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Virtual reality sets in for city tech startups

By Patrick Colvin

Amanda Penuta, design intern with Vancouver tech company HUMAN, tries out the Google Cardboard headset with her smartphone. 
Photo by Boris Mann

Amanda Penuta, design intern with Vancouver tech company HUMAN, tries out the Google Cardboard headset with her smartphone. Photo by Boris Mann

Virtual reality technology has become a multi-billion-dollar industry — with Vancouver tech startups set to go beyond gaming into everything from health care to education.

“Virtual reality, definitely we think, will be a large part of the startup tech industry in Vancouver, because it is such a new and exciting space and there is a really big need for content right now,” said Robyn Gummer from Vancouver virtual reality company Archiact Interactive. “The market is just beginning to grow in 2015, it just really took off at the beginning of this year.”

While virtual reality technology is often associated with gaming, Gummer says that the range of applications for the tech is far reaching. For example, Archiact Interactive is currently producing several virtual reality books for children where the books “come to life” as you read them. Another industry impacted is health care.

“Medicine is a really big side of things, in terms of training for surgeons, nurses, etc. it really gives them a place where they can do something that may be very difficult and risky in real life,” said Gummer. “They can practice it in a virtual setting where no one’s life is actually on the line before they step into the real arena.”

That being said, local startups aren’t ignoring the gaming side of things. Archiact has recently developed a game that can be purchased for Samsung’s virtual reality headset called Lamper VR and local indie game developers Brad Adams and Heather Harvey are working on a game called Mutato Match for the HTC Vive headset.

“Indie gamers have jumped right on the virtual reality bandwagon, they’ve seen that this is the future and they know that if they start developing for it now they’re going to get in at the ground level,” said Guy Judge, spokesperson for Mutato Match. “It’s just a matter of time for the big companies to start asking people to develop for the Vive or for Oculus or whatever, and these indie developers are going to have an advantage because they’ve already started practicing.”

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