The VRTO Spatial Media World Conference and Expo celebrated its eighth year July 19th-20th, 2023.
Partnering with OCAD U for the second year, the conference occurred at the beautiful new Daniels Waterfront OCADU CO campus. Guests came from as far as Oklahoma, Texas, California, Utah, Washington, New York, and the United Kingdom.
With two days of talks and a wide variety of exhibits to discover, VRTO 2023 surpassed expectations and delighted attendees with a diverse and stimulating program covering the future of spatial computing and how it will evolve to include everyone.
“[VRTO 2023] felt like what I hope the VR community will get to in like 5 or 10 years…it was that good.”
-Zimtok5, on the Between Realities podcast
Featured Speakers included:
- Dr. Tom Furness – Founder of the Virtual World Society and better known as the “Grandfather of Virtual Reality” with Dr. Angelina Dayton, Executive Director of the Virtual World Society, discussed VR as a tool for empathy and healing.
- Amanda Watson – Creator of Airlink technology for Meta. She delivered a fascinating and challenging talk on how to measure latency, dispelling commonly held beliefs that surprised many veteran developers in the room.
- Kyle Chivers – Princes Trust Award winner and CCO of Blockade Labs, a company taking the world by storm with its text–to-image 360-degree generative AI environments and where they might need to go from here.
- Lana Lux – Popular Twitch influencer and solo indie game developer of STRAIN gave a powerful motivational talk about her process, challenges and victories, to rousing, empathetic applause
- Alan Smithson – Co-founder of MetaVRse spoke on creating their new 3D game engine, The Mall, and the Juicyverse for Wrigley.
- Ben Unsworth – CTO of Lumeto spoke on the potential of AI and VR to revolutionize healthcare training and how GPT might be used in patient simulations
- Ashley Huffman – Titan Haptics on the future of haptic technology in XR and demonstrated a one-of-a-kind haptic lightsaber.
- Daniel Blair – Bit Space Development on the requirements of enterprise XR studios and took a fascinating turn to explore cyber security with headsets, servers and software.
- AR Dev and Founder of Alientrap, Lee Vermeulen demonstrated a year of AR experiments, including liquid physics interactions, drawing with one’s eyes, AI NPC’s, and portals.
- Rolando Masís-Obando – Princeton University gave a talk on his landmark research on brain-computer interfaces.
- TFM Jonny – on radical community building.
- Patrick Kwok from Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment on leveraging XR in sports entertainment, using volumetric playback to afford pro athletes multiple vantage points of their game for training.
- David Han and Joel Ong with a collaborative VR art project about capturing the stories of the Jane and Finch community in Mozilla Hubs.
- Becky Liu from OCAD U with her experiments in mixed reality conversational intelligent agent companions in autonomous vehicles and building better HUDs to work at scale.
- Tony Bevilacqua from Cognitive 3D discussed how to leverage XR analytics to gather insights from the metaverse.
“Uniting visionaries and creators, #VirtualRealityTO was an unforgettable event where I got the chance to meet some wonderful people, showcasing cutting-edge tech and fostering collaborations.” – Upcoming Media Inc.
Panels and Discussions included:
- VR Live Performers Summit and Workshops by pioneers and leaders in the field: Whitton Frank, Ari Tarr, Liam Karry, Jake Runeckles, Mandy Canales, and Nicole Rigo set out to demystify some of the processes behind the scenes, tracking evolving narratives, and how to handle inevitable glitches in a seamless and entertaining manner.
- A discussion about reframing immersive storytelling through the eyes of Black creators with Debbie Deer, Tendisai Cromwell, Queen Kukoyi, Kai Little-White, and Nico Taylor veered into a plethora of fascinating XR experiences, including Queen Nefertiti and some health back and forth about the implications of generative AI entering into creative workflows.
- The evolution of Social VR ecosystems with Chris Madsen (Engage XR), Jaspreet Monga (Mozilla Hubs), Maxx Berkowitz (Nowhere.io), and Ben Erwin (The Poly Awards) and how to develop with an eye towards interoperability, and Metatraversal.
- A discussion on Generative AI and the law with attorney Amar Sidhu and Keram Malicki-Sanchez explored precedent, transformative use, copyright, through a variety of legal cases and real-world effects
- A panel with artists using Generative AI, including Blair Renaud, Alex Mayhew, Jeffrey Flores, and Keram Malicki-Sanchez leaned into the creative collaboration with the machine learning tools that include GANs, Nerfs, Generative Art, Generative Pretrained Transformers in art, game design, ideation, writing, and development.
- Discussions with Tricia Blake, Julie Smithson, Dr. Karen Alexander, and Helen Lundström Erwin from XR Women about how the community grows and shines a light on the creative and productive force that women have had on the XR industry and how they continue to lead it.
On the final day, Keram led an impromptu session where he invited members of the audience to come up to the stage and share their stories, projects, and experience with the crowd. Volunteers of this invitation included Ed Mr. All-In-Wonder Callway from AMD, Nima Zeghani from Leia Pix, Adrien Onsen of Construked Reality, Dario Laverde – head of dev relations for HTC for 12 years, and one of the leaders of the OpenXR initiative, and more.
“Attending and speaking at VRTO was something I’ll never forget. Such an amazing opportunity to connect with others passionate about the possibilities and future of VR.”
– Mandy Canales
The Discovery Hall featured interactive demos and exhibits, including a variety of projects from ACE Lab from OCADU, York University’s Sensorium, and Friend Generator. Interactive demos included a dollhouse-sized NBA trainer from Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, an industrial Chainsaw VR simulator from Winnipeg’s Bit Space Development, and their award-winning indigenous language environments developed for Georgian College and powered by the Engage platform.
Game Developer Lana Lux conducted live VR thought experiments in a secluded room, and AR artist and photographer Stephen Black delighted attendees with his playful AR creations and impromptu headshot sessions. Alex Mayhew’s stunning artwork was on display.
Kelencontent had an exhibit and demo of their content. Games by Stitch exhibited their newly released hand-tracking horror game “Broken Spectre.” Additionally, Alex Coulombe of Agile Lens demoed a variety of cutting-edge VR experiences that included lifelike performative MetaHumans.
Guests mingled in the bright and modern space, enjoying coffee and concessions and posing for pictures in front of the marquee lights.
Attendees also enjoyed an opening night reception and a chance to mingle and relax at the IDFK Gallery in the heart of the Toronto Arts District. Renowned DJ Fame Diet and MetaVRse’s Alan Smithson took turns at the decks while delicious vegan food from eco-friendly caterers Inwit and some bespoke charcuterie were served.
“The team behind VRTO has a proven track record of bringing thought leaders and industry professionals together to share ideas and innovations that are pushing the boundaries of spatial computing. The future of XR is bright, and VRTO is playing a significant role in shaping it.”
Attendees enjoyed the fun and eclectic space and the time to talk and catch up with old friends and new ones. Special thanks to Ian Kelso for supporting VRTO with this amazing and important new art space in the city. Of course, we brought the guests there because this will also be home to FIVARS from September 15th through 19th!
“Definitely put VRTO on your calendar for next year. It’s far more than a regional #XR conference; it’s a vital organ of the industry. VIVA VRTO!” – Ben Erwin, Creator – The Poly Awards