vancouver

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

173127_max.jpg

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.”

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.

                                                            #############

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!

 
VRAR Ecosystem.png
 

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.

 
VRAR Conference.png
VRAR User.png
 

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.    

 
VRARA header.png
 

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.

 
Trudeau.png
Trudeau 1.png
 

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

 
AR.png
 

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.

 
BC Tech.png
 

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

 
VRAR Headset.png
 

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.

 
VRAR Team.png
 

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

DailyHive Vancouver Article - By Vancouver Chapter President Dan Burgar

20170223-0R1A0610.jpg

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

Microsoft Hololens, Source - Microsoft Canada.jpg

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

Highlights from VRARA Vancouver Branding for the Future (Sept Event)

VRAR-201725959.jpg
IMG_20170928_182913_043.jpg

VRARA Vancouver's biggest chapter event to date, Branding For The Future, took place September 26th at Hootsuite HQ. We had a full house sell out of attendees for an informative night discussing how immersive technology will disrupt the ways brands, companies, and retailers connect with consumers. 

The night started with two keynote speeches to explore how Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have already begun to change storytelling to consumers, and how immersive technology will continue to shape and enhance brand experiences. 

First speaker was Alan Smithson, CEO of MetaVRse. On his talk "VR/AR for Business 101", he said traditional human communication mediums, such as TV, Radio, Internet, Mobile will not be going away anytime soon with the introduction of VR/AR. Simply put, augmented reality is going to be the next medium. He shared several examples of use case of AR in consumer engagement, including IKEA Place app. Alan spoke about how AR Kit was released 3 months ago, but IKEA managed to get their entire catalogue out because they started working on the product two years ago.

He urges businesses to "start now, because in a couple of years when [AR] is a commonplace and all of the big brands and your competitors have started this, you don't want to be left behind when this takes off as a communication medium."

VRAR-201725923.jpg
DK2u4kpU8AAUeGBd.jpg

The night was followed by second speaker, Mira Leung who is lead in ARCore at Google on "Engaging Audiences in VR/AR". She educated the audience on the technical foundation of immersive technology, and discussed engagement and visualization with AR. She says "the question will not be if but how and when VR/AR will be a significant portion of business process and customer experiences." She ended her speech on an encouraging note that what's next for VR/AR will rely on those in the audiences. Mira asked them to show the VR/AR industry what's possible, show what experiences and interactions they can create using their creativity and storytelling in combination with the technology.

Fireside chat was moderated by Nikolas Badminton, world-reknowned futurist speaker, author and researcher. The panelists were composed of industry thought leaders, including Chris Bedyk from Perspective Films, Daniel Japiassu from YDREAMS Global, and Graham Cunliffe from Finger Food, as well as the two speakers, Alan Smithson and Mira Leung. The fireside chat was a discussion about several topics. One of which was on quality of AR that is available today. Because the technology in its infancy, costs of delivering high quality VR/AR experiences is high. However the value and experience a consumer could get is often greater than having a high definition experience, especially if it is an experience that is unaccessible, such as BC Lions' dressing room.

DK2suNfVwAAmPZZ.jpg

After the speaker and fireside chat, attendees enjoyed themselves to refreshments and delicious selection of food, sponsored by Foodee, to enjoy while networking. There were also a handful of innovative companies showcasing their technology, such as Blueprint Reality, Questupon, Perspective Films, BioInteractive Technologies, cognitiveVRradical.io, and LlamaZOO

Here's the event recap video by NovusTV:

 
 

Here are the full speaker talks:

 
 

We would like to thank everyone that attended our event. Special thanks to our amazing speakers, as well as sponsors who made this happen: Hootsuite, Tradable Bits, Voyer Law Corporation, Vancouver Startup Week, LNG Studios, BC Lions, Unbounce, Futurist Nikolas Badminton, Cambridge International House, Entax, Foodee, and

Written by Laura Ryu, Marketing and Communications Manager VRARA Vancouver

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

 
infograph_12.png
 

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. 

tony.png

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. 

rob_at_telus.jpg

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.

train_passenger.gif

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.

dsc7065.jpg

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.

2017-03-09 09.40.32 1 (1).jpg

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. 

rob-vive (1).jpg
 
 
 
 

 

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

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

 

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

Transforming Digital & Marketing Agencies with VR and AR | Q&A Series #2 featuring Domain 7

This is the second 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 Kevan Gilbert, Director of Engagement Strategy of Domain 7 based in Vancouver. They've worked with a number of clients on their interactive digital strategy including Microsoft, Telus and UBC.


Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.21.40 PM.png

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

Domain7! We've been working on using virtual reality as a way to inspire our partners to envision a more positive future. From in-studio demos to taking the technology to conferences, we see this as an opportunity to help people reduce their cynical barriers, and start dreaming together about the future we want to co-create. 

Tell us about a VR or AR campaign that you enjoyed or was inspired by. 

We're loving the demos coming from ARKit from Apple, including the portal-to-another-world demo: http://mobilesyrup.com/2017/06/30/new-video-of-apples-arkit-shows-off-interdimensional-portals/

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 2.30.10 PM.png

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? 

Rather than simply stealing attention or building on negative habits, the way our over-optimized 2D web has become, perhaps the work that will stand out in VR is work that answers this question well: "Does it help the human who is using it live the life they want to lead?" 

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?

I think it will remain important-as-ever to invest in healthy workplace cultures, since there will be more competition amongst agencies for smart technologists, designers, writers, creators, etc. How can we grow healthy workplaces that affirm human value even in this coming gold rush, where companies may become tempted to start taking shortcuts in hiring and culture.

 

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

The chicken-and-egg-ness. What comes first: becoming an expert in the technology, or waiting for client demand? Since the technology doesn't have wide adoption in the user base, clients aren't necessarily asking for it. But in the meantime, they'll never ask if they don't see expertise and opportunity. 

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

I'm curious to see how, in 10 years time, fully integrated VR/AR solutions have the opportunity to influence HOW we work, not necessarily what we work on. For instance, workspaces are very physical right now, because of the need for computer monitors, and the human desire for social proximity that has no other outlet. But if through VR/AR, the work isn't on your screen, how would we redesign the workplace? Similarly, if through VR/AR I can "feel" like I'm right beside my colleagues, even when I'm in my house, do we still need offices in the same way? And if a certain percent of the workforce can become not just "remote" workers, but "virtual" workers, how can this influence commuting, and thus, carbon emissions and air quality? (I'm not saying we'll all become hermits, but I do hope we ask ourselves more, "Why am I commuting, and is there another way?")

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

To anticipate what's coming, to develop your imagination, and be part of a community of changemakers. 


 
 
earls-gallery-1b.jpg

We'd like to thank Kevan from Domain 7, please visit them at www.domain7.com

Join the VRARA Marketing Committee and others, here

Transforming Digital & Marketing Agencies with VR and AR | Q&A Series with Intergalactic

This series will feature Vancouver digital and marketing agencies (non-traditional VR/AR companies) 

Our own Laura Ryu (Marketing and Communications Manager at VRARA Vancouver) sat down with Michael Farquhar, Managing Partner of Intergalactic based in Vancouver and London. They've worked with a number of clients on their interactive digital strategy including SXSW, HP and Sundance Film Festival. 

IMG_7582.JPG

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

Intergalactic is a creative technology agency that specializes in the creation of amazing interactive experiences. We’re this unique blend of creative folks and business edge, a culture that we created on purpose with the goal of creating solutions that are both inspired and effective.

We’ve been busy! We have a number of projects on the go at any time in both our Vancouver and London (UK) offices. Right now in Vancouver we’re using Apple’s ARKit to develop an AR app that provides a 1000m view of a new mountainside community. You feel like you are looking down from Olympus through the clouds at the future of this development. Computer vision reads a physical topographical model of the mountain and then we display virtual renderings of the community, lifestyle, trails, transit, and amenities. This is combined with beautiful 360 photos of the entire area and interactive points of interest; It's a great way for our client to help convey the scale and quality of their development while embracing and respecting its surroundings.

Our London office is busy building a 3D retailing visualizer to help their global retail client plan the layout of their stores and associated merchandise. When the project is complete our client will be able to switch between 2D views to full 3D VR views of their stores with all their next season merchandise laid out according to their merchandising rules. These visualisations will then push critical product information into their ordering system to trigger the fulfillment of clothing and accessories through the supply chain.

In the UK, We also have a strategic partnership with Aisle411, who’s indoor mapping and production search technology is used in over 15000 locations. Aisle411 are working closely with Google’s Tango team to leverage AR in the retail environment. Of course we still have other web and mobile projects on the go for clients such as Cisco, Microsoft and BC Liquor.

VR_BIG_960_472_V2.jpg

Tell us about a VR campaign that you enjoyed or was inspired by.

There are quite a few and more coming out everyday and each is genre expanding. We actually have a dedicated internal Slack channel just to keep up on what’s new. However, one we’d mention is the Beyond Mars Experience Schoolbus by Lockheed Martin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5JTb_7qv78) - I like that this is a shared experience designed to inspire.

Some other mentions: Walking on Mars (hey we’re called Intergalactic so you may see a theme) - https://youtu.be/e76uBfWxD74; Haagen-Daz’s Honeybee VR Experience which combines brand, social consciousness and amazing cinematography. From a CG excellence and technological progress standpoint using real time rendering - The Better Days https://youtu.be/JThuL6Aq1Qg and from an art perspective - Microsoft’s Raven Mask using Hololens http://www.booooooom.com/2017/07/14/transformation-mask/.

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?

It's funny, I just finished a round of informal reviews within the Vancouver team and asked everyone the same question. We are in many ways a young organization and everyone sort of embraces competition. We look at it as a way to learn from others in the field and see how we can take ideas in new directions and use them to deliver more value. I don’t see the big agencies cornering the market on any of these technologies. In fact VR technology itself is very accessible and a great leveler; the best will be determined by what they create, not their head count. Of course some clients will play it safe and go with bigger multinational agencies, but what they don’t always know is that those same companies approach companies like Intergalactic to ideate and create the end experience. This is something we’ve been hired to help with on more than one occasion.

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?

I believe we will start to see roles expand or additional roles appear within agencies as they deal with 3D interface design. Up until now we’ve focused on good 2D design, now we will need to think in the third dimension and how information can be overlayed to convey priority. I also think everything will be tried through the lens of VR, which will need to be tempered by the need to make things of value, either functionally or aesthetically. As always, agencies that get this and find ways to reach broad audiences will do well.

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

The biggest challenge is finding ways to create multi person experiences that are truly immersive. We all know how important social is in the technology realm so we focus on using ubiquitous devices such as smart phones or enclosed environments to help us deal with shared social VR experiences.

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

The bar keeps getting raised in terms of experiences. Our clients already acknowledge this truth and have been very keen to embrace VR/AR. As a result we’re seeing a lot of our very marketing conscious sectors such as Events, Retail and Real Estate be very open to our proposals. Interestingly enough, it isn’t just for the novelty, but seems to be for the long term as there is recognition that VR/AR present more complete ways to experience products and remove barriers to a sale. For Entertainment oriented clients and other Agencies we were already there and everyone we speak to just seems to be glad that the technology is catching up with our imaginations.

 
 

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

Easy, so you don’t get left behind. Things are evolving so quickly, it’s nice to have a way to keep up to date that doesn’t require you to do all the research first hand - no one has time for that.

What benefits do you see in being a member?

Simply, visibility, information and analysis. We want to keep our mind share for our clients, be inspired and share what we’ve learned.

We'd like to thank Michael from Intergalactic for participating and you can check them out at www.intergalactic.com

VRARA Vancouver Member Spotlight: Miguel Testa of PanoRabbit

VRARA Vancouver Spotlight:

Miguel Testa, CEO of PanoRabbit

AQGuw3ijgO3wmgAAAVxwhdXBfdR9-sTdJXAdNM7DX5k9I2H5avtL4GrC6tnnfJYwOdvk8ith-rkm4ntoQqsDxI2sz824KWACRspKVY4xDHk1vqCpyZyFrquF00Ae3M2XeLxug7SPt2YFmTWBc4A06tm6oIlpjiDWCHuUJdNRVW3UK4M0KKKYKdvpWhmKIOnkPh5wtXwO4fN5DIdQORsbsTDnA9lSct.jpg

Interview with Laura Ryu, VRARA Vancouver Marketing Manager

What attracted you the most into the VR industry? I got hooked into the VR industry after an HTC Vive Game Jam hosted by CDM. At the time, neither the Vive nor the Oculus Rift have had consumer releases, so I’ve never really tried before then. Before starting on coding our team’s entry, we had the chance to try some room-scale demos by the sponsors. I was overcome by awe of how real it felt. But it was the moment I uploaded a test build I created with Unreal Engine 4 that I really came to love VR. I made a room whose walls are made from the stock UE4 materials with a single light in the centre. The moment I put on the headset is the single most transformative experience in my career. I was inside a world, simple as it maybe, that I created. I could walk through it, see it’s details, see how the light bounces from different angles. From then on, I decided that I wanted to build more worlds like that one.

What is your company all about? PanoRabbit is all about making VR and 360 panoramas simple. At the time, there were not a lot of tools to upload 360 content to share and view in Virtual Reality. Most of the time, you had to make a basic Unity scene to view 360 photos in VR. I found this to be a pain, since I was doing some work in the Real Estate space making VR walkthroughs. My co-founder, Kenny Wong, approached me and shared the idea of making a platform that simplifies the process of sharing panoramas to be viewed in VR.

What do you love the most about your company (product, service-wise, culture, etc)? I love our users. We have been laying low for the past little while because we’re thinking of reworking a lot of aspects of our product, but we have a couple of core users who still upload panoramas regularly.

What excites you the most about the VR/AR industry and how is your company going towards it? The VR/AR industry is always evolving and there’s always something new around the corner. One particular aspect of the industry that is getting a lot of steam lately is the new frameworks and tools coming out for mobile and web VR development. Among these are A-Frame, Viro VR, and React VR. These new tools will help us integrate new and exciting features into our product. We look forward bringing those into our new builds.

What is one thing that we can expect from PanoRabbit in the future? We’ve been experimenting and working on a major overhaul these past few months, so expect a big upgrade sometime in the future!

 

If you want to learn more about PanoRabbit, check them out:

https://panorabbit.com/

https://www.facebook.com/panorabbit/

https://twitter.com/PanoRabbit

 

VR/AR Association hosting the biggest tech party in Vancouver for CVR!

RSVP HERE

The VRARA is an association that accelerates growth, knowledge and connections and what better way to cultivate this mandate by throwing an entertaining night after CVR Industry Day. The Vancouver Chapter led by Dan Burgar is showing the world why this city should be recognized as a top global hub for VR/AR/MR.

CVR has really grown into one of the biggest global VR/AR/MR events in the world, led by one of our chapter Board Directors of the Vancouver Chapter Anne-Marie Enns. The VRARA is fully embracing this event and having the technology be at the forefront by bringing together leaders of all types.

We're hosting the biggest tech party of the year tomorrow Friday, May 5th, with not only leaders in VR/AR/MR like HTC, Google, Microsoft, CognitiveVR, Super Ventures and Meta. But some of the other attendees joining us will include Oracle, Lululemon, CNN, Ford, Accenture, Nasa, Delta, Sony Imageworks, EA, Capcom, Best Buy and many more. 

  • Network with the VR/AR Industry influencers, companies of all types, VCs and thought-leaders of top companies

  • One of Vancouver's hottest musicians Alex Maher, Alex’s music fuses elements of soul, pop, funk, and jazz with insightful lyrics, he utilizes a loop pedal and is called "the one man band"

  • Our VRARA DJ will be spinning all your favorite tunes

  • Amazing street script artist Mega McGrath will be painting live and we'll be auctioning the painting off and the proceeds will go towards the Canuck Place Children's Hospice

  • Futurist, Entrepreneur and Global TV personality Lindsay Smith will be the MC for the night

VR/AR Experiences:

  • IngeniousVR from LA called First Date experience, an exciting interactive virtual reality comedy experiences and more

  • Aloha 360 is a VR experience that brings people to one of the most beautiful places in the world, Kaua’i, Hawai’i. Here they meet one of the most beautiful people in the world, Sabra Kauka, a Hawaiian Kupuna (elder) who is known as a living embodiment of aloha (love). Experience the beauty of this special place as Sabra shares a blessing of Aloha with you. The experience made it's debut at VRLA and NAB 2017. Aloha 360 is directed by award-winning filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer, Josh Thome.

Sponsors:

Skyrocket Digital A global digital branding agency offering global services in branding, web app development, ux, ecommerce, digital strategy & social marketing. 

Gowling WLG With a team of over 80 legal professionals, Gowling WLG's Vancouver office is one of the city's leading business law, litigation and intellectual property law firms.

CreativeBC Creative BC is an independent not for profit agency responsible for promoting and developing the creative industries in British Columbia.

Archiact A leader in VR/AR products and content.

BCLC Entertains players with the chance to dream, play and have fun, benefiting the people of British Columbia

BC Lions BC's CFL team, gearing up for the 2017 season

Brainstation BrainStation is a global leader in digital skills training empowering individuals and organizations to achieve digital success through courses, workshops, events and corporate training.

We're proudly supporting Canuck Place Children's Hospice. Canuck Place offers a comprehensive clinical care to over 670 children living with life-threatening illnesses the families who love them throughout British Columbia. The unique program offers world-class health care within a home-like environment. 

Whether a life is measured in days, weeks, or months, children deserve the opportunity to learn, develop and grow. Canuck Place encourages families to live in the moment.

Please contact Dan Burgar (President, VRARA Vancouver) at dan@thevrara.com for any inquiries.

Vancouver's Chapter of the VR/AR Association Makes VR/AR/MR accessible

Article originally posted by The Georgia Straight, can be found here and written by Kate Wilson, March 9th, 2017. 

vrarad.png

 

Imagine a world where you can hold up a cellphone in front of a restaurant, and instantly see Yelp reviews, flip through a digital menu, and have the option to book a table. Then consider driving a car with a smart windshield, which displays digital graphics on top of the driver’s real-life view. And then try to wrap your mind around a world where screens have become completely obsolete—because individuals can conjure computer displays through contact lenses or glasses.

According to Dan Burgar, president of the Vancouver chapter of the VR/AR Association, that day is almost upon us. Working to develop awareness of virtual reality (VR)—the technology where users wear an immersive headset to experience three-dimensional environments—and augmented reality (AR)—the practice of superimposing computer-generated images onto a user’s view of the real world—Burgar finds it difficult to think of an industry where the hardware would not generate a huge leap forward.

“I think the thing that will blow people’s minds the most is the practical applications,” he tells the Straight, reached by phone at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona. “The gaming stuff is really fun, and the entertainment side is really interesting, but what I get most excited about is how widespread it’s going to become in everyday life, whether it’s in professions like healthcare, where people can operate without having a human body in front of them, or just walking around on the street.

“It’s already beginning to be used in areas like building development, where it gives architects the tools to manipulate their creations in three-dimensions,” he continues. “Real estate is using it to allow customers to visualize unbuilt spaces, and to view properties without actually having to visit them. And it’s becoming important in education, where it’s possible to train individuals in areas like oil and gas extraction by just putting on the headset. That allows you to get as close as possible to a real-life experience before entering a dangerous situation.”

Vancouver is fast becoming a hub for VR and AR—a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the B.C. government. Not only has the province invested $100 million in venture capital for British Columbian tech companies, it’s recently started offering a tax credit specifically for virtual and augmented reality. It’s that forward-thinking approach, Burgar says, that inspired him to create a VR/AR Association chapter in the city.

“If I had to sum it up, I’d say that the VR/AR Association is a community of the best minds making use of virtual reality and augmented reality,” he comments. “So far there are 28 branches, including places as far-flung as New Zealand, Russia, and the UAE. The goal is to connect businesses and organizations with the developers and service providers working with the technology. We want to band together with companies to figure out what the best practices are, and how we can connect together to move the industry along.

“Our Vancouver chapter has about 30 members,” he continues, “but there are more than 50 companies here that are dabbling in virtual reality or working on augmented reality development, and that number increases every day. We are continually connecting local businesses with Vancouver developers, and figuring out how to use this technology creatively.”

As well as pointing out its versatility in a business to business setting, Burgar is keen to bring VR and AR to the local public. Recently organizing an event at Canuck Place—a hospice that offers palliative care services for sick children in B.C.—the VR/AR Association staff spent a day introducing the kids to the headsets.

“Community engagement is really important to our organization,” Burgar says. “We live in such a great city, and any way that we can give back is big for us. It feels great to be able put a smile on the kids’ faces by putting them in VR goggles and getting them out of the hospital with games, or transporting them to different virtual locations, and letting them immerse themselves in fantastic worlds. We want to continue cultivating and helping out Vancouverites in any way possible, and we have some initiatives we’re working on that will bring this technology to the community.

“Our next big VR and AR event is called CVR,” he continues, “which is the Pacific Northwest’s leading virtual, augmented, and mixed reality expo. We’re expecting between 8000 and 10,000 people. The Friday will be an industry day, and people like NASA, CNN, and the government of Canada will be there to discuss where VR and AR fit in their industry. Then we open it up to the public for the weekend, where anyone can come and try it out. We think it’s important that this technology is accessible to everyone—because this is the future.”

CVR is at the Vancouver Convention Centre from May 5 to May 7. More information about the VR/AR Association can be found here, and the official page for the Vancouver chapter can be located here.

Recap of Vancouver Chapter event, VR/MR Beyond Gaming

Another sold out Vancouver chapter event took place on February 23rd at the TELUS Garden Flex Space, provided by TELUS PureFibre Team.

This event, VR & Mixed Reality: Beyond Gaming, was focused around the practical usage of the technology and the ways we expect it to disrupt wide range of industries and in our daily lives. Kharis O’Connell, author of Designing For Mixed Reality, led the keynote speech on Practical MR/VR and Designing for the Future. He explored the possibilities of integrating mixed reality in businesses and our daily lives, as well as potential limitations and ethical boundaries.

The rest of the night consisted of networking, bites and sips, and demos. Our attendees were immersed in four different demos from CognitiveVR, LNG Studios, LlamaZoo, and Build Direct. CognitiveVR showcased eye tracking VR analytics compatible with the new FOVE headset, and LNG Studios showcased GoogleEarth view for HTC Vive. LlamaZoo and BuildDirect showcased their demos on Microsoft HoloLens. LlamaZoo demonstrated mixed reality anatomy of a canine heart, whereas BuildDirect showcased a demo for interior designs.

20170223-0R1A0629 (1).jpg
20170223-0R1A0252.jpg

We're proving that Vancouver has a huge appetite for VR/MR and is only growing. The chapter is excited about upcoming events as well as other initiatives that will help us to continue to cultivate Vancouver as a global VR/AR/MR hub.

A special thank-you to all of our sponsors who made this event possible: Entax Consulting, TELUS PureFibre, BCIT, Voyer Law.

Written by Laura Ryu

Photo Credits to Josue Pacheco @josuedev