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20 - 21 of the Bay St. Bull Power 50: Technology

The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays. 

20. Virtual Reality

by Lance Chung

For ages, virtual reality (VR) technology has often been relegated to tales created by sci-fi writers imagining the world of tomorrow. But that technology is steadily becoming less fable and more fact as today’s pioneers inch ever closer to utilizing its full potential. With Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, publicly backing VR (by way of a $2 billion investment into Oculus VR) as a game-changer in the way users connect with each other and experience content, public interest has swelled into a race to get the technology out.

Samsung is one player entering the virtual reality arena with the release of their Gear VR and upcoming 360 camera. Here, Samsung Canada’s Mark Childs (Chief Brand Officer and Corporate Citizenship) and Paul Brannen (Executive Vice President, Mobile Solutions) lay down the law on what you need to know about VR technology as it stands today.

Where do the opportunities exist with VR?

Paul Brannen: There are a couple of elements you can look at. If you think about gaming, it allows you to become much more immersive. It allows you to be right inside of that. The same goes from an entertainment standpoint. If you think of Cirque du Soleil, instead of going to Las Vegas and seeing a show, you could actually shoot it with 360 and be able to view it on a Gear. It just allows for the consumer to have a much more immersive experience without necessarily physically being at all of these events from a live standpoint.

Mark Childs: You as the viewer or watcher get to control the narrative and flow. You can actually choose to look left, right, up or down. No longer is there that linear narrative story. You can actually follow your own path. I think it is a very cool director challenge. How do you unleash the narrative or the storyline, and how do you experience it?

How have you seen the market change and evolve?

PB: I think the way we look at it from a Samsung standpoint is we’re trying to make it more consumer-friendly. It’s getting greater consumer appeal in the marketplace. Ours is much more about a mobile solution where we use the phone as the central processing unit of the overall device. We look and try to create it for the masses as opposed to trying to make it a niche orientation.

Do you think VR will become the new primary medium of content consumption and communication?

PB: It’s going to be dictated on how much content gets developed. As the content gets broader, more immersive and increases in quality, then clearly the adoption rate will follow along. The ways Samsung looks at it now is we have the phone as the centre of the ecosystem and hang things off of that.

MC: What we haven’t seen yet is the explosion that could potentially be in user-generated content. We’ve announced the 360 camera coming later in the year. I think that’s going to fundamentally shift how we capture those moments in our lives, with our families and our friends and our experiences. So we can remember differently too.

Do you see VR as a disruptor?

PB: I see it as an augmenter.

MC: I think it’s another option to experience content in a different, more immersive way. I think it could be a disruptor in terms of the B2B applications. I think real estate and travel are really two different ways where I don’t have to get in a car and drive 30 minutes to a location. I can check it out before I go. The industries it could actually disrupt are pretty interesting.

How do you think it will affect the way people interact with each other?

MC: With me, it’s just a different way of interacting. I don’t think a real world scenario is replaced by VR. You may actually be able to bring experiences to people who may not be able to experience the real thing. I think about folks with challenges or disabilities. They can experience a rollercoaster now for the first time. For me, that’s an amazing experience.

What are the hurdles to reaching the full potential that VR technology can provide?

PB: Well clearly content. It’s a chicken and egg scenario. You build a technology and need to fill it now with content. If I’m a director creating content, I need to think differently. I need to think three-dimensional. That’s a limiting factor today. It’s also just getting consumers over the hurdle of putting something on their heads. It’s always interesting when we do the display. They put it on, there’s trepidation and then there’s elation at the end when they take it off because they experience something like they’ve never experienced before. And then you see where the value truly comes from.

Canadian VR

Secret Location

An award-winning content studio for emerging platforms. Pioneers in VR storytelling, Secret Location was recently the first to win a Primetime Emmy for a Virtual Reality Project (Sleepy Hollow). They have also worked with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra to create Orchestra VR, a visualization of music through colour. 

Clients: Sleepy Hollow, World Economic Forum, La Philharmonic Orchestra, PBS Frontline, SyFy Channel, Insidious 3

Quantum Capture

Created by two former Ubisoft employees, Quantum Capture is a content production company that specializes in digitizing humans to create 3D representations in high resolution. 

Clients: Canon, Oculus, Globacore, IRIS VR. 

Felix & Paul Studios

A Montreal-based, and award-winning, studio that focuses on 360-degree fiction, non-fiction and experiential virtual reality storytelling. In the past, they have collaborated with the industry leaders and also created their own original content. 

Clients: Cirque du Soleil, LeBron James, Fox Searchlight, Jurassic World, Bill Clinton

21. Spire Aerobotics

by Brendan Louis

Drone technology is nothing new, but it is something that is gaining momentum as its applications are being explored in a variety of different ways. Its infiltration into the consumer and commercial realms has slowly become more and more evident. Walk into any park and it wouldn’t be surprising if you found a kid with one hazardously flying around on an inevitable collision course with someone’s head. On the commercial side, Amazon has already publicly declared that they plan to deliver packages via done through their Amazon Prime Air system. Beyond that, companies have started to utilize the technology to redefine industries, making them more efficient and effective along the way.

Enter Spire Aerobotics, a company out of Vancouver that is taking drone technology way beyond the park and utilizing it to revolutionize the mining and forestry industries by using their vantage points, along with remote sensing technologies, to provide data that companies could only once dream of. Co-founded by Patrick Crawford and Mike Wilcox, the company was established as a response to a personal near-death experience on a climbing trip. Riding a donkey back to safety in Nepal, or so the legend goes, Spire was born out of a need for safety and technology’s ability, albeit unexplored just yet, to revolutionize an industry.

Cash-flow positive in its first year, Spire is poised for rapid growth and continued innovation as it continues to add to its team and client base. Spire also plans to explore other industries and services along the way where it can continue to make the world a safer place while putting technology to work in ways we can only imagine……while riding a donkey to safety in Nepal. - BL