a man stands next to a VR prototype driving simulator
Mike McCready, Industry Liaison and Research Advisory, START Centre, stands next to a prototype research VR driving simulator.

Lethbridge College celebrated the grand opening of its Spatial Technologies Applied Research and Training (START) Centre on Friday.

Part of the college’s Centre for Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CARIE), the START Centre partners with organizations in Alberta and beyond to apply virtual reality (VR) and/or augmented reality (AR) technologies and real-time 3D to solve challenges in key sectors including agriculture, energy, architecture, health care, cultural heritage and emergency response.

“We’re on the cusp of a communication revolution. How we connect, conduct business and learn is changing,” says Mike McCready, Industry Liaison and Research Advisor in the START Centre. “With our cutting-edge equipment, talented researchers and technicians, and our industry partnerships, START is positioned to support Alberta organizations from across all sectors.”

Friday’s grand opening gave attendees the opportunity to connect with experts from across spatial technologies disciplines, learn about the latest developments in the field, explore the centre’s state-of-the-art labs and research spaces, and view demonstrations of cutting-edge equipment like an Infinadeck omnidirectional VR treadmill. It’s the first and only model in Canada to date and has use cases across various sectors, including healthcare, law enforcement, architecture and construction, and fitness research. Other Infinadeck clients include NASA, the United States Army, Navy and Air Force and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

a square treadmill with railing
The START Centre's Infinadeck omnidirectional VR treadmill.

"The launch of the START Centre further cements the reputation of Lethbridge College as one of the leading players in the field of spatial technology applied research and training across North America,” says Phil Martin, Chief Revenue Officer, Infinadeck. “Infinadeck is delighted that our omnidirectional natural-gait XR movement platform will form a key component of Mike McCready and team’s cutting-edge work on solving real-world problems using spatial technologies.

Infinadeck brings true 'dynamic presence' into digital experiences by significantly heightening perceptions of embodiment and immersion,” Martin adds, “and we look forward to collaborating with Lethbridge College on seamlessly integrating the mechanics of movement and observation into VR/AR applications to offer enterprises huge gains across knowledge retention, productivity, safety, engagement, training effectiveness and skills acquisition."

a prototype research VR driving simulator in the START centre
The START Centre's prototype research VR driving simulator.

A prototype research VR driving simulator is also being used to develop an immersive driving training solution for partner police services. Officers will be able to apply effective decision-making when driving in high-speed emergency situations in a simulated – and safe – environment. Similar START projects involve VR training scenarios for high-risk procedures like industrial plant maintenance and breakdown protocols.

The START Centre also houses a state-of-the-art motion capture studio, which will be available to industry for their motion and performance capture needs. START will offer access to entertainment production technology that is unavailable outside of major hubs like Vancouver and Montreal, providing significant potential to support interactive digital media industries, and in particular, local and independent film, television and game developers.  

“Spatial technologies are connecting people, places and objects in new ways, allowing for authentic and enriching experiences,” says Dr. Kenny Corscadden, Vice President Research and Partnerships, Lethbridge College. "Utilizing novel equipment and specialized expertise, START is driving opportunities for industry to adopt emerging spatial technologies. Our services help companies validate ideas and improve processes while reducing the risks associated with technology adoption.”

Friday’s grand opening was part of the “Research in RINSA” series of networking events. Several sessions have been held over the past several weeks to increase awareness of the research expertise within the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA).

To learn more about START, go to; email [email protected]; or call 403-320-3468.