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The country’s first virtual, augmented, and mixed reality hub opens in Vancouver


It might seem like science fiction to imagine a world where holograms can be conjured from nothing, and hover in front of multiple individuals—but it’s already happened. UBC’s Holographic Brain Project, for instance, makes use of the Microsoft HoloLens—a visor-like headset—to allow individuals to look at brain scans from varying angles, and manipulate the different layers inside it by tapping the air.

Even just a few years ago, it would be unbelievable to suggest that vets could use 3D, immersive medical imaging to diagnose and treat animal patients in virtual reality, or that ER nurses would be trained to work in operation rooms by virtual simulations. Both are now ready to be implemented around the world.

All three of these industry-changing technologies were on show at the grand opening of the Cube: Canada’s first virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) hub.

Located in the city’s Railtown district, the Cube is an incubator for 3D development. One of Vancouver’s fastest growing industries, the VR, AR, and MR space has already led to the creation of 17,000 jobs and more than $2.3 billion in revenue for the province. The Cube, it’s hoped, will stimulate the genesis of even more startups, and cement B.C.’s status as a leader of virtual production.

“By providing entrepreneurs with the tools, support, and environment, we’ll be able to supercharge the growth of B.C.’s burgeoning VR, AR, and MR sector, and reinforce our reputation as one of the top ecosystems to grow a tech company,” said Bill Tam, CEO of the B.C. Tech Association, at the event.

The 6,000-square-foot location will provide firms with the latest tech gear, business-building workshops, mentorship and technical training programs, industry events, and access to investors, customers, and talent. A custom-built green room, private offices, and a fifty-desk open office space fill up the floor. It is, in short, a software developer’s dream.

On hand to open the Cube were representatives from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. The Honourable Navdeep Bains—Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development—began the speeches, followed by the Honourable Bruce Ralston, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. They were joined by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. Closing the event’s formal remarks was a VR ribbon-cutting ceremony, which saw Ralston wielding a giant pair of virtual scissors as confetti drifted down over the trio of politicians.

“Congratulations to the B.C. Tech Cube for bringing together British Columbia’s top talent in 3D development and helping grow the industry,” said Bains. “In today’s knowledge-based economy, it is precisely this spirit of innovation and collaboration that will help us to build the economy of the future, creating the jobs of today and tomorrow, and ensuring Canada’s success.”

“Vancouver, as North America’s third-largest film production centre and the world’s largest VFX and animation cluster, is uniquely positioned to be propelled into becoming the world’s best AR, VR and MR cluster,” said Robertson. “The Cube will not only support local companies in sharing in this growth, but also spur an economic boom in our local innovation ecosystem.”

With Vancouver companies already leading innovation in healthcare, natural resources, architecture, the environment, and video games, B.C. Tech hopes the Cube will become a launch-pad for the technologies that will become commonplace in the near future.

Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays



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