VR/AR Hub Created in Partnership with the Vancouver Chapter of the VR/AR Association

 Dan Burgar, the Vancouver chapter president of the VR/AR Association | Photo: Chung Chow

Dan Burgar, the Vancouver chapter president of the VR/AR Association | Photo: Chung Chow

The hub was created in partnership with the Vancouver Chapter of the VR/AR Association.

Startup incubator Launch Academy is opening a new virtual reality and augmented reality hub at its Vancouver headquarters.

The 12,000-square-foot facility features a device lab to test out new technologies and is aimed at assisting a wide spectrum of early-stage companies, according to CEO Ray Walia.

“It’s all the way from people just starting out to [companies with] a product in market,” he told Business in Vancouver.

“Other companies that are more established that don’t necessarily need to take desk space here but they want to be part of the community and be part of a founding partnership in helping cultivate and grow the ecosystem [will also take part].”

The hub was created in partnership with the Vancouver chapter of the VR/AR Association.

It will offer training and education programs, equipment rentals, workshops and mentorship opportunities for participants.

Mentors include investors in the VR/AR space, including Super Ventures, the VR Fund, WXR Fund, Outpost Capital and the GFR Fund.

Experts from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Finger Food Studios, Archiact, LNG Studios, LlamaZoo Interactive Inc., Blueprint Reality Inc., Cognitive3D, YDreams Global Interactive Technologies Inc. and the Vancouver Economic Commission will also offer mentoring.

Vancouver was home to just over a dozen VR companies in 2015 but has since growth to 220 organizations that are pursuing VR technologies, according to the VR/AR Association.

“We have all the right ingredients to make Vancouver No. 1,” Dan Burgar, the Vancouver chapter president of the VR/AR Association, said in a statement.

“We believe it’s extremely important to keep the momentum up and build the support infrastructure now for companies to accelerate their growth. Launch Academy has a proven track record of incubating over 600 companies and we’re thrilled to work with them on this.”

Source

Vancouver Is Now One Of The Largest VR AR Hubs In The World with over 200 Companies

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By Kate WilsonDan Burgar

 

XR companies based in Vancouver have skyrocketed from 15 to 200 in just three short years.  

A lot has changed in the XR industry since 2017. In teaching hospitals, brain scans have transformed into dynamic, moving holograms. Apps now let individuals walk around the homes of their loved ones without stepping outside their door. Home décor items can appear, life-sized, in a person’s living room at a touch of a screen, before being delivered to their doorstep.

All of those concepts have been developed in one year –  in one city.

Vancouver is one of the fastest growing VR, AR, and MR hubs in the world. Nestled under fir tree-covered mountains and bordered by beaches, the city’s urban center boasts businesses that are transforming industries, creating immersive stories, and defining the next wave of computing.

Its expansion is staggering. Just three years ago, Vancouver hosted around 15 XR companies. Now, there are over 200.

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There’s more than one reason why the city is exploding with talent. In 1977, Vancouver established itself as a top-flight filming destination, earning the nickname “Hollywood North.” Animators and VFX professionals flocked to the area, helping it to become the third largest film and TV production centre in North America. That expertise led to cross-pollination. Electronic Arts (EA) opened its Canadian arm in the Metro Vancouver area in the early ‘80s, inspiring a raft of world-class games and mobile entertainment businesses. Now, those professionals are moving to XR.

Since last year, the composition of the Vancouver VR, AR, and MR ecosystem has developed dramatically. The city has always shown a strength in creating enterprise, architecture, and data visualization solutions. Over the past 12 months, the number of companies offering those services has almost doubled.

That’s due in a large part to the “collaborative spirit” of Vancouver that sets its ecosystem apart. Last September, two centres – Axiom Zen and Launch Academy – were the sole incubating organizations within the city. This year, seven more hubs have been created to nurture local XR talent. Developments like these have helped the industry grow by 54 percent since 2017.

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As well as the scores of new startups opening their doors in 2018, the local ecosystem has seen victories from more mature companies. Finger Food Studios, an XR organization whose clients and partners include Microsoft, Hootsuite, and Cirque du Soleil, was integral in securing $1.4 billion in government funding to boost Vancouver’s digital technology. The Vancouver Virtual Reality Film Festival (YVRFF) – the only dedicated VR film festival in the world – launched its second annual event to much acclaim, while five of the city’s largest XR companies including Archiact and Motive.io were invited to speak at SXSW festival on the rise of VR and AR in Vancouver.

“XR in this city is growing quicker than anyone expected,” says Dan Burgar, president of the Vancouver branch of the VR/AR Association, an organization that connects companies working in the sector across the globe. “Five years ago, the industry was non-existent in Vancouver. Now, with our talent pool and proximity to San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, there’s been a huge uptick in business-to-business development. We’re one of the best places in the world to set up an XR company, and it’s only going to get bigger from here.”

With so many new companies joining the fray every month, it can be hard to keep track of the innovation. Monitoring the growth of the community, the Vancouver chapter of the VR/AR Association – in partnership with the Vancouver Economic Commission, Gowling WLG, and CreativeBC – has created a comprehensive infographic to visualize the ecosystem.

As businesses increasingly choose Vancouver as their home, it’s easy to see how the city has grown to become what could very well be the second largest XR cluster in the world.

Source: VRScout 

 

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Vancouver Emerging As Top Five VR and AR Hub

***Reserve your spot (here) at the VR/AR Global Summit taking place in Vancouver!***

Why Silicon Valley is looking north for new investment opportunities.

By Kate WilsonDan Burgar

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Surrounded by towering mountains, picturesque lakes, and urban beaches, it’s easy to forget that Vancouver hosts a booming technology industry.

For those in the know, that’s starting to change.

Over the past 40 years, the Canadian region has emerged as a dominant force in the video game, special effects, and animation industries. Known in the business as Hollywood North, the area is home to some of the largest VFX stages in North America. Among other notable studios, the location boasts gaming giant Electronic Arts Canada – the powerhouse behind the NHL, NBA, and FIFA franchises – and employs nearly 17,000 workers in the 3D industry.

When VR and AR began to emerge, the region took full advantage of that talent. Last year, there were 15 XR companies in Metro Vancouver. Now, there are over 180. Creating everything from veterinary education software to search-and-rescue robots operating in VR, developers are helping the city become a world leader in content production.

That expertise is beginning to pique the interest of Silicon Valley investors.

Marco DeMiroz is a co-founder and general partner of the Venture Reality Fund, an XR venture capitalist group based in the Bay Area. Visiting Metro Vancouver for the first time two months ago for the Women in Tech seminar, he’s now looking to make an investment in the region.

“My takeaway from the trip is that Vancouver should be considered among the top five hubs for XR,” he said. “I would put it together with San Francisco, L.A., Seattle, and Austin. It’s got a very vibrant, dynamic community with both men and women leading the space, and it’s really covering everything from content production to enabling technologies.”

“As I’ve been getting to know the region and its opportunities, I’ve been talking to the provincial government about two aspects,” DeMiroz continues. “One is my interest in being more active in the local community and making direct investments. The other is to find talent for our portfolio of 21 companies. It’s very competitive to hire people in San Francisco, L.A., Seattle, or Portland, because you’re going up against giants like Google or Microsoft. In Vancouver, there are equally competent people with specialized expertise. I would consider the region to be great resource to find employees.”

DeMiroz isn’t the only high-profile venture capitalist looking north. Tom Emrich, a partner at Super Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based AR fund, highlights many benefits to investing in Metro Vancouver.

As well as the region’s geographical proximity to the tech giants along the west coast, he says, it also has strong commercial ties to Asian markets. Government programs for the area support early stage companies with grants and tax credits, meaning its startups can survive for longer in competitive industries. Most importantly, though, U.S. investment goes further in Canada. Not only is it less expensive to run a company in Metro Vancouver, an exchange rate favorable to the States means capital has a higher value in Canadian dollars.

“The burn of a company – how much it’s spending on rent, electricity, and potential talent – is definitely much less than in the Bay Area,” Emrich said. “When a company receives U.S. currency, it lasts for longer. I’m originally from Canada. Part of the investment thesis for Super Ventures is that we all have ties outside of the States. That’s a really big benefit for us to have a global viewpoint, and to not just invest in the startups around Silicon Valley.”

Metro Vancouver’s companies are already beginning to feel the benefit of the Bay Area’s cash. Cognitive 3D, a local business that provides analytics on how individuals in virtual and augmented reality interact with their surroundings, recently secured funding from Silicon Valley – a financial injection that will allow it to develop its product for different industries. In its founder and CEO Tony Bevilacqua’s opinion, it’s vital for Metro Vancouver startups to network with their southern neighbors.

“The message we gave to investors in Silicon Valley is that a Vancouver company is no different to those down in the States,” he said. “They have similar valuations, they have the same talent capacity, and they’re in a great location geographically. Companies like ours are talking to investors in the Bay Area and showing how Vancouver is a diamond in the rough that everyone had previously been overlooking.”

“Vancouver is growing into an ecosystem that is globally recognized,” Bevilacqua continues. “We’ve got one of the largest VR events in the world coming to town in September. We’ve got one of the strongest VR networks in the world through the VR / AR Association. I think that we’re starting to build an epicenter. Our local government is beginning to appreciate it, as are big enterprise organizations like Microsoft. I think we’ve got all the right factors for success.”

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Canadian investors are missing out on profits from Vancouver’s VR and AR industry

Article Written by Kate Wilson and Vancouver Chapter President Dan Burgar and posted by BCBusiness here

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Few industries will remain untouched by virtual and augmented reality, experts predict

In the past year alone, surgeons have begun practising their work on digital bodies, mines have been planned in immersive 3D, and Walmart Inc. has chosen to train its employees in constructed realities. Touted in the same breath as blockchain, AI and machine learning, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are now transforming how businesses are structured.

Metro Vancouver has emerged as an epicentre of the industry. For more than 40 years, the region has nurtured talent in the animation and 3D spaces—and, in its capacity as Hollywood North, has become home to some of the largest special-effects stages in North America. Upward of 180 VR and AR companies are taking advantage of that local expertise, creating enterprise solutions for sectors from retail to real estate.

It’s a boon for investors. But according to local entrepreneurs, British Columbia’s venture capitalists are missing out.

“Metro Vancouver is one of the top markets worldwide for creating VR and AR content,” says Tony Bevilacqua, founder and CEO of Cognitive 3D, a company that provides analytics on how individuals in virtual and augmented reality interact with their surroundings. “But we’re being challenged by the lack of local investment in what we would call at-risk technologies—businesses that are very research- and development-oriented, and don’t necessarily have a healthy financial outlook in the short term. If you have the metrics for a Series A round, you can raise money here. It’s in that seed stage, where a company doesn’t necessarily have the traction or numbers to show investors, that we see the biggest gaps in local funding.”

That reticence has allowed U.S. investors to plug the breach. Many Silicon Valley–based venture capitalists have funded between 10 and 30 early-stage VR and AR companies. In Canada, there are far fewer investors, and most are only supporting one startup. As a result, profits from an industry predicted to be worth up to US$215 billion by 2021, according to market intelligence provider International Data Corp., are passing local venture capitalists by.

In the view of Tom Emrich—a partner at Super Ventures, one of the few Silicon Valley AR funds that has invested in Metro Vancouver—that shouldn’t be the case.

“It’s cheaper to run a business in Canada than in the Valley, where most of the VR and AR startups are concentrated,” Emrich says. “If you’re in America, and you’re giving an American cheque to a B.C. company, that cheque is worth more in Canadian dollars. On top of that, the burn of a business—how much it’s spending on rent, electricity, and potential talent—is definitely much less than in the Bay Area.

“Canada also has a lot of grants and government programs, like SR&ED and IRAP, that help support the growth of startups,” Emrich continues. “It can extend their runway. Funds want a company to provide them with a return, and they need to survive to do that. As an investor, hearing that a government is willing to put their arms around VR and AR businesses is another benefit.”

Commentators have proposed multiple theories to explain Canada’s reservations about investing in early-stage companies. Consumer adoption of the technology has been slower than anticipated, and it’s unclear how long it might take for funds to see returns. The country’s reputation for politeness, too, means local startups are often less bold in forecasting their success and sell themselves short compared to U.S. businesses—a factor that makes them less attractive to investors.

If B.C. venture capitalists don’t choose to put their money into seed stage funding soon, though, Emrich believes the opportunity might be gone.

“The investment possibilities for this technology come early on,” he says. “As the space matures, the larger players start to hire and acquire their own solutions. When Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon begin to put more of a focus on developing their own solutions, the startup opportunity changes, and the venture capital opportunity changes.

“I think it’s the lowest-hanging fruit if you’re in B.C. to look in your own backyard at what’s happening,” Emrich adds. “It can be part of your competitive angle as a fund to be able to identify some stellar Hootsuites, Wattpads, or Nortels early on. The Silicon Valley folks are being inundated by Silicon Valley pitches, and they might not have the luxury or time to scope out Canadian companies. If it fits your investment thesis, can you find the hidden gems that no one knows about in the area, and help support and create the tech giants of tomorrow? If so, you can reap the returns because you got in so early.”

That sentiment is echoed by Marco DeMiroz, co-founder and general partner of the Venture Reality Fund. Also based in Silicon Valley, DeMiroz has spent the past month visiting Metro Vancouver and talking with provincial government officials about the potential for investment partnerships. Currently exploring the possibility of collaborating with local venture funds or government-sponsored entities, he deems the region to be one of the world’s top VR and AR hubs.

“Collectively, VR and AR is a tremendous market opportunity, both from a hardware and software perspective,” he says. “I think the local entrepreneurs in Metro Vancouver and I would like to see more engagement from the Canadian venture capital community, just because economically and commercially, the technology has such huge potential. It’s happening, and it’s going to evolve, and investors can’t really stay out of it.”

Vancouver, British Columbia is a leading creative hub at the forefront of interactive technology (report)

Download this report here

Reserve your spot at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver here

British Columbia, Canada, is home to a creative cluster of world-class companies specializing in game development. As an international centre for console, social, and mobile game production, as well as an emerging hub for virtual reality technology, British Columbia offers highly skilled talent, a cost-competitive and convenient west coast location, and targeted incentives.

Join leading companies including Capcom Game Studio, EA (Electronic Arts), Microsoft, Sega, Eastside Games, and over 120 more studios that make up British Columbia’s creative cluster of game developers. With strong links to the U.S. west coast, Asia, and Europe, our interactive games sector is integrated with world markets and can handle the full range of development from concept through production.

If you want to locate your business in a thriving interactive technology ecosystem, or partner with innovative game developers, British Columbia is the right place to be — it’s where the creative revolution is taking off.

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES OF BRITISH COLUMBIA:

  • Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit
  • Skilled labour force
  • High quality of life
  • Strategic West Coast location
  • Low corporate and personal income taxes
  • Targeted tax incentives

$1.4B in Funding! The VR/AR Global Summit is happening in Vancouver & the Tech Industry here is to Receive $1.4B; Initial Funding Allocated to VR AR

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By Kate Wilson  (source

The funding will initially be allocated to ventures in health, natural resources, and industry. Those projects will draw on Vancouver and B.C.’s expertise in data gathering and quantum computing, and create visualizations using VR and AR.

British Columbia’s tech industry is about to get a huge injection of funding.

Today, Minister Navdeep Bains announced that the Digital Technology Supercluster, led by B.C., will receive a substantial grant from the Government of Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative.

The Innovation Supercluster Initiative is a scheme designed to create up to five superclusters—geographic areas with interconnected businesses and suppliers—around the country. Superclusters are often centres of innovation, and its members can compete more efficiently with national and global companies. The Innovation Supercluster Initiative was created to stimulate the country’s economy and ensure the growth of its chosen regions.

The Digital Technology Supercluster, B.C.’s proposal, will receive $1.4 billion over 10 years. That money will fund 100 collaborative projects, create 50,000 jobs, and inspire a projected $15 billion in GDP growth.

"It is an exciting and historic time for innovation in Canada,” says Bill Tam, co-chair of Canada's Digital Technology Supercluster consortium. “The Digital Technology Supercluster is a generational opportunity—one that holds significant promise for companies in B.C. and across Canada. Now the important work begins.”

The funding will initially be allocated to ventures in health, natural resources, and industry. Those projects will draw on Vancouver and B.C.’s expertise in data gathering and quantum computing, and create visualizations using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Three of the 100 schemes already earmarked for funding include:

• a secure, anonymous Health and Genomic Platform: this will build the systems required to allow medical specialists to create custom, leading-edge cancer treatments that are personalized to the unique genetic makeup of each patient.

• an Earth Data Store: this project will facilitate and improve data collection, sharing, and visualization in the resource sector. It will enhance how information about resource projects is shared between project proponents, Indigenous Peoples, governments, and communities.

• a Digital Learning Factory: this venture will help facilitate the development of virtual environments that enable design, rapid experimentation, and testing of cost-saving approaches to address the most significant challenges in modern manufacturing.

The cash injection will allow Metro Vancouver’s startups and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to compete globally, and expand the productivity and reach of its larger international firms.

"The Canadian Digital Technology Supercluster is a powerful example of what we can achieve together as we build a globally-recognized technology hub along the Cascadia Innovation Corridor,” says Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, in a statement. “The economic growth to be generated by the British Columbia-born consortium is a testament to how emerging technology will create new industries and jobs. Bravo to the Canadian Federal Government for making this bold investment in the future of Canada's fastest-growing tech sector.”

Amazon is adding second Vancouver office and the VR/AR Global Summit is taking place in Vancouver

Reserve your spot at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver here

Vancouver’s technology sector has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade and today stands toe-to-toe with legendary centers of innovation like Silicon Valley and Seattle. In short, we’re on the cusp of a VR/AR explosion, and Vancouver is a major player.

Amazon got Canadians excited by announcing it’s opening a second corporate office in Vancouver — and planning to double its staff headcount in the city, adding 1,000 additional jobs by 2020.  In fact, BC is Canada’s leading tech hub with the fastest growing technology sector in the country, which employs upwards of 150,000 people. This development is thanks in large part to the rise of VR and AR. So far, VR/AR enterprise has created 17,000 jobs and driven more than $2.3-billion in revenue for the province.

So, in addition to Amazon's growing presence in Vancouver, here are more reasons why come to the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver: 

Reserve your spot at the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver here

VRARA member BioInteractive Technologies joins Techstars 2018

 
 

Vancouver, BC Canada - International startup accelerator Techstars announced today that Vancouver technology company, BioInteractive Technologies (BIT), has been accepted into their preeminent international new Techstars Anywhere program, where less than 1% of applicants were accepted.

Vancouver has long been known as “Silicon Valley North”. In 2017 Vancouver started seeing a rise of accelerators taking note of the Vancouver tech industry, attending such local events like Vancouver Startup Week where BIT’s founders first met with Techstars.

BioInteractive Technologies (BIT), provides a seamless and intuitive platform for a gesture-recognition wearable called TENZR. "Ubiquitous spatial computing Spatial computing (Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality) is upon us and we need to expand beyond the hand-held controller, like mouse, keyboard, voice control and camera-tracking systems to include unconstrained gesture recognition!" Says BIT’s CEO, Lukas-Karim Merhi “We are humbled and honoured by Techstar’s acceptance and can’t wait to have access to their network of amazing founders, mentors, and investors. This will allow our company to achieve our vision to become the leading wearable in gesture recognition, and the de-facto controller of the next decade” says Merhi.

 
 

Merhi also notes that without the help of the Vancouver VRAR Association's Director Tony Bevilacqua and President Dan Burgar, who connected Merhi to Techstars, he would have missed out on the opportunity to apply to their accelerator program altogether. 

Techstars Anywhere is a relatively new program, now in its second year of operations. Historically Techstars founders were relocated to the US for their intense coveted program. However, newly formed virtual based Techstars Anywhere now brings the power of the Techstars network to the founders #Anywhere. Founders follow the proven Techstars approach to accelerate their business & #domorefaster. Techstars has made an investment in capital, time & network with biointeractivetech.com.

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BIT has been in operation since 2015 and is led by Lukas-Karim Merhi (CEO), Gautam Sadarangani (CTO) and Jose Fernandez Villasenor (COO), and currently has a team of 8. BIT has developed TENZR, an accurate, calibration-free, hands-free, camera-free, wrist-worn gesture recognition controller compatible with any Bluetooth enabled devices.

Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates four divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars Mentorship-Driven Accelerator Programs, Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships, and the Techstars Venture Capital Fund. www.techstars.com

For more information on either company, please contact:

Lukas-Karim Merhi, CEO of BioInteractive Technologies lukaskarim@biointeractivetech.com, 778-883-6443

Joanie Kindblade, Techstars Media, joanie.kindblade@techstars.com

2017: A Year in Review (Vancouver Chapter)

Where did all the time go?! 2017 was a busy year for VRARA Vancouver, as our first full one year as a chapter in Vancouver. As a chapter, we hosted 6 events in total with 60 new VRARA members.

Vancouver is making a name for developing into a global hub for VR/AR/MR – serving as a home to 130+ innovative companies in this space. We are proud of this homegrown talent, and in 2017 we created VR/AR Ecosystem Map to showcase our local ecosystem. Our first version was launched in Fall 2017, and we plan to update it every quarter – if we missed you in this version or have any suggestions, give us a shout!

 
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We kicked off the year with a sold out event, VR/MR: Beyond Gaming, which took place at the TELUS Garden Flex Space on February 23rd. Kharis O’Connell, author of Designing For Mixed Reality, led the keynote speech on practical usage of VR/MR. Immersive technology is best known to mainstream audience for its usage in gaming. We wanted to break this shell and discuss further on the possibilities of integrating virtual and mixed reality not just in business, but also in our daily lives in the near future.

 
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Read more on VR/MR: Beyond Gaming

Consumer Virtual Reality (CVR) can’t be missed when discussing immersive technology in Vancouver! CVR 2017 expanded into three whole days after it received overwhelmingly positive response in its inaugural year in 2016. Oh, and did we mention after party? VRARA Vancouver hosted the Official CVR Industry Day After party on May 5th at the Roxy. The night was filled with sips and bites, networking, Mega McGrath’s live painting auction for the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, and a performance by Alex Maher.

 
 

More than before (especially with Apple ARKit launch this year), we’ve heard business discuss more on how they are integrating immersive technology to enhance consumer engagement. We’re already seeing plenty of big players like GE, NASA, IKEA, BMW, Verizon and more getting a head start on VR/AR. Our event Branding For the Future hosted at Hootsuite HQ on September 28th was just about that. We had Alan Smithson, CEO of MetaVRse, and Mira Leung, lead in Google ARCore team, discuss how businesses can start strategizing now to get ahead of the game before the technology becomes mainstream.    

 
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Read our highlights and watch the keynote and panel discussion.

Last but not least, we wrapped up our year with Growing Innovation: Investment Opportunities for VR/AR on November 30th at BCIT Downtown Tech Hub. By 2020, VR/AR will be a $150billion industry and with Vancouver leading the charge, we wanted to start a discussion on how to venture into this rapidly developing ecosystem. We brought together VR/AR thought leader Tom Emrich from Super Ventures, along with expert panel fireside chat with notable investors and tech executives, and finish with a round of 10 lighting pitches from local VR/AR startups – something we’ve done for the first time!

 
 

A lot has happened in the VR/AR/MR industry globally in 2017. Here are some highlights from what’s happened right here in our city of Vancouver.

Vancouver’s first ever VR film festival (YVRFF) was a huge success with a sold out weekend.

 
 

Chapter President Dan Burgar represented the VR/AR tech sector with Archiact / VR AR Association at the United Nations Peacekeeping Conference.

 
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Motive.io successfully won the contract of $482,000+ through the Government of Canada to bring Canada's history to Ottawa.

 
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Microsoft President Brad Smith promoted Vancouver as a virtual reality 'supercluster.'

 
 

BC Tech launched The Cube, Canada's First Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality Hub.

 
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LNG Studios worked with Concord Pacific on their Brentwood development project and used virtual reality to showcase the new condos before any were built.

 
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VRARA Vancouver would like to thank you all for being part of our community and making all this happen in 2017! We are working on many exciting ways to bring value to our members in 2018 so stay connected through our social channels and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. If you would have any suggestions or feedback, please contact Chapter President Dan Burgar at dan@thevrara.com.

 
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Vancouver is the #1 VFX Global Cluster and a "Gold Mine" for VR AR

Reserve your spot for the VR/AR Global Summit taking place in Vancouver!

As one of the most creative cities in the world, Vancouver is home to thousands of world-leading Film, TV, VFX, Animation, and Video Game companies

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When it comes to Digital Entertainment & Interactive (DE&I), these days the buzz is all Vancouver. Why? Because the city has the perfect ecosystem for harnessing digital potential — namely a strong artistic and creative workforce, thriving research and educational support, government incentives, an enviable location and more

Vancouver is recognized for its wide talent pool, proximity to other global creative hubs, solid industry infrastructure, competitive tax credits, and ability to attract and cultivate top tier talent.

So what is DE&I anyways? It is a term used to describe one collective, impactful industry that includes various screen-based sectors such as, Visual Effects (VFX) & Animation, Film & TV Production, Video Game Development, VR and other Interactive Media who rely on similar infrastructure, talent and technology to create quality content.

Notable highlights

  • Vancouver’s DE&I industry includes close to 1,000 businesses. The industry generates more than 40,000 jobs in Vancouver, contributing billions in direct GDP to the city’s economy.
  • Vancouver is the third largest Film & TV production centre in North America.
  • Vancouver has one of the top Video Game clusters in the world — one that includes major publishers such as, Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Capcom and Nintendo.
  • Vancouver has the largest cluster of top VFX and Animation studios in the world, including Sony Pictures Imageworks,Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)MPCDouble NegativeDHX MediaAnimal Logic and Bardel Entertainment.
  • The city’s reputation as a DE&I powerhouse has made way for prestigious conferences to call Vancouver their host city. SIGGRAPH, the premiere international event on computer graphics and interactive techniques that attracts close to 15,000 attendees, held their conference here on two occasions (2011, 2014) and have confirmed they’ll be back for the 2018 edition.
  • Homegrown conferences and festivals from the DE&I sector continue to emerge and gather impressive crowds year after year. The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), SPARK FXExternal Development Summit (XDS), and Canada’s largest VR conference, Vu are a few examples of local events that attract a global audience.
  • With close proximity to Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, longstanding, stable and generous/competitive tax incentives, and a community that nurtures creativity, Vancouver makes the ideal locale for any DE&I project.

 

Competitive advantages

Being part of Vancouver’s Digital Entertainment & Interactive hub means:

Tapping into a home of creativity

Vancouver’s creative talent pool runs deep, cited by many Vancouver studios as one of the top reasons for doing business here. The city offers producers the ideal place to work: a friendly, networked community with an outstanding quality of life as well as access to homegrown and international talent.

Drawing on its educational institutions and industry know-how

Vancouver’s major post-secondary institutions are all engaged in the industry providing outstanding facilities, training and research that support the sector. An example of such a facility is the Centre for Digital Media (CDM). Jointly owned by the University of British Columbia (UBC)Simon Fraser University (SFU)British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), and Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the Centre offers a unique Master’s degree that prepares digital media professionals with advanced skills and critical management training.

Belonging to the city’s digital districts

Vancouver, renowned for its unique blend of residential, commercial, arts and cultural space, is the perfect environment for DE&I — where science, technology and art meet. Most DE&I studios and facilities are located within one of the six digital districts- Gastown, Railtown, Yaletown, Mount Pleasant, Downtown and Kitsilano . Here, cross-collaboration and strategic relationships develop through the day to day activities of the tight knit community as well as through industry association events and social gatherings.

Capitalizing on its geographic benefits

Vancouver’s ideally situated near other key industry-related locales, namely the Los Angeles entertainment industry, the tech centres of Seattle and San Francisco, with strong markets for services in Asia.

Beyond these benefits, there’s also the live/work/play effect. Being able to do all three in Vancouver’s vibrant digital districts lends itself to a happier, more creative and more productive workforce. Less commute time means more time for work — and recreation to the city’s mountains, ocean, green space, fitness centres, yoga and more. It’s something we like to call the Vancouver lifestyle benefit.

Industry Snapshot

  • Vancouver’s DE&I industry includes close to 1,000 businesses.
  • Vancouver is the third largest Film & TV production centre in North America.

  • Vancouver has the largest cluster of the world’s top VFX and Animation studios

  • Vancouver has one of the top Video Game clusters in the world

  • The DE&I industry generates more than 40,000 jobs in Vancouver, contributing billions in direct GDP to the city’s economy

Competitive Advantages

  • Deep, highly creative, talent pool from Canada and overseas

  • Close proximity to Los Angeles and Silicon Valley

  • Longstanding, stable and highly competitive tax incentives

  • A stimulating and beautiful natural environment that inspires creativity

Research

Source

Why Metro Vancouver has Become a World Leader in Virtual and Augmented Reality

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As resident genius, gadgeteer, and early leader of superhero collective the Avengers, Tony Stark—or Iron Man, to his adversaries—is one of Marvel’s most powerful creations. Portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in several big-budget Hollywood adaptations, the character has a rough-around-the-edges charm that pushes his team to conquer everything from nomadic warlords to open wormholes.

Despite Downey’s effortless charisma, though, it’s not Stark who captures audiences. It’s his suit.

The key to his armour is the helmet. The full-head protector allows Stark to look at his surroundings while it projects important information into his field of vision. Digital graphics let him view his suit’s condition, aim weapons, operate radar, and place himself on a map, all while transparently seeing the real-world around him.

To those acquainted with the rise of virtual and augmented reality—VR and AR—it’s a familiar idea. Stark’s headgear is a sophisticated augmented reality headset.

According to Bill Tam—former president of the B.C. Tech Association, a nonprofit that promotes the interests of the technology industry to provincial lawmakers—Iron Man’s visor, or at least glasses like it, will become commonplace in years to come.

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“I’ve always been a big fan of Tony Stark, just in terms of the way that Marvel portrays how he manipulates information as Iron Man,” he tells the Straight with a laugh, on the line from his Vancouver office. “It seems very futuristic, but we’re already getting there. Augmented reality in particular, for me, is a powerful tool, because you don’t lose perspective on what’s going on in the world. Ultimately, we should be able to see information hanging in space, not just on two-dimensional screens. What excites me about it is how fast it’s developing.”

Even three years ago, virtual reality (a technology that displays an immersive, computer-generated world through a headset) and augmented reality (a medium that enhances the real world with digital graphics) were both very rudimentary concepts. Save for a brief appearance in the ’90s as cumbersome arcade games with choppy animations, VR was a kooky fantasy that belonged to futuristic flicks like The Lawnmower Man, and AR was as outlandish as flying cars or hoverboards.

The past few years, however, have spurred a renewed interest in the technology. Augmented reality was first to break into the mainstream with the ill-fated Google Glass: the slightly-too-large spectacles banned from casinos and movie theatres for their capability to record video surreptitiously. Next came Snapchat filters—a part of the app that lets individuals overlay graphics and distort their faces on their phones—and Pokémon GO, a game in which cartoon characters pop up on phone screens as players point their cameras at real-world locations. Now AR is intelligent enough that, by wearing a wireless headset, users can lock a three-dimensional hologram in space, and manipulate it by moving their fingers in the air.

Virtual reality was not far behind. Google Cardboard was released in 2014, which encouraged early adopters to put their phone in a small box and watch 3-D videos. Samsung’s Gear VR added controllers to the setup, but the biggest advances came two years later. Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony PlayStation VR all launched computer- or console-based headsets capable of tracking a person’s movement in minute detail with mounted cameras. That technology created immersive and responsive worlds that are terrifyingly realistic.

With the technology a pipe dream no more, studies project that the virtual and augmented reality industry will be worth anything from $79 to $215 billion by 2021. More than any other Canadian region, Metro Vancouver is set to profit from that success.

“We definitely have a VR and AR hub here,” says Tam. “It’s still a very nascent technology, but we have unprecedented skills that have meant that we’ve really captured more than our fair share of the market already.

“We’ve asked ourselves some key questions over the past few years,” he continues. “What are some of the attributes that differentiate Vancouver and British Columbia from every other jurisdiction on the planet? Why have VR and AR caught fire here? The answer is that we have considerable expertise in combining creativity and technology.”

Metro Vancouver’s media-arts sector has been gathering momentum for more than 40 years. In 1977, the B.C. government established a film development office to promote the province to the Hollywood community. Now known colloquially as Hollywood North, the region is home to some of the largest special-effects stages in North America, and is recognized as a world leader in 3-D animation and visual effects. Interactive entertainment, too, is a big draw for international talent. Companies like gaming giant Electronic Arts—which created its EA Canada wing just outside of Vancouver in 1991—houses the world’s largest videogame test operation, and more than 100 independent gaming studios call the Lower Mainland home.

That creative foundation might be a great resource, but it’s a more esoteric aspect of Metro Vancouver’s history that makes its VR and AR industry versatile. Stacked with companies like Crystal Decisions—now a part of SAP—and branches of Microsoft and Amazon focused on data analytics, the Lower Mainland has an aptitude for record-keeping that offers a goldmine of information for up-and-coming businesses. Virtual and augmented reality can bring those files to life.

“British Columbia has always been very strong at collecting data—particularly industrial data,” Tam says. “We have a plethora of information that is tied to natural resources. There’s everything from satellite imaging to radar information to sensors that are gathering information from the Internet of Things. On top of that, there’s all the health data we have amassed—the MRI images, the CAT scans, and everything like it—over 30 years.

“There’s a treasure trove of data in the province, and what VR and AR helps to do is to turn it into useful information that can be accessed easily,” he continues. “As humans, we are naturally visual beings. These data sets are so voluminous they are currently almost impossible to navigate, and we need visualization to be able to understand them. VR and AR does that in unprecedented manners.”

The ways that local companies have reimagined that material is staggering. In 2016, for instance, Port Coquitlam studio Finger Food Studios developed a program for vehicle manufacturers to create trucks in augmented reality. Using the Microsoft HoloLens—an AR headset that was developed at the tech giant’s Vancouver office—the software lets users add, resize, and change parts of the 3-D model simply by moving their fingers in front of the glasses. Previously, vehicle design involved cutting a life-size model out of clay: a process which took six months. Finger Food’s technology slashes that time to three days.

Medical applications, too, are a big part of Metro Vancouver’s VR and AR expertise. Among other projects, UBC researchers last August unveiled the results of their partnership with the Microsoft Garage on the Holographic Brain Project. The app visualizes a human brain as a semi-transparent, 3-D object that floats in the air. Groups of viewers are able to see the hologram at the same time through their HoloLens headsets, and the technology allows students and doctors to walk around the brain, open up the structure with their fingers, and make notes on the MRI scans inside as a teaching tool.

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The innovation bubbling across Metro Vancouver spurred Tam to act. Recognizing the wealth of potential offered by the Lower Mainland’s companies, the then B.C. Tech president spearheaded a push toward setting up an incubator for the region’s VR and AR businesses. It would be a place to nurture early-stage companies, and allow them access to the partnership-ready Cascadia Innovation Corridor: the swath of land that connects Metro Vancouver to goliaths Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle. The workspace was dubbed the Cube.

“B.C. Tech has always been committed to making our province the best place to grow a technology business,” he says. “We’ve supported developing companies for many years by providing acceleration, mentorship, and a whole range of services to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources and coaching to help them to succeed. The Cube in many respects was an extension of that, but hyperfocused on augmented and virtual reality.”

Opened in October 2017 by dignitaries including minister of innovation, science and economic development Navdeep Bains, B.C. minister of jobs, trade and technology Bruce Ralston, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, and director of Microsoft Vancouver Edoardo De Martin, the Cube was created so that startups can share new developments. Offering workshops and training from local education hubs such as BCIT, as well as speaker sessions on topics like how to raise capital, the Railtown workplace proved a breakout success. Within months, it had run out of desk space.

“I think the Cube tapped into a vein of passion for many,” Tam says. “It’s a place where people can experiment with development techniques, and help each other along the way. We have the benefit of being a small enough city to have a tight-knit, community feel, almost like a village, and yet be able to together create an industry that can compete on a world stage. It’s important for us to nurture that.”

The power of partnerships

In Tam’s view, Metro Vancouver’s strength in VR and AR is based on collaboration. While other tech sectors are notoriously aggressive and cutthroat, the Lower Mainland’s virtual- and augmented-reality ecosystem thrives on cross-pollination. Developments in the trade come fast, and homegrown businesses are constantly adapting to everything from new hardware releases to breakthroughs in 3-D coding. Understanding that Metro Vancouver’s ranking as a world leader is dependent on multiple companies succeeding, the local industry embraces cooperation.

But while Tam focuses on promoting collaboration within the region, industry thought leader Dan Burgar stretches that concept further. As president of the Vancouver chapter of the VR/AR Association—a worldwide organization that links companies working in virtual and augmented reality—Burgar believes that the Lower Mainland’s success comes from its ability to connect across international borders, and to network with companies outside of the tech sector. In both areas, the district is excelling.

“Vancouver is the model chapter of the VR/AR Association,” he tells the Straight on the line from his office, pointing out that his outlet includes members from across the Lower Mainland. “There are branches in countries as far-flung as New Zealand, Russia, and the UAE, but with our talent pool from the visual-effects and gaming sector, we’re the fastest growing division in the whole organization.

“Five years ago, VR and AR was nonexistent in the Lower Mainland,” he continues. “Even in 2015, there were probably just a handful of companies, maybe 10 to 15, working in the space. Now we have upward of 150. We’ve gained a lot of ideas from talking to other international chapters. Our proximity to San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland has been a driver for a lot of business-to-business enterprise development, and it’s only going to get bigger from here. I think 2018 is the year when Vancouver really spreads its wings.”

Growth in Vancouver’s division of the VR/AR Association is exploding partly because of Burgar’s vision. As well as welcoming VR and AR companies, the president reaches out to organizations that are set to be disrupted by the technology. Connecting with industries from fashion to fitness—both of which are being transformed by VR and AR apps—Vancouver’s chapter helps firms plan for the upcoming restructuring on their own terms. By linking local virtual- and augmented-reality companies with clients in their own region, business is booming.

But despite his efforts, many industries have yet to realize how VR and AR will transform their business models. Pitches and discussions can only go so far in describing the technology, and convincing companies to invest with just a portfolio of screenshots is no mean feat. To realize his goal of mainstream acceptance for virtual and augmented reality, Burgar believes it’s vital to put more executives in headsets.

“It can be really difficult to understand what the technology is without experiencing it yourself,” he says. “That was definitely the case for me. I was at a tech conference in Barcelona with a company I was working at. I saw that a booth actually had one of those strange VR headsets. I put it on, and it was this weird cooking and cleaning app. Suddenly it transformed this seemingly mundane task into something really fun, and I was completely immersed in this virtual world. As soon as I saw the technology, I knew it would change everything.”

With its strong connections between VR and AR developers and professionals in different sectors, Metro Vancouver has carved a niche in the business-to-business space. Advancements in firefighting techniques, architectural design, and visualizing oil pipelines are a few of the many ideas currently in development by local companies. Burgar believes that finding solutions with the potential to transform industries, like those demonstrated by Lower Mainland outfits, will drive VR and AR adoption by businesses around the globe.

“Imagine being in a foreign land where you don’t know the language,” he says. “It’s super tough to get around. Now imagine having AR glasses that can automatically translate all the words that you see. Or picture walking down the street, and having flashing arrows on the road showing you which direction to go. That’s becoming a reality. On the VR side, already companies like Walmart are using virtual reality to train their workers at home. Surgeons are operating on bodies in virtual theatres to give them the muscle memory to make incisions on real patients.

“We’re going to see a huge drive in education, training, and use by different industries,” he continues. “VR and AR are going to totally change the way we communicate in the next three or so years. We think that for the next one to three years, enterprise is going to drive the technology. As the prices drop, we’ll see consumer adoption follow. Vancouver is a leader in creating those solutions.”

Expertise in the business-to-business field

One of the industries where Metro Vancouver’s VR and AR companies are already excelling is the mining sector. A trade that relies on collecting data from huge archives—an area where the region shines—mining has already seen many multimillion-dollar firms use the technology to streamline their planning processes. By allowing those businesses to examine huge amounts of information visually, local companies like LlamaZOO and Finger Food offer the tools to simplify designing new mines.

Currently, much of the information used to draw up mine plans exists in different formats. Complex and unwieldy, the data is tough to read, particularly for upper-level executives and government officials who are often not trained to interpret files like technical CAD drawings or maps. In order to secure their permits, mine developers must lease the land from local authorities, and the challenge of understanding the information holds up an already slow process. Typically, it can take up to four years to get a site approved.

LlamaZOO, a leading VR and AR company with offices in both Vancouver and Victoria, has created software that can shave six months off that time.

“We have a program called MineLife VR,” Kevin Oke, cofounder and VP of sales for the company, tells the Straight in a downtown coffee shop. “It lets people visit a mine site in virtual reality. You can look at the area at its life size, and zoom in and out. You can easily compare historical, current, and future data for the site, including the locations of pits, drill holes, ore bodies, and infrastructure. The way that we’ve combined big 3-D data sets and geospatial information is really engaging and easy to access.

“Instead of physically flying people up to a site—which is terrible for a company’s carbon footprint, has major safety risks attached to it, involves big insurance costs, and needs careful scheduling—you just need to put on a VR headset,” he continues. “You can determine things like where you want the pit, what angle to position a ramp, and how wide to make a bench. We’ve got a collaboration feature, so you might be in Peru at the mine, and I might be in the Vancouver office, and we would virtually both be together at the site, at its one-to-one scale, totally immersed in it. By putting all the data in one place, and not having to send people to a physical location, you can save a lot of time and money.”

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Oke created LlamaZOO with his business partner Charles Lavigne three-and-a-half years ago. Like many other founders of VR and AR companies, both came from the Lower Mainland’s thriving videogame industry, but wanted to work on something different. The pair saw how virtual reality was gathering momentum. Headsets were starting to be released, more capital was funnelling in from investors, and digital training was being prioritized by employers. It was, in Oke’s words, a perfect storm.

“Years ago, I wouldn’t have been interested in the enterprise side,” he says. “Your tastes change over time, though. Games are driven by popularity. You either have a hit or you don’t, and on platforms like mobile it very much depends on how much you spend on marketing. When you make a game, you can’t say it’s able to solve a problem or save somebody money, because it’s like candy. We didn’t want to make candy anymore. We wanted to make painkillers.”

Metro Vancouver is a fitting home for a company focused on natural resources. Gold, lead, zinc, silver, copper, and coal are all abundant in British Columbia, and the province has boasted a thriving mining industry since mid-1800s. For Oke, it was important to work with the region’s existing expertise.

“The first product LlamaZOO put out was software for training veterinary students,” he says. “The idea was always to branch out from there. When we started looking for what our next development was going to be, we turned to what’s in our back yard. We have really big data sets for the mining industry that have been gathered locally. Vancouver was a natural-resources town before it became a tech town, and that’s one of the cool things about what we’re doing—we’re merging the traditional B.C. economy with the new economy.”

A user views options to visit a mine site in virtual reality

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LlamaZOO’s reach has extended far beyond the province, however. Currently working with some of the largest mining corporations internationally, the company is looking to break into markets across the globe. In Oke’s view, those opportunities would have been impossible without B.C.’s generous funding and grant initiatives for VR and AR companies.

In 2010, the province introduced the interactive digital media tax credit (IDMTC), a scheme that now hands back 17.5 percent of salaries and wages to virtual- and augmented-reality businesses. Six years later, it invested $100 million in venture capital for local tech companies. The federal government, too, provides aid to startups, offering to subsidize a portion of an organization’s costs under the industrial research assistance program (IRAP), and also pledges a sizable scientific research and experimental development (SR&ED) federal tax credit. That assistance has been instrumental in securing the Lower Mainland’s status as a VR and AR leader.  

“Those schemes have been hugely helpful for us,” Oke says. “We need it to compete with the U.S. We don’t have as much venture capital as they do. We’re smaller in Canada, and there’s less money going around because the Canadian mindset is to be more conservative. The tax credits and funding doesn’t level the playing field totally, but it’s absolutely critical for us to compete. It makes B.C. a great place to start a company.”

The speed at which local VR and AR businesses are growing, though, comes at a price. One of the biggest problems facing the industry is finding local talent to meet the increasing demand. Although the B.C. government is funneling huge resources into leading tech and design programs for students at Vancouver institutions like UBC, BCIT, and Emily Carr University of Art and Design, virtual- and augmented-reality projects require specialized knowledge that is still in short supply.

Attracting global workers has since become a priority for Lower Mainland startups. Unsurprisingly, it’s an area in which Metro Vancouver excels. Regularly ranked as one of the top locations in the world to live, and with easy access to beaches, hiking, and snowsports, the region is a draw for many would-be employees. The high cost of living is offset by tech-sector workers typically making around 85 percent more than the average B.C. salary, and at a moment when the U.S. is tightening its borders, Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker program makes it easy for local VR and AR companies to hire internationally. As a result, companies like LlamaZOO scoop up top global talent.

“We’ve had employees from many different places,” Oke says with a laugh. “We have a really international team. Currently, our office has people from the U.K., Mexico, and Kenya. In the past, we’ve had individuals from Brazil, Bangladesh—all over. We make a point of taking the best people, no matter where they’re from.”

Building the future with top international talent

That's a strategy also employed by one of Metro Vancouver’s most well-known VR and AR companies, the multichannel business Archiact.

Growing from five employees working in a basement to a team of over 100 in a glittering downtown high-rise, the organization achieved its success by imagining many different ways to apply virtual and augmented reality. Producing everything from business-to-business applications to high-end games, Archiact’s work spans many platforms, and offers developers the chance to work in both VR and AR—often switching between the two in the same day. It was that fast-paced innovation that drew senior producer Ed Lago to the company.

“I worked in South America over the past 10 years on a range of different platforms—mobile, console, and others,” he tells the Straight by phone from Archiact’s office. “In the last few years before I came to Vancouver, I was working for Samsung in Brazil, doing games for AR and VR. One of them became a launch title for AR and VR for consumers in 2015. Some of the producers from Archiact found my work. We started a conversation around that time, and then they invited me to move here.

“Virtual and augmented reality are on another level in this city,” he continues. “In Brazil, we don’t have very much government help. It’s pretty much just a small group of people trying to survive. Here, there are a lot of different developers doing a lot of different things. It’s like another dimension.”

Top hardware designers such as HTC, Oculus, and Samsung are repeatedly looking to Metro Vancouver companies to create software for their platforms. Archiact is one of their first calls. The tech giants have consistently tapped the local company to create games and business programs to run on their gear, and to develop flagship apps for yet-to-be released headsets. Lago is at the head of one of those projects.

“We developed a game for Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Daydream called Hidden Fortune,” he says. “It’s a little bit like Harry Potter in a way, because you have to use your magic wand to solve puzzles and quests. It was a really successful title, and we achieved some great numbers.

“I was showing the game in September, and I was called to a meeting with the HTC team in San Francisco,” he continues. “They really liked it, and asked if we wanted to make a demo for their upcoming headset. That’s when the opportunity came to make something for the HTC Vive Focus. We were one of the first developers to see it.”

Currently, the top VR headsets are tethered to computers or consoles with wires. While users can experience free movement by carrying a PC in a backpack, it can still be cumbersome to transport the gear. The HTC Vive Focus is a stand-alone headset that carries all the computing power inside the hardware. Because it’s self-contained, users don’t need to add a smartphone or mainframe. That freedom allows wearers to walk, jump, and crawl around a large space, and opens up exciting possibilities for the future of VR.

“The first thing we did when we started developing the new Hidden Fortune was to put it on the Vive Focus headset, and start walking,” Lago says. “We walked the entire length of the studio, and it was amazing—we could just walk forever in the game. As well as that movement, we’ve made it so you need to crouch or reach over objects with the controllers to achieve your objectives. It’s an almost entirely new design, and we’ve had to change the name to Hidden Fortune: Unexplored to reflect that.”

A still from Hidden Fortune: Unexplored

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The golden age of videogame development in Metro Vancouver began in the early ’90s. Local studio Distinctive Software was bought out by Electronic Arts, and the new company started producing blockbuster-budget AAA titles in the region, including the NHL, NBA, and FIFA franchises, along with snowboarding favourite SSX and shooter Medal of Honor: Heroes 2. Around the same time, a number of independent studios sprang up in the Lower Mainland. Companies like Next Level Games and Smoking Gun Interactive have moved into securing publishing deals, and many studios have successfully pivoted to mobile—a sector that generates much of the local industry’s multimillion-dollar annual revenue.

The emergence of VR and AR opened new doors to developers. Early adopters like SkyBox Labs—a company involved in translating the game Minecraft into virtual reality—and Fire-Point Interactive, who last month released their flagship title Tooth and Claw, were some of the first to work in the new medium. In all, the Lower Mainland currently boasts more than 30 companies creating games with the technology.

Given the region’s history of releasing award-winning titles, Lago is proud that a local company has been selected to create the next step in gaming technology. 

“The HTC Vive Focus launched in China for the first time last week,” Lago says. “I can tell you that Hidden Fortune: Unexplored will be a flagship app. It’s one of the games—one of only 20, we think—to be released together with the headset. That’s a big deal for Archiact.

“I feel very lucky to be here in Vancouver working on VR and AR technology,” he continues. “There are a lot of reasons that make it such a good place to be. There are many VR developers here, and the companies who are putting themselves out there and being the most social are those who are successful. As well, the government is really supportive.

"Most of all, though," he concludes, "it’s just a really exciting place to create.”

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Reserve your spot for the VR/AR Global Summit taking place in Vancouver

Why 2018 is going to be the year of VR/AR in Vancouver

DailyHive Vancouver Article - By Vancouver Chapter President Dan Burgar

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Vancouver’s technology sector has grown leaps and bounds over the past decade and today stands toe-to-toe with legendary centres of innovation like Silicon Valley and Seattle. In short, we’re on the cusp of a VR/AR explosion, and Vancouver is a major player.

In fact, BC is Canada’s leading tech hub with the fastest growing technology sector in the country, which employs upwards of 150,000 people.

This development is thanks in large part to the rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). So far, VR/AR enterprise has created 17,000 jobs and driven more than $2.3-billion in revenue for the province.

And the industry is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

An influx of corporate investment, international attention, and a focus on education promise to make 2018 the most exciting year yet for VR/AR in Vancouver.

Read the full article here

What the hell is VR/AR and why should I care? Daily Hive article by VRARA Vancouver President Dan Burgar

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Original article posted on Daily Hive

Imagine receiving information about the world around you just by looking at it.

You walk by a restaurant and browse the menu without stepping inside, try on a sweater without going into the store, or follow directions to a new destination without having to look at your phone.

Now let’s take it one step further.

Imagine walking through your new apartment before it has even been built, exploring a foreign city without leaving your living room, or practicing open heart surgery without the risk of endangering someone’s life.

Sound crazy? This is the future that VR/AR technology promises and it’s not that far away.

In fact, a lot of it is happening right now.

By the end of 2017, roughly $1.6 billion USD will have been invested into the advancement of VR and AR technology.

And Vancouver is playing no small role in this development. Our city has become a top tech hub with upwards of 130 VR/AR companies exploring everything from gaming and filmmaking to architecture and enterprise solutions.

Read the full article here