April 23, 2018 7:00 am
Updated: April 23, 2018 10:52 am

The future of work in virtual and augmented reality

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A mining company uses 3D models of mineshafts to decide where to drill; a surgical team employs ultrasound holograms to guide them as they operate; an architect goes on a walk-through of a building before breaking ground. Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) offer industry a brave new world of problem-solving, the limits of which can hardly be underestimated.

“Virtual reality and augmented reality is an answer to what the future of work will look like,” says Bethany Edmunds, Associate Dean of Computing at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

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While applications might be limitless, the talent pool is not. Vancouver is facing unparalleled growth in the VR/AR industry and the B.C. Tech Association has estimated there will be 35,000 new jobs to fill by 2021.

It’s unsurprising given that Vancouver is the epicenter of virtual and augmented reality innovation. The city is Canada’s provincial-wide Digital Technology Supercluster, and it’s also home to Microsoft Vancouver and The Cube, a 6,000 square foot co-working space dedicated to virtual, augmented and mixed reality development.

“[Virtual reality and augmented reality] technology is becoming part of every industry and the need for training, both for new graduates and those already in the workforce looking to re-skill is critical,” says Microsoft Vancouver Director Edoardo De Martin.

To meet the demand, Microsoft worked with BCIT to help create a first-of-its-kind AR/VR curriculum which has been integrated into a Computer Systems Technology diploma or can be undertaken as a statement of completion, though a bachelor’s degree is also on the way.

The diploma is geared toward graduating experienced software developers. The program works with industry partners as mentors in the classroom to give students the technical skills required to enter the workforce. In a recent VR/AR project, students designed and programed their own 3D environment and were treated to input from Microsoft’s De Martin himself.

The Statement of Completion is available to part-time students. It’s a four course hands-on primer for those who are interested in VR/AR. Night and weekend classes allow students to train on equipment and learn about real-world applications without committing to a full course load.

“This is a soft venture into programming and storytelling – virtual reality and augmented reality is not just about coding 1s and 0s,” says Edmunds. She hopes that exploring this story-telling capacity of virtual reality and augmented reality will broaden the reach of VR/AR to those outside of programming.

“[In the future], we’re going to need more than just programmers. We’ll need designers, project managers, people who can work in a 3D environment, and marketers who will specialize in this space,” confirms  Dan Burgar, President of Vancouver’s AR/VR Association and Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Archiact VR, a major virtual reality product development company. He believes everyday use of VR/AR is just around the corner and sees headsets replacing screens and smartphones in the next two to three years.

BCIT gives workers the skills to survive in this new and enhanced workplace. By joining with industry leaders to offer  cutting-edge curriculum, students will be ahead of the curve for Canada’s fast-growing tech sector.

To learn more about BCIT’s computing programming, visit: bcit.ca/computing

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