Welcome to the first Digifest Startup Innovator profile, featuring Imran Mouna, a co-founder of InStage, a startup that is bringing virtual reality (VR) to the corporate world.
For the past few years, people have thought of VR as a glorified entertainment platform. InStage, a Toronto-based startup has been proving that it is more than just games and we are starting to see VR moving away from entertainment and into industries like medicine, real-estate, and commerce.
You may have seen InStage taking the grand prize of the IT’S A START Pitch Competition this year. Fresh off their worldwide pitch competition circuit, including stops at the Lion’s Lair and OTEC in China, Digifest had a chance to catch up with them. See the full interview here.
Learn more about InStage and how they are bringing VR to a business audience here:
WELL-BEING FOR ALL
Digifest 2018 set out to explore our world fifty years into the future through our theme, Hello Tomorrow: Our Creative Cities. Toronto’s annual tech and innovation festival brought together local and international speakers and exhibitors to showcase their expertise on where we are going and how.
Over the course of the three-day event, an overarching message swiftly became clear: as we move forward, society will prioritize well-being for all (and use technology to achieve it).
This message was embedded throughout each talk and exhibition, and to set the tone for the next three days, Georgia Lupi kicked us off with her talk on Data Humanism. Lupi asks more from data and sees that it’s vital missing piece – human nature. This talk explored how we can push data further to tell the rich and colourful story that is our lives.
The next day attendees gathered in the early morning, with piping hot coffee and muffins in hand, to hear all about how the City of Toronto is transforming itself into an adaptable, sustainable, and efficient Smart City. Rick Huijbregts, Vice-President of Strategy and Innovation at George Brown College, led us in a discussion where we heard all about how Toronto is preparing for the future and offering its citizens a new and better quality of life.
How cities contribute to improving our quality of life comes down to many factors, including transportation. This is what TransPod seeks to do for Canadians: getting from point A to B faster, more efficiently, and sustainably. Enter Ryan Janzen, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of TransPod. Imagine living in Montreal and working in Toronto everyday with only a 45 minute commute. Our relationship with cities, work, and the country itself would change dramatically. But beyond that, this technology could also improve food access and the cost off food in northern parts of the country through the train’s ability to move freight at a high-speed and low cost. The possibilities are endless!
On the subject of food, Dana McCauley, Associate Director of New Venture Creation at the University of Guelph, shared her eye-opening insights into how we might eat in the future. Currently, food costs are rising, there is a wide dichotomy of access, and farms are experiencing the stress of demand. Here are some ways that McCauley sees the food system improving: food will become more nutrient dense, blockchain technology will help us avoid food fraud and create accountability, less meat will be consumed, vertical farming and in-home organic gardens will become widely popularized, and that’s just to name a few!
Education also seeks a transformation. Navid Nathoo, Co-Founder of the Knowledge Society, shared how his company is testing new educational systems in order to better prepare and inspire future change-makers. He brought some of his students on stage to share with us how they are studying disruptive technologies to solve real-world problems.
After a hearty lunch, we sat down for the afternoon to learned about projects like, how Brasilia evolved from a city of corruption into a thriving creative hub, curating Virtual Reality within cultural spaces, and how VR can be used as a tool for social change.
Digital Media Pioneer Award
With all this talk about the future, it’s important to reflect on how we have evolved and acknowledge the trailblazers who brought us to the place where we are today. That’s why Digifest honours a Digital Media Pioneer every year with an award that celebrates those individuals who have had a significant influence on our current society. The 2018 Digifest Digital Media Pioneer Award went to none other than Norman White.
White is recognized as an early pioneer of electronic, machine, and robotic art. He started his career as a painter and later shifted his practice to kinetic electronics in the late 1960s. While White has exhibited in major institutions around the world. He feels that art functions best, and is most needed, outside of galleries and museums. Beyond his work as an artist, he is also an educator and an active mentor. He taught for more than 25 years at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, where he helped initiate a program with a focus in electronics, mechanics, computer programming, and instructed at Ryerson University where he taught similar subjects. White’s work has influenced many new media artists, including Doug Back, David Rokeby, Peter Flemming, Jeff Mann, and Graham Smith.
To accompany the celebration of White, Digifest showcased a retrospective of his body of work.
Our brains were buzzing with all the new knowledge and ideas from Day 1, it was hard to imagine we had room for more. But of course, the day brought us thoughtful and provoking insights into the future. We heard all about skill-building through experience, how technology is impacting the fashion industry, how design is shifting from aesthetics to solution-driven thinking, and how France engages the public in the arts.
The Art of Letting Go
The standout talk of the day came from our keynote speaker Linda Volkers, Manager of Marketing at the Rijksmuseum. Volkers spearheaded the campaign to offer the museum’s digital collection for free to the public. Over 350,000 images can be downloaded for free, without limitations. The Rijksmuseum took this initiative in the firm belief that its collection belongs to the people. Apart from reaching new audiences and enhancing its brand awareness globally, the free use of collection images gives old masterpieces a new relevance in today’s world.
IT’S A START 2018 Pitch Competition!
The Day concluded with the IT’S A START pitch competition, where ten start-ups competed to win the grand prize of $5000 in funding and a trip to Beijing to pitch their idea for a chance to win even more funding!
It was a lively, passionate competition. So many amazing ideas were brought to the stage, it was hard to know who would win. Ultimately, InStage, a virtual reality training tool that improves verbal communication skills, won over the judges. InStage’s technology combines virtual reality and data science to simulate the sensation of speaking in front of a live audience and generates metrics relating to your performance.
SECOND PLACE: CoolCat Innovations. They developed Sonacles, an innovative bone conduction hearing aid in the form of regular glasses. It promises to bring affordability and discreteness to its customers.
THIRD PLACE: Phyxable, a self-help video solution that empowers you to fix your own pain and injuries.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE: CommuniHelp, a volunteer matching platform that uses an algorithm to match professionals seeking skills-based volunteer opportunities with social good organizations looking to maximize their social impact.
Day three of the festival brought together children and kids at heart, to fill their minds with inspiration. Family Day included a Food Tech Pop-Up, the Interactive Zone, the Student Showcase, and the Norman White Retrospective Exhibition.
Digifest 2018 & IT’S A START Pitch Competition Highlights from Toronto Digifest on Vimeo.
We hope to see you next year!
The Digifest Team