TED conference to spotlight Vancouver’s VR and AR companies—and you can check them out too

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      Since 2014, the internationally renowned TED conference has taken place in Vancouver. Speeches from Elon Musk, Al Gore, and Bill Gates have been broadcast from the Convention Centre, helping to boost the profile of the future-focused event, and Vancouver itself.

      With its expertise in innovation and technology, the region boasts thousands of companies whose products and services dovetail with the conference's focus: tech, entertainment, and design. That affinity hasn’t been wasted on the TED organizers. Collaborating with some of Vancouver’s most vibrant businesses, the conference is set to offer a smorgasbord of local tech experiences to its international audience in 2019.

      One of the industries tapped by the event’s planners is the city’s VR and AR sector.

      Building on a partnership with the Vancouver VR/AR Association that was established at last year’s conference, TED will this year offer the chance for attendees to interact with 14 of the city’s best immersive businesses. Those individuals will get the chance to test out live demos of the technology, and meet face-to-face with representatives during the event.

      “It was so well-attended last year, and it was such a great program, that TED wanted to partner with us again,” Dan Burgar, president of the Vancouver VR/AR Association, tells the Georgia Straight. “They want to tie together some of the technology’s local change-makers with the conference guests. TED saw that the Vancouver ecosystem is thriving, so they said, ‘Okay, why don’t we go into the community, and why don’t we do an event at your incubator space at Launch Academy?’ We told them it was a perfect idea.”

      The 14 companies selected will show off the range of immersive experiences being created in the region. Alongside Microsoft and Shawn Hunt’s Transformation Mask—a wearable installation that combines virtual reality, robotics, and First Nations art—enterprise businesses including LlamaZOO and Finger Food will preview how VR and AR is being used to make industries like retail and mining more efficient. Storytellers including Paper Oni will exhibit animated VR shorts, while Banging Rocks will display an experience that fuses VR and meditation. The strong Vancouver gaming sector will also be represented, with the award-winning studio Cloudhead Games set to showcase its Heart of the Emberstone puzzle challenge.

      Invited VIP guests will visit the space from 3.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. From 4.30 p.m. until 7 p.m, the exhibits will be available for the public to try out, including any professionals who are looking to invest or better understand VR and AR.

      The TED partnership will afford the Vancouver organizations a first-rate opportunity to get their experiences in front of interested individuals.

      “It’s another way of telling the story of what’s happening in Vancouver,” says Burgar. “Right now, it’s not about holding our cards close to our chest, but really showing the world what we’re doing, and being proud of it. I think as Canadians, we don’t talk about ourselves enough. For me, [this partnership] is really about giving the world a glimpse into this ecosystem, and some of the great creators who are building this technology. We want to give them that stage and platform to be able to garner opportunities, and look at collaboration.”

      The TED VR and AR exhibition will take place at Launch Academy (300 – 128 West Hastings Street) on April 16. Those wishing to attend the 4.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. session can register for free here.

      Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays