Our Research

Spatial technologies and media such as virtual and augmented reality can be used by industry to realize cost savings, enhance collaboration, and increase safety. Despite consumer popularity, many organizations have not been exposed to the capabilities of these spatial technologies, while others lack the in-house expertise to develop and implement immersive experiences.

The Spatial Technologies Applied Research & Training (START) initiative was created to partner with Alberta-based organizations to apply VR/AR technologies to solve challenges in key Alberta sectors, including agriculture, energy, architecture, health care, cultural heritage and emergency response.

START will work with its partners to enable them to:

  • conduct partnership-based applied research projects that solve real-world problems using spatial technologies;
  • develop spatial technologies that can be commercialized;
  • integrate spatial technologies into business models and workflows;
  • access cutting-edge XR technology, expertise and best practices; and
  • provide experiential learning opportunities to Lethbridge College students and grads.

Researchers work closely with students and grads from the Virtual & Augmented Reality and Architectural Animation Technology programs.

News & Stories

Meet Our People


Mike McCready

Program Research Chair, START | Instructor - Virtual & Augmented Reality

Mike McCready is educator and researcher with a focus on immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.

He has over 20 years of development and is driven to explore new technologies and understand their application within business and society. He introduced one of the first VR development course at Lethbridge College in 2016 when he taught students to develop mobile VR games. One of Mike’s focuses is the social interactions made possible with VR and has planned and facilitated numerous social VR activities that have garnered national and international attention, included the world’s first full-day conference held in VR – Merging Realities.

Mike is accepted into the Master of Science Digital Arts program at The University of Kent. Through the program, he will researching and developing an asymmetric mixed reality experience that connects users in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and 2D (PC) in a shared collaborative environment to evaluate if asymmetric experiences can be engaging and encourages collaboration. This study may provide important insights and provide a foundation for developing a multi-user collaborative experience that can scale and accommodate a variety of devices and number of participants.

Direct: (587) 257-0872
Email: michael.mccready@lethbridgecollege.ca


Tyler Heaton, MFA

Instructor – Virtual & Augmented Reality, Architectural Animation Technology, Multimedia Production

Tyler Heaton is a spatial media and technologies instructor, technician, and researcher who is passionate about the transformational potential of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality applications.

With a background in digital media production, Tyler is exploring the how spatial media technologies are redefining knowledge transfer, interaction, and storytelling across multiple industries from education and health care to games and entertainment. His research interests include spatial audio, immersive narrative, and interaction in XR experiences.

Tyler has a Master of Fine Arts New Media from the University of Lethbridge. His thesis project focused on participation and narrative in virtual reality experiences.

Direct: (403) 320-3202 ext. 5612
Email: tyler.heaton@lethbridgecollege.ca


Owen Brierley, PhD(c)

Machine Learning Research Scientist

Owen is a transdisciplinarian who researches real-time simulations from a human context. Having his roots set firmly in Drama (a discipline with over 3 millennia of human research), with three decades of experience creating digital experiences, Owen has learned how to use creativity as a skill to help a team achieve a cohesive vision that everyone can buy into and champion. His work focuses on coalescing the abstract non-linear elements that exist in the early stages of the project life-cycle and bring them into sharp focus to help the various other team members expand on the detail and definition of the solution. This often requires careful translation/transposition of one way of thinking to another, careful and mindful communications with those working in parallel with him, and adaptive responses to evolving opportunities and constraints.

Email: owen.brierley@lethbridgecollege.ca


Sujan Sooriyakumar

Senior Unity Developer

Sujan Sooriyakumar (he/him) is a lifelong gamer turned Game Developer with expertise in VR and AR development. His game development expertise, along with his thirst for knowledge, has led him to exploring the intersectionality between video games and research. He has spent the last several years learning how to develop applications that can be used for educational purposes, while maintaining a gamified approach.

Outside of research, Sujan is interested in video games (as you might have guessed), social justice issues, and basketball (Go Raptors!). Sujan has an Advanced Diploma from Humber College in Game Programming.

Direct: (416) 705-0399
Email: sujan.sooriyakumar@lethbridgecollege.ca


Austin Hatch

Junior XR Developer / Researcher Intern

Austin has a certificate in Virtual and Augmented Reality and a diploma in Multimedia Production from Lethbridge College.

Starting with a desire to work in character and environment design for the video game and entertainment industry, he cultivated a passion for emerging technologies.

Since deciding to make VR and AR development his field of focus, Austin has had the opportunity to work with theatre companies and indie developers on several projects, primarily in asset development. His main interests in XR technology are architectural and cultural heritage preservation and immersive storytelling. 

Email: austin.hatch@lethbridgecollege.ca


Allyson Cikor, BFA


Allyson specializes in art direction and asset development for XR and interactive digital media. As a studio co-founder she has produced and developed VR content for both entertainment and enterprise markets, as well as worked alongside larger studios in the games industry. She is interested in exploring the intersection of interactive, immersive media and emerging XR technology to create experiences for a wide variety of applications.

Email: allyson.cikor@lethbridgecollege.ca


Stephen Graham, MSc, ITCP, I.S.P.

Instructor – Computer Information Technology

Stephen Graham is a researcher working on machine learning, natural language understanding, and computational humour. He has a breadth of industry software development and systems integration experience.

Stephen has a Master of Science, Artificial Intelligence from The University of Edinburgh.

Direct: (403) 320-3202 ext. 5794
Email: stephen.graham@lethbridgecollege.ca


Gurpreet Singh, MS


Gurpreet Singh (He/Him) has been teaching at Lethbridge College as an Instructor since 2018. He has been teaching since 2007. His teaching and research experience span across Canada, UK, Ireland, and India.  

He is also a Lab Coordinator for the Digital Humanities lab at the University of Lethbridge. His interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary areas of expertise and research include Digital Humanities, Digital Cultural Heritage, Machine Learning and its Applications in Agriculture, Computational Resources for Low-Resourced Languages, Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, Ethics in AI, Diversity and Inclusion in Post-Secondary Classroom, Linked Open Data for Humanities datasets, Research Data Management, and Scholarly Communication. He has been consulting in these areas since 2012. 

His other roles include Project Manager on SSHRC funded ‘The Visionary Cross’ project and Lexical Linguist for Gurmukhi Panjabi (Pa) with Apple. He has a Master's in Artificial Intelligence (2006). 

Email: g.singh@lethbridgecollege.ca


Erin Howard, MET

Associate Dean – Centre for Teaching, Learning & Innovation

Erin leads the teams who have expertise in curriculum and course design, educational development, media production, and student academic support. Erin’s background in educational technology (UBC MET, 2019), allows her to bring the perspective of educational pedagogy to designing learning experiences in the virtual or augmented world. She is passionate about using technology in a way that enhances learning and assessment and also makes learning and training more accessible.  Other areas of interest include competency based learning, game design for learning, human centered design and stakeholder engagement. 


Student Researchers

Alex Mayer
  • Grande Cache Dinosaur AR Experience
Benjamin Bennett
  • Grande Cache Dinosaur Track VR Experience
Brendan Anderson
  • Wind Turbine Technician Torquing Lab VR Prototype 
  • VR Irrigation Experience
Devon Carlson
  • Wind Turbine Technician Torquing Lab VR Prototype 
Kaspar Frankish
  • CareGiVR: Building Self-Efficacy in Dementia Care Through Immersive Education
Miranda Hubbard
  • VR Irrigation Experience

Current Projects

CareGiVR: Building Self-Efficacy in Dementia Care Through Immersive Education

Alberta’s ageing population translates to a concurrent increase in dementia rates. Current training for caregivers is mostly limited to workshop delivery relying on traditional teaching methods with limited opportunity to develop competence through repetition.

Increased self-efficacy (The belief in our ability to meet challenges) has been linked to the reduction of caregiver stress. Caregiver stress affects not only caregivers but patients, employers and the health system. Self-efficacy is anticipated to improve resiliency in caregivers leading to improved patient-caregiver interactions, enhanced continuity of care and economic benefits for the health care system.

The CareGiVR project creates highly realistic virtual reality scenarios, using unique virtual patients, who can demonstrate a thorough range of emotions produced through performance (motion & facial) capture. Caregivers can practice responses in a variety of scenarios, receive immediate performance feedback and repeat as necessary for ongoing iterative learning without the costs and logistical challenges of a facilitated workshop.

Industry partners: Red Iron Labs 
Funding partners: Alberta Innovates
Researchers: Mike McCready, Tyler Heaton, Deb Bardock, Laura Vogelsang, Sheri Wright, Janice Anton, Nicole Forsyth

Wind Turbine Technician Torquing Lab VR Prototype 

As part of the installation and maintenance of wind turbines, bolts must be properly torqued to exact specifications to ensure safe operation of the turbine. In order to torque properly, technicians must understand the type of bolts, types of torque wrenches, as well as the theory behind using torque on a nut to create the proper tension.

Improper use of torque wrenches could result in damaged equipment or physical injury. The Wind Turbine Technician program partnered with START to create a VR prototype that will allow students to practice the procedure of properly torquing bolts prior to working with physical tools. 

Industry partners: Lethbridge College Wind Turbine Technician program

Grande Cache Dinosaur Track VR Experience

The Grande Cache Dinosaur Tracks are a visually spectacular natural feature that has preserved moments of the region’s history. This is the only known largescale exposure of dinosaur tracks in Canada. The unique characteristics and rarity of the site provides a great opportunity for increased tourism and economic development, however, due to several factors, including public safety, tours to the physical site are not feasible.

The MD of Greenview has partnered with the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology and Lethbridge College to create an immersive paleontologist experience, highlighting the dinosaur tracks site. Visitors will be able to learn about and visit this unique historical site in a way never possible before.

Industry partners: The MD of Greenview
Funding partners: The Government of Alberta
Researchers: Allyson Cikor, Mike McCready

VR Irrigation Experience

Irrigation systems in southern Alberta implement various technologies and are critical to for the prosperity and opportunities of the region.  Despite this, the general public is often unaware of these systems. Community Future Chinook approached Lethbridge College to develop a VR experience that will raise awareness of irrigation systems in southern Alberta and the impact they have on the economy.

Industry partners: Chinook Community Futures
Researchers: Mike McCready, Allyson Cikor



  1. Cikor, A., & McCready, M. (2021). Making the past accessible, VR/AR Association Global Summit Online
  2. McCready, M., & Fine, R. (2020). The promises and possibilities of VR in health, INVENTURES Unbound Online Conference
  3. McCready, M. (2020). Pivoting Education with Technology, VR/AR Association Global Summit Online
  4. Abernethy, A.L., Hallak, H., Smithson, J., Stevens, R. & McCready, M. (2019). Using VR and AR for Inclusion in Education, VRARA Global Summit, Vancouver, BC
  5. Anderson, M., Phillips, D., McCready, M., & Sahin, N. (2019). Selecting the First XR Use Case for Your School, XR in Learning Conference, Boston, MA
  6. Heaton, T. (2019). The future of media is spatial, Ed Tech Team Southern Alberta Summit 2019, Barnwell, AB
  7. McCready, M. & Smithson, A. (2018). Virtual conferences of the future, VRARA Global Summit, Vancouver, BC
  8. Heaton, T. (2018). Exploring levels of fidelity for virtual reality experiences design: A work in progress, Meeting of the Minds Conference 2018, ULGSA, Lethbridge, AB
  9. Heaton, T., & Hodgson, K. (2017). Virtual reality in the classroom, full-day workshop, Cybera Cyber Summit 2018, Banff, AB
  10. Heaton, T. (2017). Echoes of an imagined past, Crossing Boundaries Symposium 2017, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB
  11. Dymond, A. et al. (2014). Video games in education, SPARK Symposium 2014, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB

Reports and Publications

  1. Heaton, T. (as Neal Tyler). (2020). Narrative presence in virtual reality experiences – Thesis Support Paper, University of Lethbridge https://opus.uleth.ca/handle/10133/5768


Funding Partners



Industry Partners