Every March Austin celebrates the latest and greatest in technology, music, and interactive media at the South by South West Conference (SXSW). As the largest festival of its kind in North America, industry leaders from around the world flock to experience innovation up-close.
After a successful introduction last year, the Vancouver VR/AR Association (VRARA) was excited to return to SXSW and this time with a larger cohort of local technology leaders. In conjunction with Tourism Vancouver and with the support of Creative BC, the Vancouver Economic Commission, and the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association, the VRARA hosted Vancouver Day on March 10.
The 12-hour event took place at the Canada House through Telefilm Canada and showcased Vancouver’s booming tech industry, wellness culture, and arts scene. It’s these characteristics that make Vancouver a top destination for international talent, business and industry events.
Headlining the event were panel discussions and activations from Vancouver’s two leading technology sectors: VR/AR and eSports. Gaming paved the way for the rise in tech in Vancouver and lay the groundwork for today’s thriving virtual and augmented reality industry. Together, these two sectors have made a name for Vancouver in the global tech space and it was only fitting that they joined forces to represent tech in Vancouver at SXSW.
First up was a spotlight on Vancouver VR/AR with opening keynotes from Amy Peck, founder and CEO of EndeavorVR, and Martina Welkhoff, founding partner of the Women in XR Fund. This was followed by a panel on “The Rise of the Vancouver VR/AR Ecosystem,” with representatives from Conquer Experience, Motive.io, and the VR/AR Association Vancouver.
The conversation addressed Vancouver’s position as the second largest VR/AR hub in the world, evidenced by the influx in investment and industry events, such as SIGGRAPH, TED, and VR/AR Global Summit. Demos by Vancouver VR/AR companies Shape Immersive, EyExpo Technology, and Volumetric Camera Systems were also on display throughout the day for attendees to experience.
"It was a real testament to the strength of the Vancouver XR ecosystem to see such an amazing group of people gather at the Canada House during SXSW"
Martina Welkhoff WXR Fund
The second half of the day featured two panels on eSports, which detailed the surge of growth this sector has experienced in recent years, including the sold-out 2019 DOTA 2 championship, which drew over 18,000 people.
Alongside the tech showcases, Vancouver Day also included art, culture, and wellness activities. An acro-yoga demonstration and a DJ set celebrated the local arts scene. While a mindfulness meditation exercise grounded guests in the spirit of the city. Participants were taken on a sensory journey through the city and surrounding mountains, forests, and ocean. The exercise impressed upon guests the distinct balance of nature and urban living that make Vancouver a special place to live, work, and create in.
Vancouver’s pristine natural surroundings and vibrant cultural landscape have long attracted visitors from around the world. Now, with the growth and diversification of the local tech sector, Vancouver has emerged as the ideal backdrop for international business and industry events. SXSW was the perfect place to showcase all that Vancouver has to offer and welcome the world to our doorstep.
“Vancouver has been consistently ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities, making us a talent magnet. Our downtown core has a diverse culinary scene and is just minutes away from world-renowned ski resorts and lush, natural forests. The West Coast lifestyle, one dedicated to health, wellness, mindfulness, and environment is a breath of fresh air for many who choose to work and play here. With sustainable venues and inspiring surroundings, Vancouver has attracted industry-leading conferences like TED and SIGGRAPH, growing our reputation as a globally-recognized technology hub.”
Ty Speer, CEO of Tourism Vancouver.
Altogether it was an incredible event that celebrated Vancouver innovation in all of its forms and opened the door to connection and collaboration across tech, business, finance, creative, and more. Roughly 4,000 people were in attendance throughout the day.
“Vancouver Day at Canada House during SXSW was an incredible opportunity to connect and network with a global audience.” Vivian Chan, EyExpo
“I think Vancouver has built out a truly amazing local ecosystem for VR/AR, esports and frontier tech, and I would love to explore more opportunities there.” Ryan Wong, Outpost Capital.
The success of the event is a testament to the strength of our partners and the heights that we can achieve when we come together in support of Vancouver industry. We’re excited to see what comes next for our local companies and look forward to showcasing the continued advancement of Vancouver tech at SXSW next year!
"SXSW has certainly become a place not to share business cases or even share technology... it's where we now go to share stories of what we think the future will be. Being [there] with the rest of the Canadian VRAR delegation gave me a great sense of what that shared near-future is going to be." Matt Toner, Biba