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VRTO 2023 Spatial Media World Conference – Final Report

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.

Topics included social VR platforms, performance, and production, UX/UI, Interaction design, GPT, and Generative AI and their use cases and concerns. Opening Remarks were delivered by the Executive Director of VRTO, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, and OCAD University President, Ana Serrano.

“[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.
Ashley Huffman of Titan Haptics demonstrating a prototype for a haptic lightsaber - the first of its kind at VRTO 2023, Toronto Canada.
Ashley Huffman of Titan Haptics demonstrated a prototype for a haptic lightsaber – the first of its kind at VRTO 2023, Toronto Canada.

A room full of attendees at OCAD U Waterfront at VRTO 2023.

“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 (, 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.
Pictured left to right: Orla Garriques, Tendisai Cromwell, Kai Little-White - VRTO 2023
Pictured left to right: Orla Garriques, Tendisai Cromwell, Kai Little-White – VRTO 2023, photo by Zimtok5

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.

Left to right: VR Live Performers Summit: Jake Runeckles, Liam Karry, Whitton Frank, Ari Tarr, Nicole Rigo, and Mandy Canales.
Left to right: VR Live Performers Summit: Jake Runeckles, Liam Karry, Whitton Frank, Ari Tarr, Nicole Rigo, and Mandy Canales.

“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!


VRTO 2023 opening night party - full of VR innovators and industry leaders at IDFK gallery, Toronto, Canada. photo by Christian Bobak
VRTO 2023 opening night party – full of VR innovators and industry leaders at IDFK gallery, Toronto, Canada. photo by Christian Bobak


Keram Malicki-Sanchez and DJ Shine (Jason Spanu) at IDFK art gallery in Toronto for the VRTO 2023 opening night party. The two are also members of the ambient music project Automated Gardens
Keram Malicki-Sanchez and Fame Diet (“DJ Shine”) at IDFK art gallery in Toronto for the VRTO 2023 opening night party. The two are also members of the ambient music project Automated Gardens

“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

VRTO 2022 Spatial Media World Conference – Final Report

For VRTO 2022, Constant Change Media Group (CCMG) ran a 2-day in-person event featuring 50 international speakers who presented in the 350-seat auditorium at OCAD
University in the heart of Toronto’s media district.

It was the first in-person event since 2019, (VRTO having operated as an award-winning virtual events between 2020 and 2021) and included 2 networking lounges, a VIP reception, an exhibits hall, and a private Discord server as an additional tool for networking and resource-sharing.

Here was the teaser trailer for this special event

Media and Influencer Coverage

The event ran 2 days, and featured thought leaders from around the world who represent and lead such companies as Pixomondo, Virtual Production Academy, HTC Vive, Masterpiece Studio, Virtualware, Webaverse, MetaVRse’s, SIRT, LIFT, Trinity Square Video, QuickTurnVR, Dark Slope, Metropolitan, York and OCAD universities, and many more.

The event was covered by a number of industry newsletters, communities, and platforms including Playback, Forbes: This Week In XR, Immersive Wire, XRMust, BlogTO, The Lodgge, Between Realities. The event earned over 300,000 social media impressions.

Event Highlights:

– The reunion of the many old and new Toronto companies and XR enthusiasts
– Introducing visitors from outside Canada to the Ontario tech sector
– First look at hardware and software demos (Tilt Five, VIROO 2.0, HTC’s Mars CamTrack)
– First public behind-the-scenes look at PXO’s production pipeline for McDonald’s and Star
Trek: Strange New Worlds

Check out Between Realities’ coverage of the event

Attendee Testimonials

“I met incredible people pioneering amazing things in XR, made great connections” – Ari Tarr, Active Replica

“Great people and thought-provoking conversations!” – Lucie Lalumiere, Interactive Ontario

“This is the VR / Metaverse event for OGs. I’ve been going for years. If you’re in Toronto, this is the place to be.” – Jonathan Gagne, Masterpiece Studio

“What an incredible opportunity to learn so much in these past couple of days and share the room with incredibly smart people!” – Adrian Onsen, Construkted Reality

“I’ve always found VRTO to be one of the most intelligent, interesting and creative gatherings in the #XR space” – Linda Ricci

As an independent, we continue to lobby for access to all, removing socio-economic barriers to that access, always improving the means of providing that access, and ensuring a safe, open future for the industry and its outputs.

We believe in the importance of symbiotic relationships, particularly in this developing industry. Thank you for your continued support, we couldn’t do it without you.

VRTO 2021 The Flotilla – Final Report

Return to a Bigger, Better Flotilla

report written by Stephanie Greenall and Keram Malicki-Sanchez

In celebration of the 6th annual VRTO, we returned to the virtual Flotilla.  Created by founder Keram Malicki-Sanchez and his team, including Stephanie Greenall who co-produced the event, Bettina Fimio (administrative support) and longtime team members Chrissy Aitchison (executive administrator and graphic designer), and Joshua Miles Joudrie (tech coordinator and live event consultant), the show incorporated lessons from the previous year’s exploration into the spatialized web.


“What I really think stands out about VRTO is the way in which the line between the stage and the audience is blurred. We create as many interactive events and opportunities as we can fit and it is always inspiring to see how attendees step up.” – Keram Malicki-Sanchez confides.


This year’s participatory and networking events included:

  1.  Immersive Improv workshops featuring attendees who volunteered to learn while on camera and then put on a live-streamed performance on the final day.
    (Image credit: Ana Ballano)


  2. Daily “pirate radio” transmission live-streaming from 3D space to Discord (and recorded) featuring Max Noir’s Lunch Hour show, where daily guests were chosen from the attendee list to talk about their work.
    Dean Yeats brings his trombone into the virtual space in Mozilla Hubs on a LIVE session of Lunch Hour with Max Noir.


  3. Scavenger hunt in the custom build Crystal Caverns.


  4. Photo challenges where attendees took selfies in the many different environments or times of day, in exchange for game key bundles and other prizes.
  5. Every talk included a live Q&A where questions were fielded in realtime and also recorded via the Discord discussion channels
  6.  Eight showcase galleries:
    Pepperdine University (Kate Parsons)
    OCAD University (student projects)
    Trinity Square Video (artist NFT projects, with daily artist talks)

    Image captured by Jose Matute in the TSV gallery
    Image captured by Jose Matute in the TSV gallery


    The Pearl Hyacinth Gallery (created and curated by Melody Owen) featuring portals to other 3D virtual galleries (Style, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Second Life, NYC Music Center)
    The Cream Digital showcase/Dynamic Digital Humans and production gallery (Survivorman, Low-Fi, Wild On w Dominic Monahan)
    the Gregory Panos lidar scan gallery
    – the Bernie Roehl Avatar Museum
    – not to mention the 10 spaces created by Whystler, and Keram for the Hubs world.

Key Learnings:

  • last year having two messaging platforms (Whova + discord) fractured the audience and the team had to manage conversations and content on multiple fronts
  • This year we used Discord as the central arena for the Flotilla with Mozilla Hubs acting as the virtual spaces where attendees could engage with each other and 3D environments.
  • Developed a video wall to house videos after the LIVE sessions rather than using additional services/platforms
  • Pushed Discord to its limits by using its streaming functionality; which we then learned was capped and had to incorporate Google Meets
  • Decided on one ticket and provide access to everyone
  • Building on the success of the machinima contests we developed interactive workshops and performances

Show Highlights Include:

    • NFT Micro Summit featuring superstars of the new art economy:
      Curated and moderated by Michelle Brown, the NFT microsummit comprised two hours of discussion around the new economies and communities growing up around non-fungible tokens and how to find sustainable practices while supporting the work of artists and the hunger of collectors. Featuring Estella Tse VR/AR Creative Director (Oakland, California), Jose Andres Virtual Events Producer, Crux (Santa Fe, USA), Manu Vision Senior UX/XR Designer, Unity Technologies (Montreal, Canada), Sutu Eats Flies Visual Artist, Co-Founder of Eyejack (Los Angeles), David Plant Trinity Square Video (Toronto, Canada), MOON HMZ Visual Artist (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
      MOON HMZ and the NFT summit at VRTO 2021
    • Rhythm & Fitness Game Micro Summit – Both summits showed the importance of developing and leaning on each other to build a successful game or ecosystem (when one of us wins, we all win)
      VRTO 2021 vr fitness games summit
    • Interview with Jesse Schell, CEO and Dave Bennett, Senior Game Designer / Project Director for Until You Fall, Schell Games, interviewed by Kat De Shields, Schell PR Manager

      Schell Games interview VRTO 2021
      Jesse Schell and Dave Bennett of Schell Games interview VRTO 2021 virtual conference


    • Immersive Performance Workshop – led by Dasha Kitteredge (Creative Director, Metaforyou and Guest Field Instructor, NYU Tisch (Los Angeles, USA) and Ari Tarr (Lead host and VR acting consultant, Adventure Lab and Active Replica)
    • WebGL + VRML Veteran meetupGregory Panos (former Siggraph LA chair), Bernie Roehl (VRML pioneer and author), Larry Rosenthal (virtual worlds pioneer), James Baicoianu (JanusWeb) 
      An impromptu meetup of the VRML and WebGL veterans including Greg Panos, Larry Rosenthal, Bernie Roehl, and James Baiconianu.


  • Pixomondo half-day behind-the-scenes on advances in Virtual Production featuring Asad Manzoor, Zachary Dembinski (huge Fan favourite)
  • Dyscorpia – a sprawling half-day survey of work being done by artists, researchers, galleries, spearheaded by Marilene Oliver and University of Alberta
  • Extensive discussion around Virtual Events and Hybrid Events with the team behind BRCVR

  • Discussions around accessibility and inclusion in design featuring talks with Regine Gilbert (author: “Inclusive Design for a Digital World: Designing with Accessibility in Mind (Design Thinking”), Max Noir (neurodiversity), AnnMarie “Wirrel” Bartholomaeus, Charles Babb (Fairchild Consulting), OCAD: “Decolonizing the Past: Reimagining the Future” (Priya Bandodkar MDES Graduate, OCAD University (Toronto, Canada), Nadine Valcin MFA graduate, OCAD University (Toronto, Canada), Lilian Leung Designer and Researcher (Tkaronto and the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people, Canada)
  • Report on the Immersive Ecosystem in China from FXG’s Nikk Mitchell

What Are Our Attendees Saying?

VRTO 2021 AttendeesVRTO 2021 AttendeesVRTO 2021 Attendees