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Lethbridge College researcher wows judges at Massachusetts Institute of Technology competition

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WATCH: A virtual reality researcher from Lethbridge College is bringing home multiple awards from a global competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As Emily Olsen reports, it showcases some of the cutting-edge research Lethbridge has to offer – Jan 28, 2020

As the first president’s applied research chair for virtual and augmented reality at Lethbridge College, Mike McCready is already making waves on a global scale.

“I was at the [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] ‘Reality Hack’ where they had over 350 people from around 49 countries coming to participate on the weekend to create something in VR or AR,” McCready said.

McCready was paired with a team selected from across the United States for the challenge of creating something groundbreaking in the virtual reality world. He said the idea for their project came to him instantly.

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“I had the idea that I really wanted to help children with dyslexia,” McCready said.

“People with dyslexia often have a lack of confidence reading out loud. They don’t want to make a fool of themselves or feel ashamed, and when you’re in virtual reality, it kind of transports you to a different place.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge College announces virtual reality research chair

In a matter of days at the Boston, Mass., competition, McCready and his team created a game called “Spellbound,” which is aimed at children ages five to seven and encourages spelling and aloud reading.

McCready said the game is effective partly because of its focus on literacy and not on the often difficult aspect of fine motor skills involved in typical pen-to-paper learning.

“I really saw a gap,” McCready said.

Among 80 competing teams, McCready’s stood out.

“We won in the best education and learning category and the best health and wellness category,” McCready said. “And we were in the top five VR applications out of those 80 teams.”

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The wins came as a shock to McCready, who has dedicated his life to virtual reality research and education.

“You’re not there to win; you’re there to create,” he said.

READ MORE: Virtual Reality is making inroads into Canadian classrooms in ways never thought possible

His colleagues at Lethbridge College were not surprised in the least.

“We have so many industry partners already,” vice-president academic Samantha Lenci said. “They came to the table because of Mike and the other faculty members in the program.”

She said that McCready will set the tone for all future research chairs.

“He might be the research chair again next year but I think the possibilities are endless for him,” she said.

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