Student Success
A screen grab of an interactive virtual reality experience designed by Lethbridge College Virtual and Augmented Reality students and faculty.

Leaders in supply chain technology from across Canada are coming together to discuss innovations – in a virtual experience created by Lethbridge College students and faculty. Automation in Supply Chain - A Gamified Experience is presented by Economic Development Lethbridge (EDL), Dematic (a warehousing and supply chain automation leader) and Supply Chain Canada. It takes place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17.

The capstone event for a series focused on supply chain management was nearly cancelled due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But then Lethbridge College Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) students and faculty collaborated with EDL on a solution that moved the conference to a virtual reality environment. Participants will be able to view an experts’ panel, mingle and network with other participants, and go into interactive VR rooms where they can engage with new supply chain technologies through gamified experiences.

“I like to look at it as a double-dip of innovation,” says Tyler Heaton, Lethbridge College VXR instructor. “Those taking part in this conference are on the cutting edge of innovations that will improve supply chain technology for a wide variety of industries. Meanwhile, we’ve created a custom virtual environment that not only brings people together from across Canada, or wherever they’re located, but allows them a ‘hands-on’ interactive experience that replaces planned field trips and facility tours.”

A screen grab of a virtual reality meeting space created by Lethbridge College Virtual and Augmented Reality students and faculty for a supply chain conference. When the conference is underway, attendees will fill this space with their virtual avatars to replicate the feeling of networking at an in-person event.

Two Lethbridge College VR/AR students began designing the space, hosted on the AltSpaceVR platform, as part of their program curriculum in the inaugural year of the college’s VXR program in 2019-20. One of the students, Connor Macleod, has remained involved in the project to see it through to fruition and worked with Heaton to make it fully functional for the Automation in Supply Chain conference.

“Working on this project has underscored the importance of adapting to our new digital normal,” says Macleod, a 2020 gradute of the VR/AR program. “I am excited to showcase the potential of new immersive technologies that are pushing the boundaries of how we communicate and gather. Attendees from anywhere in the world can join the conference and tour a warehouse with a group of their peers all while sitting comfortably in their office at home. This may be the first event of its kind in virtual reality, but I am sure it won’t be the last.”

While many other conferences across countless industries have been forced online due to restrictions around gatherings and travel, Heaton says this conference is unique because of its use of VR. While it’s viewable on a desktop, having a VR headset will provide an immersive experience that transports participants into a virtual conference hall, complete with breakout rooms where they can see automated technologies in-person.

“This partnership with Economic Development Lethbridge and Brighter Together really allows us to leverage our expertise in immersive technologies,” says Heaton. “It shows that Lethbridge College is a major player in innovation and connecting industry in southern Alberta, and beyond.”

Automation in Supply Chain - A Gamified Experience focuses on the “new normal” created by the pandemic and will discuss how businesses have been challenged with evolving their tactics into long-term strategies to meet the unprecedented surges in demand that will continue well past this phase of disaster recovery. The experts panel features Michele Evans, Assistant Deputy Minister – Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation; Chris Shaver, Senior Director, Vertical Market Activation, Dematic; and Rindi Bristol - Senior Director, Whole Leaf. Tickets are available online.

Lethbridge College’s one-year Virtual and Augmented Reality program, teaches skills that apply in any sector that values design and the creation of immersive environments. Students graduate prepared for careers in the latest emerging technology-virtual and augmented reality in a variety of industries including education, journalism, healthcare, engineering, and architecture. With a balance of technical and entrepreneurial skill-building, Lethbridge College’s Virtual and Augmented Reality certificate program focuses on four areas of study: fundamentals, experiential, spatial and application.