Last night, the Toronto tech community got together for an intimate summit on the state of augmented reality in Canada. Hosted by OMERS Ventures, the venture division of OMERS Private Markets, the event was organized by AWE Toronto, the local chapter of Augmented World Expo.
The evening kicked off with a warm welcome from Damien Steel, Managing Partner at OMERS Ventures, as well as introductory comments from Tom Emrich, Partner at Superventures and co-producer at AWE. For years, Emrich has built the Toronto tech community from the ground up, starting with We Are Wearables, which grew into the largest wearable technology meetup in the world. Today, We Are Wearables has merged with the AWE to hone its focus on augmented and virtual reality.
In line with this pivot, AR Starts Here was an invite-only gathering of leaders, influencers, and creators in the space. The theme of the night was how Toronto (and Canada in general) can position itself as a leader. “AR is going to eat the world,” said Emrich, rifting on Andreessen Horowitz’s popular maxim. Emrich pointed to research from Digi-Capital showing that by 2022, AR/VR platform revenue will reach $15 billion.
Audiences then heard from Brody Langley, mixed reality partner lead at Microsoft Canada. Langley manages Microsoft’s portfolio of mixed reality offerings, including Hololens, the company’s smart glasses that bring digital components into a user’s existing reality.
Following Brody, Daniel Beauchamp, head of VR at Shopify, took the stage to share how the Canadian company is leveraging AR to disrupt commerce. Electric Runway audiences may remember Daniel from InStore, our immersive event on the future of retail. Daniel says the biggest challenge for retailers when it comes to AR is transforming physical goods into digital ones that can be experienced in augmented reality. He also says that the future of shopping will be a spectrum of real and virtual, and that product discovery will also happen in augmented reality from start to finish. “More and more, we’re going to see AR taking over every single step of the purchasing journey,” says Beauchamp.
AR Starts Here cumulated in a panel discussion on the state of AR in Canada, moderated by yours truly. I had the opportunity to sit alongside the shakers of the AR industry in Canada, including:
- Parham Aarabi, founder of ModiFace, which was just acquired by L’Oréal
- Prashant Matta, Senior Associate at OMERS Ventures
- Helen Papagiannis, Author of Augmented Human
- Caitlin Fisher, Co-founder of York’s Future Cinema Lab
- Ian Kelso, Co-founder, Impossible Things
We discussed how Canada fares on the global stage when it comes to augmented reality, and how Toronto compares to Vancouver, which has emerged as a hub. The evening wrapped with networking and a chance to experience demos, including Impossible Thing’s augmented reality art exhibit, Reblink, which just wrapped up at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Helen Papagiannis was also selling and signing copies of her book, Augmented Human (in case you haven’t read it yet, check it out here)
Thanks for the awesome event, AWE! For more information on upcoming events, check out their website here, and don’t forget to register for Augmented World Expo, taking place May 30th thru June 1st in Santa Clara, California.