VR/AR Global Summit 2019

A personal journey

Last weekend my partner Julie Smithson and I travelled to sunny Vancouver, British Columbia for the Virtual & Augmented Reality (VR/AR) Global Summit. This amazing conference is hosted by the VR/AR Association and is attended by industry leaders across a wide range of topics including location-based entertainment, training, hardware, software, enterprise, and marketing applications.

The event this year seemed more intimate. Not smaller in the number of attendees, but more intimate in that everyone at the show seemed familiar. There were a ton of new faces, but after 3 years of the conference (starting out at CVR), there was almost a family-like atmosphere full of hope, positivity and visions of grandeur rooted in pragmatism. Most of the people I had the opportunity to speak with this year have started to figure out their products, projects, monetization, funding, technology and teams and it was incredible to see how many companies were showing real commercially viable solutions.

Using VR/AR for Inclusion in Education — Panel

Over the 2 day conference, we heard from prolific XR names like Charlie Fink, Cathy Hackl, Amy Peck, Julie Smithson, Nathan Pettyjohn, Terry R. Schussler, and yours truly.

I can honestly say that everything that happened last weekend is a blur, but one thing I can say is that it was the personal interactions, meeting people who are passionate to the point of crazy, but seasoned enough not to spout crazy stats like “the VR industry will be $100T in 3 years” or other such nonsense. This year, 2019 seemed steady, confident and dedicated.

One of the most popular moments of the conference was the speed dating session on both days. Day 1 saw over 100 participants. Here is a photo of Day 2 with half as many people. You can imagine the cacophony of sound with 100+ people standing shoulder to shoulder trying to explain what they do and who they are in under 2 minutes. It was LOUD!

VR/AR Global Summit Speed Dating

The venue was the same as last year, PARQ hotel and casino. It is like most other convention centres, but it has a secret trippy elevator!

Julie Smithson, Terry Schussler & Alan Smithson in the Trippy Elevator

On the Thursday night, there was a VIP event for speakers where we ate some delicious snacks and drinks and got to catch up with old friends and start discussions with new ones. It was a magical experience that continued at our first ever XR Ignite dinner which was attended by 18 incredible people who got a preview of the new product we have been working on for the past 6 months and got an insight into our vision for a better future together using XR.

VIP Reception with Michael Owen, Dan Burgar, Kris Kolo, Chris Pfaff, Srivinas Krishna, Alan Smithson
XR Ignite VIP Dinner Attendees — Srivinas Krishna, Ben Paul, Daniel Seidl, Julie Smithson, Wael Chanab, Daniel Grozdanov, Alan Smithson, Michael Owen & Terry Schussler

The weekend was literally a blur. Between Julie being on two panels and me giving my keynote “Transforming Learning with XR” and meeting so many amazing people, I feel like these photos are the memories I have to remind me of the great conversations with so many great people.

Nathan Pettyjohn, Diego Medina, Ashley Crowder, Alan & Julie Smithson

Some of the intellectual highlights came from presentations all throughout the weekend. Here are some things that stuck out to me…

5G Slide from Terry Schussler, Deutsche Telekom

5G will unlock the full power and potential of XR through a number of ways; 1. Higher bandwidth 2. Lower round-trip latency (edge compute) 3. Larger connection density (# of devices per sq. km)

Workforce Slide from Nathan Pettyjohn, Lenovo

The skilled workforce is shifting dramatically and quickly. 75% of the global workforce will be millennials by 2023!!

XR Training Slide from Alan Smithson (me)

59% of millennials said employers state-of-the-art tech is important when considering a job.

The promise of XR training is that it will improve almost all training, learning and education across a variety of roles, but it is particularly effective for hands-on training in unsafe, expensive environments.

Learning Retention Rates with VR Slide from Alan Smithson (me)

Learning retention rates with VR near 75% compared to only 10% with reading.

While I didn’t have the chance to try the Hololens 2 (there was always a massive line to try it), I got some pics of Convergence and Metaverse author, Charlie Fink trying it out. He said it was really great, so I have to believe him. Hint hint: Microsoft, I would still love a demo of the HL2!

Convergence & Metaverse Author, Charlie Fink

Overall, this years VR/AR Global Summit was a massive success for the XR community, and to me personally. The relationships I have built over the years were solidified and the bonds between us strengthened. I am not sure if VR or AR will ever replace the true human bonds of being in the same place, but I am certain they will not replace the emotions I feel when I see my friends and colleagues come together in one place for a few days to nerd out about the best in the industry.

More info on VR/AR Global Summit: https://www.vrarglobalsummit.com/

VR/AR Global Summit Dinner Gordon Meyer, Dave Walsh, Sheena Fowler, Julie Smithson, Matt Wren, Reynoldo Zabala, Mike Wesolowski

Alan’s purpose in life is to inspire and educate future leaders to think and act in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way.