The Future of AR-VR- A Conversation with Dan Burgar

The Future of AR/VR: A Conversation with Dan Burgar

Often touted as the future of tech, the AR/VR industry is at a crossroads—the technology is transformational, but it has not yet been widely adopted by consumers or businesses. Some of the bigger issues facing the industry are the cost of the equipment, games and applications that are still in their infancy, and an overall lack of understanding of the potential uses and applications of the technology. We recently chatted with Dan Burgar, President of Vancouver’s VR/AR Association and Director of Business Development & Partnerships at Archiact to talk about the industry and what he thinks about the future of AR/VR.

BC Tech: How is the AR/VR Industry doing right now?

Dan: The industry is in a bit of a ‘desert period’ at the moment, the numbers on all mobile and high-end VR devices are still quite low, and we’re still waiting for that killer app in both VR/AR.

Over the next few years, I think enterprise and practical applications will drive growth and adoption rates. I’m seeing quite a few examples of the technology being used as a tool by companies to solve real world problems. When I talked to companies last year most of them still didn’t grasp the ways in which VR/AR could disrupt their industries, and about 90% of them had never tried VR before. This year I’m seeing a bit of a shift as companies are now road mapping and strategizing for the future so that they don’t get left behind, but there’s still a lot of work left to do.

There’s no question that VR and especially AR could become so essential that it will be as much a part of a user’s life as “eating three meals a day” as quoted by CEO of Apple Tim Cook. We’re going to see some drastic change across the industry over the next 12-18 months and a shift in computing over the next 3-5 years which will see people wearing AR/MR glasses every day.

I’m most excited about Apple’s foray into the AR space. They’ve already given developers a new framework in which to build AR products and experiences. It’s rumored that the iPhone 8 will have 3D sensors—this will give developers access to millions of datasets, help map out the real world, and instantly bring AR to the masses. When you look at the numbers, globally there are 380 million ARKit compatible iPhones, and that will grow to 500 million by the end of this year and 850 million by 2020, and that’s just iPhones, according to industry expert Mike Boland of ARtillery.

BC Tech: Let’s get more local. How is the AR/VR industry doing in Vancouver? And who are the rising stars that we should be looking out for?

Dan: The VR/AR industry in Vancouver is strong and in a constant state of growth. We used to say that we wanted to grow Vancouver into a global VR/AR hub, 18 months later and it’s happening! At the VR/AR Association, we see that Vancouver has become a top destination and one of the most active cities in the world in this area. Our proximity to other tech hubs like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco/Silicon Valley make Vancouver a great place to start and grow an AR/VR company. Another reason that we’re such a favorable market is our long history of being leaders in the VFX, video game, and tech industries. The spillover of talent from these fields have had an immense impact on us becoming a global AR/VR hub. We’re also incredibly lucky to have some great government incentives for tech that have helped to drive growth.

Dan’s list of Rising Stars 

  • Finger Food: Using the latest technology including Mixed Reality, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things, Finger Food works across platforms to provide innovative solutions for global companies.
  • CognitiveVR: They provide analytics for virtual reality by recording, measuring, aggregating, and analyzing VR experiences. They were one of two companies from Canada that got selected to be a part of Verizon Ventures Media Tech Venture Studio and were selected to join HTC Vive X Accelerator program.
  • LlamaZoo: They are revolutionizing education and enterprises by blending interactive 3D content, with Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed reality.
  • Ziva Dynamics: Empowering ultra-realistic interactive characters into various environments including VR/AR, they’re co-led by an Academy Award winner.
  • Blueprint Reality: They specialize in Mixed reality broadcasting and VR game development.
  • LNG Studios: They build realistic 3D environments and walkthroughs for real estate.
  • Archiact: Not to toot my own horn as I’m a bit biased—Archiact has been primarily a VR gaming company in the past but has recently spread its wings to enterprise and more practical solutions in the AR space. One of our products Schema is looking to disrupt the early conceptual design and the iteration phase with architects/designers and their clients using VR/AR and having multiple people iterate at the same time in a 3D environment remotely. We also produce the biggest VR/AR conference in the Pacific Northwest called CVR, and we’re excited about the rebrand/announcements that are coming.

Other Notable Mentions

There are so many other companies that are doing some great work and innovating in the space, including, Precision OS, and Perspective Films. These are all companies that will help get Vancouver to the forefront and in some respects are leading the charge on AR/VR/MR technology, and there’s more popping up every day!

BC Tech: What are some of the roadblocks/struggles facing the industry?

Dan: Right now, it’s cost of the units, they still look dorky, and there’s still a plethora of people who don’t understand the technology and how it fits into their businesses. Another problem is people aren’t spending a lot of time in VR/AR headsets—this has been a result of limited content that isn’t very engaging, eyestrain, and content that doesn’t feel immersive.

As an industry, we need to solve real problems in VR/AR. Games can be fun, but there’s currently nothing more substantial than solutions helping kids learn faster and easier. Using VR to help alleviate pain or anxiety or helping surgeons be more precise using AR technology, this is what gets me excited about the industry, and it’s applications like these that will push the technology to heights we’ve never seen before.

BC Tech: What does the future look like?

Dan: For people to adopt the technology you need to have that 6DOF (6 degrees of freedom) and feel completely immersed, it needs to be practical and useful, and it needs to be in a form factor similar to glasses/spectacles. We’re still a few years away from this. VR/AR will need to intersect more with the internet of things, AI, machine learning, and 5G to make it something we will use as frequently as our smartphones and laptops.

We know that this technology isn’t hype right now, but it’s well on its way to becoming the next wave of computing. The key is not to rush the technology, we need to collaborate and try to move the industry along rather than keeping it to ourselves. That’s been the driving force behind why the VR/AR Association exists and why we want to continue to help those entering the industry and those that are already building the future.

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