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Toronto Metropolitan University receives $3.79M to research emerging technologies

March 13, 2024
Professors Richard Lachman (left), Ali Mazalek (centre) and Farrokh Janabi-Sharifi (right)

TMU research projects led by professors Richard Lachman, Ali Mazalek and Farrokh Janabi-Sharifi received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Two research projects led by Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) have received a total of $3.79 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for novel research projects exploring new and emerging technologies.

Taking unmanned aerial vehicle research to new heights

Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science professor Farrokh Janabi-Sharifi received $2 million from CFI’s Innovation Fund to build one of the widest arrays of advanced robotic vehicular manipulation platforms ever proposed for research purposes.

The Canadian Advanced Research Infrastructure for Aerial Robotic Manipulation (CANARI-ARM) project will entail the renovation of existing infrastructure to create one main site and two satellite sites where researchers will study unmanned aerial manipulators (UAMs) in unstructured environments. UAMs combine unmanned aerial vehicles with robotic arms and have an untold number of applications, from handling materials to inspecting and maintaining infrastructure such as power lines to assisting in emergency and search and rescue operations.

The project is a collaboration between TMU, Dalhousie University, The Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning (Humber College), Ontario Tech University, the University of Ottawa, the University of Regina and York University. Multidisciplinary research teams from these institutions will collaborate on five key research themes related to perception, control, human-robot interactions, communications and technology applications. With the support of CANARI-ARM, they will work to develop patentable techniques, new products, licensable software and proof-of-concept deployments for key application areas of marine operations, precision agriculture and inspection and maintenance.

“Interest in commercial robots is rapidly increasing, but research on UAMs is in its infancy,” said professor Janabi-Sharifi. “The research we can accomplish with these new facilities will have tremendous potential for commercialization and will profoundly impact the job market by fostering the continued growth of the Canadian sectors utilizing UAM technology, such as agriculture, construction, mining and logistics.”

Critical research into virtual, augmented and mixed-reality

The Creative School professors Ali Mazalek and Richard Lachman received $1.78 million from CFI’s Innovation Fund to create a state-of-the-art facility that will act as a meeting ground for research into the design, application, and social impact of extended reality (XR) and immersive technologies. The Critical Metaverse Design Network for Embodied and Virtual Experiences (EVE) facility will bring together a transdisciplinary team of researchers, community users and established industry partners to determine how XR technologies will shape the future of human connectivity, embodiment and sensory experience.

While the tech industry focuses on a profit-driven vision of XR that may further drive the wedge between our physical and virtual world experiences, this grant aims to refocus research to include our real-world, fully embodied selves while centring collaborations with underrepresented communities in technology-shaping conversations. EVE researchers will work to advance understanding of the design and implementation of XR technologies and investigate how embodied XR technologies can advance community co-created experiences in healthcare and well-being, accessibility, arts and culture, and education and training. They will also critically evaluate how XR environments generate new social formations and modes of interactivity.

“There is a risk that the current vision for XR technologies and the Metaverse will further separate us from our physical worlds while replicating the biases and social inequities of our present-day online environments,” said professor Mazalek. “As the only Canadian entity dedicated to critical XR research and design, the EVE network will engage in community-based co-design to advance knowledge of the real-world use and impact of XR technologies and shape the future of embodied virtual experiences.”

“Congratulations to professors Mazalek, Lachman and Janabi-Sharifi,” said Steven N. Liss, TMU’s vice-president, research and innovation. “With this investment, our researchers will become integral leaders in these emerging fields of research as they investigate novel questions and explore new pathways for developing the technology of the future.”

Learn more about the Canada Foundation for Innovation. (external link, opens in new window)