Concordia University's Galilei is partnering with video game-maker Ubisoft to launch a new program. RYAN REMIORZ / THE CANADIAN PRESS
The initiative will focus on a set of technologies called extended reality, or XR.
A company created by Concordia University is partnering with video game-maker Ubisoft to launch a new program aimed at making Montreal a hub for virtual reality and similar technologies.
“XR:MTL is a place where we bring together three constituents: We bring leading corporations, like Ubisoft and many others; we bring startups; and we bring university talent, students, researchers,” said Stéphane Marceau, the CEO of Galilei, a company created by Concordia to foster those kinds of connections. “We bring this triangle together to collaborate, to generate concrete innovation that has market potential.”
The initiative will focus on a set of technologies called extended reality, or XR. It’s a category that includes virtual reality, technologies that place the user in a virtual world and augmented reality, which aims to bring virtual elements into the real world, as well as other technologies that combine virtual and real environments.
Marceau said many large companies don’t have the expertise in-house to develop these types of technologies. For startups, working with a large company can provide a first major customer and a path to market.
“If you go to Silicon Valley, Boston and different centres of innovation, oftentimes there’s an established culture within large corporations to collaborate with startups, and I think we have an opportunity here in Quebec to develop that reflex,” Marceau said.
While Ubisoft is helping to create XR:MTL as a whole, it will also have a dedicated space, called L’Atelier XR, where it will work with startups to develop prototypes and products that could be distributed by Ubisoft.
Olivier Palmieri, a game director at Ubisoft and the director of L’Atelier XR, said there are a lot of startups already doing great things with XR.
“I’ve been very interested by their products and what they’ve been doing and that’s why, at Ubisoft, we wanted to collaborate and create products and projects that merge our expertise,” he said.
Ubisoft Montreal has been working with virtual reality technology for four years, he said.
“We’re still developing products in-house, but we believe it’s also very interesting to partner and to co-develop with other specialized companies to make products,” he said. “I’m also very interested in seeing how they will push our innovation.”
Palmieri said he thinks XR technologies will soon be mainstream. He said he expects the devices used for these technologies will soon be small and accessible and, like smartphones, will make the jump from tech fans to widespread adoption.
While many XR “experiences” will be in entertainment, Marceau said market forecasts suggest that 50 per cent of the XR market will be in other industries, used in fields like architecture, medicine and automotive.
“It’s not just video games. There are many, many applications,” Palmieri said.