Vancouver’s virtual, augmented and extended reality (VR/AR/XR) industry is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, as the local and global technology landscape evolves towards rich, intuitive and immersive experiences.
The industry promises lucrative economic and societal benefits. However, these hinge on appropriate support and infrastructure that attracts and fosters talent, prioritizes collaboration and paves the way for international expansion. To facilitate development of this rising sector, Vancouver VR/AR Association partnered with the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) and Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) to produce a comprehensive report aimed to secure a profitable future for VR/AR in Vancouver and BC – and the timing couldn’t be better, with the upcoming VIFF Immersed, where international content creators, technologists, media companies, distributors and investors congregate to explore and champion for VR/AR and the entire XR ecosystem.
“The last few months have really elevated VR/AR, with the global pandemic preventing us from being physically present in so many areas of our lives,” said Dan Burgar, president of the Vancouver VR/AR Association. “Working remotely is fine, but it’s missing that sense of physical connection to colleagues and family. VR/AR helps by enabling people to capture that feeling – even when you’re confined to your own environment, you feel like you’re actually present with others.”
The pandemic has accelerated VR/AR like never before, with some companies achieving five years of transformative innovation in five months.
Industries like healthcare and training are seeing new technology solutions every day, and retail has experienced a complete overhaul, with customers enticed by VR/AR-enabled try-at-home options, digitally created store aisles, and even virtual car test drives – all without needing to visit a brick-and-mortar store.
Of course, the speed of transformation requires increased funding to support new technologies, but – as outlined in the report – funding bodies haven’t yet caught up. “There is definitely a lack of financial aid to scale and support local VR/AR companies. In fact, most companies in Vancouver and BC are getting the majority of their funding from the US and Europe, not Canada,” said Burgar. “However, this also shows Vancouver’s powerful presence on the VR/AR global stage. We’re in the top two immersive technologies ecosystems in the world, thanks to our strengths across the board in film, esports and gaming, and that’s what has allowed us evolve our global VR/AR/XR ecosystem, too.”
Indeed, the industry has become exceptionally integrated into daily life, even if most people don’t realize it. In addition to virtual shopping, VR/AR has established a powerful presence in one of our most beloved activities: snapping and sharing our photos on social media. Billions of people, particularly Gen Zers, utilize AR/VR via Instagram or Snapchat filters, or play augmented reality mobile games like Pokémon GO and Jurassic World Alive. Doctors are using immersive headsets to virtually train colleagues and interact with patients. Event organizers are staging concerts in virtual reality – this year’s Burning Man, for example, was held in a virtual reality multiverse consisting of multiple parallel realities connecting festivalgoers around the world. In a few years, Apple’s augmented reality glasses will strive to replace screen-based technology, transporting us to destinations around the world even when we can’t physically be there. And then, of course, there’s film.
Source: VIFF Immersed, Stay Alive My Son
Source: VIFF Immersed, Dust
VIFF Immersed returns on a digital platform for remote participation
“I was excited to read in the VR/AR report that games and interactive media have become a central industry in BC,” said Ken Tsui, director of creative engagement and live programming at Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). “That finding reinforced the need for us to nurture the sector through VIFF Immersed, since our mandate has always focused on championing export-ready narrative XR content.”
VIFF Immersed (September 28–29) encompasses the entire XR ecosystem in Vancouver and around the world, with local and international content creators, distributors, investors, technologists and media companies engaging in a well-curated program of thought-provoking talks, business development opportunities and interactive exhibitions. The festival is a celebration of immersive storytelling and the global entertainment-based XR ecosystem, and this year’s event truly honours that vision with a fully online execution.
“We’re thrilled to present the VIFF Immersed Exhibition on a digital platform that allows attendees to experience 360˚ and 6dof (six degrees of freedom) content,” said Tsui. “Also, the VIFF Immersed Volumetric Marketplace focuses on the unique offering of volumetric content covering content-seeking investment and distribution. It’s a robust program that we’ve been working on around-the-clock, and we’re eager to share!”
Volumetric films feature immersive content characterized by interactive experiences achieved primarily through VR/AR/XR techniques to directly capture three-dimensional space. Presented by VIFF and produced by Kaleidoscope, the Volumetric Market features talks, networking and a selection of 16 volumetric films available for funding and distribution.
“It’s exciting to see the evolution of virtual and augmented reality as an art form – the perfect combination of technical innovation and creative storytelling,” said Nancy Basi, VIFF Immersed curator and board director of Liquid Media Group. “This year’s VIFF Immersed curation team was asked to focus on projects using volumetric capture techniques that invite viewers into every scene, and I was blown away by the submissions. We saw gorgeous imagery and timely issues; full cinematography and integrated tabletop experiences; and evocative soundscapes and powerful music composition that emotionally connect the viewer to the experience and subtly move them through the story. I can’t wait to share our final selections.”
Anyone interested in VR/AR can attend VIFF Immersed to see the technology in action and dive deeper into this fascinating world. Those who read the VR/AR report should note that it was created pre-COVID – an unforeseen barrier that has compounded the need for more funding, so this burgeoning technology can continue creating jobs and elevating Vancouver into a global leader of VR/AR/XR.