Unlocking opportunities for augmented reality and virtual reality technology

Dec 12, 2017

Cancer patients from Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute and Calgary’s Tom Baker Centre could soon take a “virtual vacation” thanks to augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR). Determining uses for the technology was a part of the inaugural AR/VR seminar held at Alberta’ Innovates’ Edmonton Research Park facility on November 3.

AR/VR is a platform technology with multiple uses. It can be applied to mental health care, medical diagnostics, building construction and more. Several examples of its use were on display at the seminar, including a 3D television show that helps Alzheimer’s patients retain memory, glasses used for inventory control and technology that turns electrical switches on and off for applications in Smart Homes.

Entrepreneurial Investments’ Garth Likes, one of AI’s Technology Development Advisors (TDAs) and event organizer, says the symposium helped facilitate conversations that might not have otherwise happened. As part of his work as a TDA, Garth kept finding AR/VR companies “hiding in silos.” Through this symposium, companies were brought together with clients and customers to generate new discussions, facilitate awareness and explore opportunities for students.

“Holding this event seemed like a good way to connect companies with clients, students and other businesses and see what would happen,” said Garth. “To the general public, VR is gaming. We wanted to foster a drive towards further innovation and highlight potential uses for this platform technology.”

While AI helped jumpstart that drive by hosting this event, Garth sees an even bigger opportunity for business and industry. The VR/AR Association of Alberta has since been formed and will be holding it first meeting in Edmonton in January 2018. Currently 34 of a total of 120 VR/AR companies in the province have signed up as members. Two of these 34 companies have received Alberta Innovates funding.

“We’re helping facilitate the creation of an industry association along with a company called Serious Labs, who will take over and help maintain this as an industry-led endeavour,” said Garth.

Students also play an integral part in shaping the future of the AR/VR scene in the province, leading to future prosperity and economic diversification.

“We have great training programs, but students don’t know where to hand in their resumes. We want to make it easier for them to stay in Alberta to help mature the AR/VR cluster, which can’t happen here without skilled people who can develop content.”