Research, innovation and entrepreneurship

Despite the pandemic, activity has boomed at Sheridan as our community continues to seek our expertise and access to talent and specialized equipment. While we’ve long been trusted collaborators for the hundreds of local industry partners who work with Sheridan each year, the pandemic has truly highlighted the value that our research and entrepreneurship centres and Faculties provide to local innovators.

A safer way to screen, inform and assist the public

Imagine walking into a building and being greeted by a virtual agent that knows your name, informs you of the latest safety protocols, asks you questions and takes your temperature — all without the touch of a button.

Sound futuristic? In fact, it’s very close to becoming a reality following an interdisciplinary applied research collaboration between Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) technology company CloudConstable and staff, faculty and student researchers from Sheridan’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT), Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies (CAMDT) and Honours Bachelor of Craft and Design (Industrial Design) degree program.

Photos courtesy of Cloud Constable

The unique partnership began two years ago when CloudConstable founder and CEO Mike Pickering approached SIRT seeking advice on how to integrate a thermal scanner into his company’s AVA™ (Animated Virtual Agent) and improve the product’s on-screen presentation. The project quickly grew to include CAMDT, which helped secure $38,000 in external funding from FedDev Ontario’s Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) and optimized AVA by upgrading various hardware components and integrating them to function in harmony. Industrial Design faculty and students then provided additional touches to commercialize the solution, performing an ergonomic study and other research to design and build a prototype kiosk that was more attractive and practical.

AVA’s ability to recognize people’s faces, check them for elevated temperatures and understand simple nodding and pointing gestures makes it an ideal tool to perform COVID-19 screening in high-traffic areas such as airports, but there are plenty of potential post-pandemic applications as well. Pickering says AVA’s ability to monitor patient temperatures could lighten the workloads of employees in hospitals and long-term care facilities going forward.

“Public perception and sentiment have changed a lot during the pandemic. I think there’s a lot more openness to speaking to a robot or AI device now than there used to be. We’re really excited about the potential of continuing to work with Sheridan as we try to advance AVA to even bigger and better things.”

­- Mike Pickering (CloudConstable founder and CEO)

That feeling is mutual. “Sheridan’s growing research capacities are helping us shape and navigate the future through engagement with industry that propels continual development and innovation,” says Dr. Carolyn Moorlag, Director of CAMDT and Faculty of Applied Science and Technology research. “Our industry partners are able to carry out interdisciplinary work that would otherwise require a large in-house team, and Sheridan staff and students have the opportunity to contribute to research that is new, diverse and directly related to industry.”

Through collaborative research, Sheridan faculty, staff and students are holistically enhancing the health of our campus communities.

Financial health: Supporting small businesses

Underrepresented doesn’t have to mean underresourced, underachieving or undervalued.

As part of the Pilon School of Business (PSB) and EDGE Entrepreneurship Hub’s Building Small Business Resilience collaborative research project that supports underrepresented small business owners, Sheridan provided a free 12-week digital marketing training program — including $500 for businesses to use towards digital marketing activities and expenses — to help small businesses experiencing financial hardships during COVID-19.

Mental health & education: Combatting the spread of misinformation

To help combat online spread of misinformation during the pandemic, professors Dr. Nathaniel Barr and Dr. Michael McNamara researched motivations for sharing misinformation on social media and then designed, tested and disseminated interventions that deterred casual spreaders.

The research project, performed in collaboration with MediaSmarts, BEworks and some of the world’s foremost information researchers, also led to deeper partnerships with other academics applying behavioural insights to slow the spread of misinformation.

Learn more in our Q&A with Nathaniel and Michael.

Illustrated by Drew Shannon with creative direction from Erin McPhee

Economic health: Autonomous vehicle research

Rogers Communications and Sheridan are working together on 5G autonomous vehicle research through Sheridan’s Centre for Mobile Innovation. The collaboration will study the potential of integrating navigation, diagnostics and infotainment systems into autonomous vehicles over new 5G technologies and networks and research intelligent transport systems in a multi-user environment.

Medical health: A new kind of wearable tech

Staff, faculty and student researchers from Sheridan’s Centre for Mobile Innovation (CMI) are playing a critical role in the development of Vitaliti, a wearable device that remotely monitors blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac activity and other vital signs.

CMI has been supporting virtual care company Cloud DX on Vitaliti’s development since 2016. Currently, CMI is exploring various software solutions that will present data gathered by the wearable in ways that are easiest for patients and clinicians to understand.

“The ultimate aim of the project software integration is to work as an early system for identifying and pre-empting preventable illnesses."

- Dr. Edward Sykes, CMI Director

Image courtesy of Cloud DX

United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals Accord

Last year, Sheridan became Ontario’s first institution to sign the SDG Accord, the postsecondary sector’s collective international response to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals . These 17 Global Goals were adopted by countries around the world in 2015 as a means to guide global action on the urgent social, economic and environmental challenges facing our planet. Which goals do the stories on this page advance? See below.

Sheridan's 2024 Strategic Plan is grounded in the tenets of the United Nations SDGs, which speak to sustainable development, human rights, gender equality, a culture of peace and non-violence and global citizenship.