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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.


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

DailyHive Vancouver Article - By Vancouver Chapter President Dan Burgar


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

VR/AR Association Releases Vancouver Ecosystem Infographic: 130+ VR/AR Companies and Growing


130+ Companies and Growing!

(Thursday Sept 21, 2017) - Vancouver is a city in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, renowned around the world for its majestic mountains, pristine waters and stunning beaches. Recently, Vancouver’s also been making a name for itself for another reason. The city has become a global hub for VR/AR/MR and is home to 130+ innovative companies. in the space. These companies are solving problems, creating immersive storytelling experiences, educating and building the next wave of computing. 

A 40-plus-year legacy in film & television production. More than 30 years of cutting-edge VFX & animation. World-class games & mobile entertainment cluster over two decades in the making, a strong tech scene and one of the top startup cities in the world.

Click here to read the full report

CognitiveVR Member Spotlight: Analytics, Enterprise & Building a Company in VR/AR

We spoke to CEO Tony Bevilacqua of CognitiveVR one of Vancouver's hottest VR/AR companies. This year they we're selected to the Vive X Accelerator and the Verizon Media Tech Venture Studio programs and they hope to continue on this path. 


Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what does your company cognitiveVR do?

I’m Tony Bevilacqua, Founder & CEO of cognitiveVR, a Vancouver-based VR/AR/MR startup. cognitiveVR builds analytics for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality platforms. Our products help companies understand how users interact with their immersive experiences.

We have customers in a multitude of verticals, including aerospace, retail, real estate, entertainment, and automotive manufacturing. All of these customers have existing VR/AR/MR experiences which they wish to gain more insight from, and we help them do exactly that.

As a second time founder, what led you to break into VR technology and finding cognitiveVR?

My last startup was focused on Enterprise Software, with some products in the analytics space. We were selling solutions to game developers and publishers, which led me to events like Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and Game Development Conference (GDC), where I had the opportunity to try a lot of early prototypes in virtual reality.

When my company exited in late 2015, I had the VR bug, and wanted to apply my knowledge in enterprise software and analytics to this new platform - something that I felt was fundamentally different with greenfield problems. We are not just another marketing SaaS at cognitiveVR - we are innovating in spatial and 3D analytics. 


What was your main interest in moving into VR/AR?

The dawn of immersive technology presents an opportunity seen every few decades - the opportunity to be at the forefront of a new wave of technology. Beyond the hype however, we saw the immense power that VR/AR has to help companies build better products through rigorous user testing and analysis. We knew we could help them automate that – so we moved quickly to build our first products.

What has been your most interesting project/work so far?

The first challenge we faced was in trying to correlate data with the 3d context of a given scene. Graphs and charts were simply not enough. After a multitude of experiments, and a few company hackathons, we built a system that allowed us to replicate the 3d geometry (and therefore context) of a scene on our dashboard. We then built 3d data visualization technology as overlays on top of this 3d geometry. It was a totally new concept - and one that sits at the core of our platform.


How do you think analytics in VR/AR will play a role once we see the mass adoption?

Immersive technologies bring users more intimately together with technology - which means even slight differences in each human will have drastic effects on their user experience. The need for 3d analysis tools like ours will increase dramatically.

For those making public facing applications, their developers will need to test their products across many different individuals. Many will opt to ensure equal experiences across a heterogenous pool of users, at which point analysis tools like our will be vital.

On the other hand, many will be testing for compliance rather than insights in their VR/AR experiences. Experiences that look for users to complete tasks - such as enterprise training or simulation experiences - can by analyzed to find outlier user sessions, and intervene when their users are not complying with the intended purpose.

What has been the biggest eye opener being in the industry?

Despite the availability of powerful tools, game/content engines, and 3d development experience, everyone is still trying to figure out what works best for users. Many expected a rocket ship trajectory in year 1, but the truth is that both the technology and the content are still being experimented with.

Nonetheless, the biggest surprise many will find is that VR & AR are currently being used heavily by enterprises in many different markets. Some larger fortune 500 companies have as many as 100 different ongoing VR or AR projects going on at once.

What do you think will change about VR/AR/immersive technology in the next five years?

Immersive tech will start taking over the smartphone and PC. Apple, MagicLeap, Microsoft, and Google will all have launched some form of mixed reality glasses. One will be a clear winner, with many variants in between similar to the Android ecosystem.

Virtual reality will be closer to solving the locomotion issue, and haptic feedback as well as eye tracking will be standard across new headsets. VR will start to become the standard entertainment system, and slowly encroach upon traditional console sales.


You've had some wins this past year, including being 1 of 2 Canadian companies to be selected to Verizon Ventures Media Tech Venture Studio and being selected to HTC Vive X Accelerator program, how do you attribute your success? How can others in the industry follow suit?

We took a steady approach to our product, and kept our burn rate relatively low. Our initial product was built with mass adoption in mind, but when that didn’t happen we were able to move towards enterprise sales very quickly and without the interference of outside pressure.

Soon after we moved towards an enterprise focus, we found that there was tremendous activity behind the scenes at larger companies. We were able to connect with various innovation teams working on new immersive tech ventures within those firms. Our new traction, coupled with strong product and low burn rate, drew the attention of ViveX and Verizon.

Others who wish to follow suit should strip away many of their hype-driven assumptions about this new market. We spent a lot of time listening to our initial customers, and trying to figure out if what we were building was valuable. Whenever we felt like we were going nowhere, we reevaluated what value we were bringing to our customers, and took many small pivots to find our fit.

As a Board Director at VRARA Vancouver, how do you contribute to the local and global VR/AR/MR scene?

First and foremost, my role at cognitiveVR has me traveling globally to customers, partners, and industry events. Part of my role as a board director is evangelizing Vancouver as an ideal ecosystem for virtual, augmented and mixed reality companies and startups. 

I take a personal interest in spreading the message of Vancouver leadership in this industry, and communicating our advantages of talent, institutional and governmental support, and geographic advantages being of on the west coast. 

What are your thoughts on Vancouver as a global hub for VR/AR and how do we ensure this continues to grow? 

Vancouver has the perfect storm of talent to be a leader in VR/AR: game developers, 3D artists, and technical talent. To keep up the growth in the region we need to build great companies as cornerstones of the ecosystem. Companies like Archiact, Finger Food Studios and organizations like the VRARA are what prove the industry works – work must continue on building great organizations and companies.

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What do you see as the biggest benefit VRARA members receive by being part of the association, and why is it so important?

For me VRARA is about global connectivity. We host a number of regional events and evangalize each other in our local market, but ultimately VRARA gives you access to events, opportunities and connections with chapters all over the world. If I am traveling to a new city, I always email the Chapter President ahead of time, and see if there is some synergies or meetings we might be able to setup while in town.

Everyone will find their own value in joining the VRARA - but we have successfully created the world leading organizational body for representing this industry, and we are proud to be apart of it. 

What do you wish other people knew about VRARA?

VRARA is a global network of like minded companies and individuals, all pushing towards the growth of this industry. There is a lot of passion and talent in each chapter, and you’ll find that passion recognized in all levels of the organization, and the organizations reputation within the industry. 

What does the next year hold for you/CognitiveVR? 

The next 12 months for us is all about commercialization and building up our technology and business development teams. We are excited to see how the hardware and consumer markets unfold - but while we wait, we will be heads down on helping enterprises leverage VR/AR/MR as a useful tool in solving their toughest business challenges. 

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We'd like to thank Tony for answering our questions, check CognitiveVR out here:





Transforming Digital & Marketing Agencies with VR and AR | Q&A Series #3 featuring Pound&Grain

This is the third feature in the series showcasing Vancouver digital and marketing agencies (non-traditional VR/AR companies) 

Our own Laura Ryu (Marketing and Communications Manager at VRARA Vancouver) sat down with Michelle Knight of Pound&Grain based in Vancouver. They've worked with a number of clients on their interactive digital and brand strategy including SAP, Arc'Teryx and Lululemon.

Tell us about your agency & what you've been working on.

At Pound & Grain we work hard to add value to the brand by creating something useful for the user. We found creating a VR experience is an all-round win. It’s a tool with immersive qualities that are unparalleled. We’ve used VR as a demo tool for SAP and to show off CFL’s new Adidas gear. We also love the odd passion project.

Tell us about a VR or AR campaign that you've enjoyed or were inspired by.

We are huge horror fans (sisters), but when it comes to VR storytelling we first fell in love with loVR. Who knew a data led love story could be so beautiful? It was the game changer for us, or as some would say our ‘Jesus moment.’ That being said, cowzVR is a pretty fun and an incredibly random experience.

We are starting to see competition build up in advertising, especially with big players such as Saatchi & Saatchi building on-site VR labs. What are your thoughts on competition and what do you think will set apart the strong agencies from the rest?

We’re in such an exciting time right now! For us, a VR experience should only be created if it makes sense for our client and the concept is VR first. Today, like any new platform, there are gimmicky experiences that don’t add as much value. The difference between the ‘strong’ and the ‘weak’ VR agencies will come down to content and of course context.

How do you think the structure of agencies and its landscape will change in the next 5 years given anticipated rapid growth in VR/AR technology?

There will be an AR team and a VR team and the two technologies will exist independently of each other, with the odd overlap during integrated campaigns. It will also become a more specialized and integrated role throughout the agency at a deeper level. We hope AR will become a tool people rely on to get from A-B, to cook, to shop etc. While VR will allow the user to escape into a new role – hopefully interacting at a greater level with the possible addition of haptic responses and more attention to sound.

What is currently your biggest challenge (or as the industry) in regards to integrating VR/AR?

Getting headsets onto faces is still a pill the smaller brands are battling to swallow.

We know that VR/AR will be disruptive in many different industries, how will this affect your company and clients?

VR will allow us to share our client’s emotional and intellectual being in a space of presence. AR will allow us to communicate and create ways that make brands more useful and integrate them into everyday life.

Why is it important for agencies to be onboard now and join the VR/AR Association?

VR is the coming together of many, many skills and mindsets. And we are all in a learning stage, we want to harness all failures and celebrate all successes together. This combined knowledge will allow us all to experiment and learn at a much greater pace.

What benefits do you see in being a member?

Collaboration and insight. We are part of two committees with professionals that are open to share and learn from each other. Being part of the VRARA means being part of an inclusive group of professionals playing with one of the most powerful storytelling tools that’s ever existed.


We'd like to thank Michelle Knight from Pound&Grain, please visit them at www.poundandgrain.com

Join the VRARA Marketing Committee and others, here