Since January 2014, wearable tech expert Tom Emrich and his team at We Are Wearables have been holding monthly meetups in Toronto showcasing the latest in wearable technology. From humble beginnings – the first Meetup had 200 members – what was originally dubbed "WWTO" has grown into a global phenomenon. The We Are Wearables Meetup group now has over 5,000 members and is one of the largest wearable tech Meetups in the world. In addition, satellite Meetups in Ottawa and Chicago have pushed the overall membership to 6,500+, which includes developers, start-up founders, investors, journalists and other wearable tech enthusiasts.
Each We Are Wearables event focuses on a specific aspect of this booming section of the tech industry and includes a product demonstration area, talks from luminaries in the space, new wearable tech announcements, and insightful panels. Previous events have focused on smartwatches, augmented reality, smart clothing and wearable cameras.
Last week, virtual reality took center stage, which was perfect timing with the other two big VR events happening in the city in the same week – the Immersed Conference and the Toronto stop of the Kaleidoscope VR Film Festival. Last week really was VR Week in Toronto.
The event started with keynote from Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre (CFC). There was then talk from Secret Location, the VR studio responsible for the Emmy-winning "Sleepy Hollow" VR experience, then followed by more presentations from VR developers like Cubicle Ninjas, Globacore (creators of PaperDude VR) and Cinehackers. While all the presentations (apart from the Cubicle Ninjas) were from members of the local VR scene, most of them are playing on the global stage, especially ones like Secret Location, which now has its own satellite office in LA to better work with Hollywood.
To cap off the event there was a panel, moderated by yours truly, that was an overall discussion about VR and its potential to "change this reality forever." Joining me on the panel were J. Lee Williams, Co-founder of OccupiedVR; Josh Farkas, Strategy Ninja, Cubicle Ninjas; Ben Unsworth, Co-founder and President of Globacore; Elli Raynai, VR Filmmaker, Cinehackers; Craig Alguire, Technical Director and Co-founder of Quantum Capture and Milan Baic, Founder of Pinc VR. You can watch the seventeen-minute panel below.
Coming up next for Toronto-based VR enthusiasts (well, anyone in the VR space) is the upcoming one day WEST: Wearable Entertainment & Sports Toronto Conference (which we'll be covering) on November 3. Also, put on by Tom Emrich, WEST is in its second year and focuses on presentations by professionals involved in sports and entertainment on how wearable tech is going to change those industries. With VR playing an increasing larger role in both of their futures, this year there are going to be a number of speakers talking about it.
For us, the biggest name, and the person we are looking forward to seeing, is Curtis Hickman, Chief Creative Officer and Founder of The Void. If you haven't heard of it, The Void is working on creating virtual reality theme park experiences that let you and your friends enjoy a virtual world using untethered VR HMDs in "Virtual Entertainment Centers" that include 4D effects for an additional level of immersion.
While WEST is a paid industry conference, all access tickets are a reasonable (for this kind of conference) $200 CDN, and furthermore, We Are Wearables members can get $100 CDN off, too.
Stay tuned for our coverage from WEST, and we can't wait to talk to The Void. Hopefully, we'll then be able to visit its Virtual Entertainment Center and test it out for ourselves!
Alex Davies is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware and Tom's IT Pro, covering Smartphones, Tablets, and Virtual Reality. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.