Bringing the XR World Together at the VR/AR Global Summit, with Executive Director Anne-Marie Enns

Alan, along with his wife Julie, are members of the VR/AR Association, and as such, one of the annual XR gatherings they look forward to most is the VR/AR Global Summit in Vancouver, which is just a few weeks away (Oct 31-Nov 2). Alan has the event’s executive producer, Anne-Marie Enns, on to talk about what attendees can expect on the show floor this year.

Alan: Welcome to the XR for Business Podcast with your host, Alan Smithson. Today’s guest is a great friend of mine, Anne-Marie Enns, the executive producer of the VR/AR Global Summit, coming to Vancouver, Canada, October 31st to November 2nd. And I am super excited to announce that both my wife Julie and myself will be speakers at it, and it’s hosted by the VR/AR Association, which we are also members. She’s served as the executive producer for the show for two years and previously was the producer of the CVR, the Consumer VR Show, also hosted in Vancouver. She’s the founder of Pulled In Productions, a live event production company that specializes in tech events and live productions. You can learn more about the VR/AR Global Summit by visiting vrarglobalsummit.com. Duh.

Anne-Marie: [chuckles]

Alan: We’re here now with Anne-Marie. Thanks for joining me.

Anne-Marie: Thanks so much for having me, Alan.

Alan: I’m super excited for two things. One, to come and see everybody in Vancouver and two, to find out who else was gonna be there speaking at this. So let’s get into it. Tell everybody what is the VR/AR Global Summit, and what can they expect from this?

Anne-Marie: Well, the VR/AR Global Summit is going into its second year, and it is two days that are jam packed full of amazing industry speakers, workshops, speed dating, great events, amazing exhibits and demos. And so it is just *the* show to go to if you’re looking for great content, great conversations and awesome networking in a beautiful location.

Alan: I have been a guest speaker at your conference for a couple of years now, and I can tell you — for the people listening — there’s two conferences that I — or three, I guess — that I look forward to every year: AWE, which is by far the most impactful augmented reality conference, and that takes place every year in San Francisco, and now there’s going to be one in Munich. But then there’s the Virtual Reality, Toronto; VRTO: That one is a small but very powerful group. And the Global Summit is kind of like taking both of those. Where you’ve got this small, intimate group talking about the future of technology. Then you’ve got AWE, which is very kind of enterprise focused, how to make money? And you bring those two together and you’ve got this global summit. And it’s just incredible because it feels like a small conference, even though it’s not small, it feels like a small conference because everybody there is super passionate. They’re willing to share their experiences. What can we expect from the speakers this year?

Anne-Marie: Sure. Well, we’ve got so many amazing speakers this year, and we take a lot of time to carefully curate who goes on our stage. So it takes us a while to get that program launched. But we’ve got some amazing people this year, both in the enterprise side — so talking about training — we’ve got a whole defense and government sector that’s happening at the event this year, a couple hours of that. We’ve got beautiful immersive artists and people working in immersive storytelling that are coming. So we’ve got Lenovo, Niantic, MasterCard, HP, Forbes, a whole bunch of great of the big name companies. But then we’ve also got beautiful artists that are coming, like Nancy Baker Cahill, and a beautiful voice, Galit Ariel, who’s from Toronto, who was a TEDWomen speaker. Yourself, Julie, we’ve got people from Viacom, we’ve got people from Hasbro. There’s a lot of really interesting, diverse voices happening at the event. We try to balance it with names that you know and with names that you’re going to know after you come to the summit.

Alan: Let’s go through this. There’s so many great speakers coming. You’ve got somebody from MasterCard. What are they doing in AR and VR?

Anne-Marie: So they have taken their training globally into VR and AR with their staff. And so they’re talking about how they’re– they started small with that, but now it’s a global entity, and how that changes when you’re going from different country to country, and what they’re doing. So they’re speaking about that. We’ve got people that are talking about sports and fitness in VR and AR this year, from FORM Swim and YUR Fitness, so VR in training for your body, which is great. Yeah, there’s all kinds of great people coming to speak this year.

Alan: Sergio from Hasbro’s gonna be there. What is Hasbro doing in VR and AR?

Anne-Marie: They’re doing some great things with toys for kids, mostly in the AR realm and developing educational apps with their toys and without their toys, really working on some STEM programming as well. So he is really interesting and they have got a lot of new things that they’ll be launching at the summit as well.

Alan: I’m scanning through that — if you guys want to take a look, it’s vrarglobalsummit.com/speakers — and I’m scrolling down. Of course, there’s familiar faces like Charlie Fink. And then there’s Amy Peck and there’s — who’s there? — Cathy Hackl. These are people that if you’re in the industry at all, you’ve seen these names come up. But then there’s a whole host of people that are kind of new, and up and coming. And it’s really, really exciting. Martina from the WXR Fund and Amy from the WXR Fund — that’s the Women’s XR Fund — that are really promoting women entrepreneurs in the space. I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing that. You’ve got Jeff Olm, Alex Snider from Patio Interactive. It’s like a host of incredible people, John Cunningham from DiSTI. Who else is there? Oh, it’s everybody! John Mc– Jason McDowall from The AR Show, I was on his show. Nathan Pettyjohn, who was the founder of VR/AR Association. Who else? I’m just going down the list, this is an incredible list of people.

Anne-Marie: Well, then we’ve got people like Kavya Pearlman, who are doing the XR Security Initiative, talking about ethics and security in VR and AR, and she’s amazing. She’s a top 30 under 30. And Dr. Uma Jayaram from Travancore, who just got bought out by Intel Sports. So they’ll be talking about e-sports and VR and AR. And then we’ve got Renée Stevens and Amy Lou Abernathy, who are both talking about education and diversity and inclusion. There’s beautiful storytellers that are coming to talk about that. So it’s really– so there’s one stage that’s enterprise, and one stage that’s immersive. And then another stage on Saturday that’s all about defense and government. So really, it covers basically everything you could ever want to know about VR and AR. It’s great. It’s great. I’m super excited.

Alan: Teppei Tsutsui.

Anne-Marie: Yep.

Anne-Marie: From GRF, or the GREE Fund. He’s actually gonna be on my podcast in about an hour from now.

Anne-Marie: Oh, awesome! How excellent!

Alan: [laughs] Yeah!

Anne-Marie: Small world.

[laughs]

Alan: Jesse Damiani from VR Focus, just like– this is gonna be like a big family gathering of awesome people that are passionate, that are really just rolling up their sleeves and doing stuff in this industry. So I’m super excited for this. It’s really amazing. Is Ross Finman from Niantic speaking as well?

Anne-Marie: He is. So he is one of our keynotes on Friday. So we’re super excited to have him, and what they’re talking about. And then Matt [Miesnieks] from 6D.ai. Oh, there’s just so many good people. And Jimmy Vainstein, who’s speaking from World Bank and how they’re helping to change the world, and document what they’re working on with World Bank through VR and AR and storytelling through that. And then there’s a couple of surprises that aren’t even up there yet, that will be launched this week, that are really cool, that I’m super excited for.

Alan: So we’ve talked about the people that are gonna be there, which is literally the most important part. But let’s talk about what are some of the demos that you guys are going to have there, because I think seeing VR and AR is the key to all this. So what are some of the things that we’re gonna be able to to try, and touch, and play with?

Anne-Marie: Oh, there’s so many great demos.

Alan: We really just want to play with toys. Come on, let’s be honest.

Anne-Marie: We want to–

[chuckles]

What am I excited about, though? I don’t know, everything. I always get lost in the exhibitor room. Lenovo’s bringing a great exhibit this year, you’ll get to try out all of their fun stuff. Archiact just did a great AR experience with Marvel, so that’ll be there and, we’ll be able to experience that and engage with some of the awesome Marvel characters. We’re going to have great gaming companies. There are a lot of different headsets going on. It’s going to be great. There’ll be a lot of things to try. Dreamcraft Attractions — who are from Canada, but have never really exhibited in Canada — they do great gaming and attraction based VR, so they’ll be there for the first time. So there’s lots of great things. A lot of local companies, a lot of really interesting startups. And then we’ve got workshops too.

Alan: Oh, tell me about the workshop! That’s important.

Anne-Marie: Magic Leap’s doing a workshop. HTC with Vinay [Narayan], who’s always wonderful. Amazon will be there talking about Sumerian, and then a couple other with immersive storytelling and volumetric capture, that will be announced this week too. So I’m excited for those.

Alan: Incredible. I know volumetric capture’s starting to heat up, with Verizon acquiring Jaunt and ooh, it’s getting crazy!

Anne-Marie: [laughs] It’s getting fun!

Alan: One of my interviews today was with Michael Mansouri from Radiant Images. And they’re really pioneering some work in photogrammetry, volumetric capture, and light field capture as well. So, very interesting.

Anne-Marie: Cool.

Alan: Holy moly. There’s just so much to unpack here. There’s Telus, Facebook, Siemens, Raytheon, Viacom, Microsoft, Lenovo, Niantic, Canadian Tire. It’s just– [sound of mind being blown] You know, it’s nuts. There’s so many companies that are part of this. What are some of the challenges that you’ve had with bringing this together?

Anne-Marie: I think always the challenge is just trying to fit this all into two days. Literally, you could have stages upon stages and days upon days of topics and interesting people. We had so many amazing people applied to speak that we just couldn’t fit in. So I think it’s narrowing it down. It’s also trying to give people the quality that they want and the current topics, because the topics change so quickly in this industry. So what we started talking about last year is either no longer necessarily relevant or where it was or what’s going on. So it’s just trying to make the most up-to-date, current, exciting show that we can when it’s changing so dramatically daily, with companies being bought out and everything. It’s just– that’s probably the hardest part, is containing what we have, because we can do this for days, really.

Alan: Yeah. It’s– you know, if you go back kind of three or four years, the news would come out once every two days or we’d like, okay, here’s some VR news. It would be a couple of things. It’s coming out every couple of hours now.

Anne-Marie: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it’s funny because I’ve been doing a show like this for three years, and the topics, what’s relevant and what’s not changes month to month.

Alan: Okay, what was relevant a year ago, that’s no longer today?

Anne-Marie: Well, this year we found that we are getting a lot of people applying to speak about– it’s basically getting down and dirty into it, like we’re doing the training, this is what’s working, and we’re in it. And when I’ve been doing that for the two years prior, it was a lot about where’s the industry going, and that. Like that hockey stick curve of where you might be and what’s going on.

Alan: Everybody with the hockey stick curve!

Anne-Marie: I’m like, “No, hockey stick curve!” But now it’s the people that are really into it, and working into it, and what is actually going on in it, rather than theory. Like it’s at practical application. So a lot of it, when we were looking for practical applications two years ago, it wasn’t quite there. And now that’s everything that we thought. So a lot of enterprise training, a lot of especially military and defense. We’ve got a lot of people talking about that. And then the quality in storytelling and content that goes with that, not just the demand for it, but the actual delivery of it now. So it’s just a really interesting conversation to see how it’s grown and changed.

Alan: So three years ago — or I guess four years ago — there was a couple of companies, Greenlight and some other companies that made these crazy, wild, outlandish bets on the size of the market. And most of them were wrong by a large margin. What are we seeing now? Are we seeing more pragmatic kind of predictions for the future? What are we seeing in the next five years?

Anne-Marie: I mean, just based on what I read and podcasts like yours and chatting with you and stuff like that, I think– I don’t know. I think it’s the down and dirty applications of it. I think people are into it. I don’t think anyone’s looking for that huge, exciting growth that was predicted five years ago.

Alan: [laughs] We’re not looking to get rich. We’re just looking to get shit done.

Anne-Marie: Yeah. And that’s what it is: it’s getting shit done. And that’s what a lot of people are doing, and putting their heads down and doing it. And the people that are doing gaming are doing gaming so well, and the people that are doing enterprise are doing enterprise really well. And I think that a lot of people are trying to do a lot of things, but it’s more streamlined. And the people doing beautiful artwork are– they really got an issue for it now. And you can make money off of it, you can do those things. And I think people are getting really creative in it, as opposed to just trying to jump on the bandwagon. I think that people that didn’t really see the potential of it are gone a little bit. And those that are really into it, and dove into it, and love it are persisting and making great things. But that’s just my personal experience. [laughs] That’s just what I see.

Alan: I think you’re absolutely right. You’re seeing people kind of drop off of this, and people that got into it for the shiny penny are really falling off, because it’s hard to build something of value in any industry, especially in an industry that’s emerging, where there’s sometimes no answers. You’re like, “Okay, how do we do this?” And people are like, “I don’t know. Nobody’s done it. So how do we do it?”

Anne-Marie: But you look at people coming, like the guys that are– the two people that are coming from Patio, which is a cannabis company. So when you’re talking to them like, so cannabis is new. You can’t hire anyone working in marketing and training and sales that’s worked in cannabis before, like you can kind of take from similar, like alcohol companies or whatever. But it is a different thing. So they’re using VR and AR in training in a whole new industry that never even existed two years ago.

Alan: Absolutely, and we have–

Anne-Marie: That’s the people that are creative and innovative about it, because everything they’re doing is creative and innovative. And that’s exciting.

Alan: Yeah, e’ve actually worked with Charlie and his team at Patio over the years, and they do great work. They’ve been really pioneering the cannabis space. We actually did a project — that will never see the light of day, unfortunately — we filmed the world’s largest cannabis facility in VR, in 360.

Anne-Marie: Oh, cool.

Alan: Yeah, it was amazing. 800,000 square foot cannabis facility. So you’re in VR and you’re standing amongst the trees. And yeah, it was beautiful. But unfortunately, it’ll never see the light of day, because the client– it was under lock and key, so… But yeah, they do some amazing work. They’ve done some really interesting work in photogrammetry of the buds and really bringing them to life in AR as well, which is pretty cool. And then taking that, which, you know, it’s really cool to see a bud in AR. But what’s the point? So what they’ve done is they get in a little bit further and said, “OK, well, let’s use it to educate consumers about this.” And I think that’s really cool. And recently they just did this really cool thing with wink cannabis where they they 3D projection mapped a sign. And while it’s not kind of VR or AR, it is really still the same technologies that we’re using, the 3D map, and they 3D mapped a sign that says “wink.” And it just– it looks really cool in an event. It’s really super cool.

Anne-Marie: Yeah, awesome. And I think that’s what you’re going to see, is people taking it and going that one step further. Like I’m talking to some people about some great immersive experiences that just take it that one step beyond. And they’re exciting. They’re so great.

Alan: Yeah, I actually– Last week I was in Orlando meeting with John Cunningham. He’s one of the mentors for the XR Ignite’s platform or accelerator. And I got to go to their office and try their training demos. And a lot of the training they’re doing is in three dimensions, but it’s on 2D touch screens. And even though it’s not in VR/AR, the 3D ability to turn things around and see them from all angles, open them up. It really does make a big difference. And then, of course, you know that they can push a button and put you into VR with that. So I actually– one of the demos I got to see was an F-18 fighter jet. And I got to put my head in and walk around a fighter jet and open up the panels. And that was just mind-blowing. And then it went from an F-18 fighter jet to an HP large format printer.

Anne-Marie: I think I’d stay in that fighter jet. [laughs]

Alan: It was like, the same technology can be applied to this.

Anne-Marie: Yeah. Which is awesome, right?

Alan: You get fighter jets and printers! Crazy.

Anne-Marie: [laughs]

Alan: Who else is on this? Jason McDowall, I was on his show recently, that was really exciting. And he runs a podcast called The AR Show, which is really incredible. Kavya Pearlman from XR Safety Initiative, they’re pioneering work in making sure that we do things ethically, which is really great. Who else is on? Tony Bevilacqua. Is he still with Cognitive3D? I think so.

Anne-Marie: He is, yep, that’s his company, he’s been–.

Alan: They’re doing analytics in VR and AR, so being able to take the analytics out of that and make sense of where people are looking, how long they interacted, all of these things.

Anne-Marie: Yeah.

Alan: Very cool.

Anne-Marie: It’s awesome. And what’s great to do, with it being the global summit, is we’ve got speakers this year that are coming from Africa, and India, and Asia, and Germany and– you know, we’re doing a European summit next year. So you’ve got the Lisbon chapter president coming, who’s great at marketing and VR. So it’s going to to have a lot of interesting voices as well. So not just the standard what we’re doing here or on the west coast of North America. But what’s the VR like in Nigeria, and all over the world? And it’s really fascinating when you learn what they’re doing, compared to that we’re doing and how the direction is totally different, because there’s just not that influence of being here. So there is going to be a lot of really interesting discussion points, and the ability to network with people from around the globe, that I think will be incredible always. And that’s what I really like about this event.

Alan: And the best conversations — let’s be honest — they always happen at the bar afterwards, anyway.

Anne-Marie: Yeah. Yeah. We do this awesome speed dating, where you get to meet 150 people in an hour and then it launches into the cocktail bar.

Alan: Oh, I love that! That looks great.

Anne-Marie: So we’re doing that for cocktail hour and then we’re doing that at breakfast the next morning, because it was so popular last year.

Alan: So you’re doing it twice?

Anne-Marie: With wine and with coffee. So it’ll be good.

Alan: Oh my god.

Anne-Marie: Whatever gets your fancy going.

Alan: Can you do both? Can you do the cocktail one day, and then do the coffee the next?

Anne-Marie: Sure. It’s first come, first go.

Alan: October 31st is coming up really quick. October 31st to November 2nd is the Vancouver VR/AR Global Summit. Is it too late for sponsors to come on board, or exhibitors?

Anne-Marie: No. We still have a few exhibitor spaces, because we opened up a bit of a different area. So we’ve still got space for that, which would be amazing. And we always welcome sponsors. We do custom proposals for everyone. So it’s not just, you know, “here’s your money and here’s a logo,” but you can let me know what you’re looking for to get out of it. And I can help to custom something for you. It’s not too late. There’s so much great exposure available on site and during and after the event that we can help with, because of VR/AR keeps going all year. It doesn’t just stop at the summit. So there’s great opportunities for that. And of course, ticket sales, I mean, we’ve got ticket types for full conference passes, if you can come Saturday only, if you just want to check out the exhibits, if you’re a student, there’s all kinds of great opportunities at any price point. Startups to be involved with the summit, and it’s never too late to come on board. We welcome everyone.

Alan: How much are tickets?

Anne-Marie: If you’re a member there, $4.99. If you’re a non-member, I believe they are $7.99, US.

Alan: That’s full conference pass?

Anne-Marie: That’s full conference pass. So that’s all the workshops, it’s all the parties, it’s all the talks. And then there’s startup passes and student passes, and you can find them all on the website, listed on the front.

Alan: And then, so I’ve got to read this quote, “The VR/AR Global Summit is one of the year’s most anticipated conferences. It attracts a broad international cross-section of thought leaders, enterprise executives, entertainment companies and developers for an intense two days of panels, demos and networking.” And I’m assuming — because it says Forbes — I’m assuming that’s a quote from Charlie Fink.

Anne-Marie: It is, it is.

Alan: Alright. So you have here, “With over 230 companies active in VR and AR, Vancouver is the second largest immersive ecosystem in the world. This is the fourth time the show is happening in Vancouver. And this year’s summit will have a strong focus on enterprise and AR, as well as immersive interactive design.” And here, I just got to read some of the brands that are participating in the summit. You got MasterCard, Hershey’s, Verizon, Boeing, Wal-Mart, Viacom, Siemens, Raytheon, Telus, Apple, Lenovo, Google, HP, Facebook, AWS, Varjo, Accenture, Pico, Magic Leap, Vive, RE’FLEKT, Patio Interactive, BGC, Dreamcraft, DiSTI, 8th Wall, Stryker, Atheer, Sector Five Digital, World Bank Group, Naval Information Warfare Center, Invest Canada, Lethbridge College, The Time, Fortune, Forbes. This is going to be an incredible event. How many people are you anticipating this year?

Anne-Marie: We’re looking to do about 1,000 to 1,500. That’s– our space is small, but it’s so intimate and it’s great. So we’re just yeah, we’re just excited to have those people come and join us. It’ll be awesome.

Alan: This is so cool, I can’t wait for this. I’m really, really getting excited and I gotta figure out what I’m going to talk about.

Anne-Marie: I know we have to talk about it.

Alan: Awesome. Really looking forward to it. I think this is gonna be a great opportunity for not only for people to learn about the industry, but also to meet new friends and really embrace the entire ecosystem of VR and AR in a place where we can talk business, but also let our hair down and kind of get to know each other from a personal standpoint. I think this is a great opportunity. From anybody around the world, if you happen to have a couple of free days, October 31st to November 2nd, Vancouver, the VR/AR Global Summit and its vrarglobalsummit.com. Is there anything else you want to share with everybody?

Anne-Marie: I think that’s all. I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone there. And thank you, Alan, for having me on your show. I super appreciate it.

Alan: It is my absolute pleasure. I’m super looking forward to seeing you in — oh my God — a couple weeks.

Anne-Marie: I know. [laughs]

Looking for more insights on XR and the future of business? Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify. You can also follow us on Twitter @XRforBusiness and connect with Alan on LinkedIn.

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