patients and caregivers for healthcare education, and virtual mentors that can respond to the individualized needs of a learner or student.

“Our province needs talent to continue to sustain its growing innovation ecosystem,” said Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of research, innovation and science. “Investing in applied research and development is a step towards a brighter and more prosperous future for our province. By bringing together colleges and the R&D sector, we’re creating opportunities for our students and ensuring they are ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The second project was granted $200,000 in vouchers for technology adoption that allows Sheridan to connect with eligible companies to solve business and innovation problems. These problems typically involve research around the elderly, including assessment of a wearable system for older adults with vision loss; research into how older adults engage with online social platforms and apps; and testing an app that offers remote monitoring after a hospital discharge.

CARDF is a three-year program that will see $20 million in investments administered by the Ontario Centres of Excellence. So far, more than $13 million has been allocated to 61 projects across 22 colleges across Ontario for applied R&D funding through CARDF.