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New AR/VR space fuels Auckland talent

ATEED, Auckland, 2 September 2016: One of New Zealand’s most dynamic tech sectors received a major boost today with the opening of the AR/VR Garage – a globally unique augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) development facility in Eden Terrace, which establishes Auckland as an international hub for this hot technology.

The commercially focused facility’s rapid development was helped by international relationships forged during May’s Tripartite Economic Summit Auckland 2016, and Techweek AKL 2016’s Magnify VR/AR Pacific Summit.

The AR/VR Garage’s strong working alliances with global industry leaders were cemented by today’s announcement that it will be the Oceania base of the influential US-based VR Society, joining chapters in Beijing and Canada. The society last year secured about US$170 million of VR projects for its global members.

The VR/AR Association, a New York-based organisation with satellite sites in London, Amsterdam and Singapore, is also setting up a New Zealand chapter in the AR/VR Garage to help accelerate industry growth in the region; and the International Game Developers Association will also have a presence.

The AR/VR Garage will fuel Auckland’s growing AR/VR community, which includes game developers, screen and film producers, animators, educators and digital storytellers, and help grow New Zealand’s global digital industry footprint, jobs and investment.

The AR/VR Garage was officially opened by Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce, and Auckland Mayor Len Brown. The Mayor says AR/VR is already one of the most influential disruptive global technologies across diverse sectors: “This technology will probably influence all industry within the next five years. So I’m delighted that Auckland has seized the opportunity to catch this wave. The Garage encapsulates why Auckland was recognised this year by JLL in its top 20 cities of momentum.

“It’s fantastic to see this innovation space directly result from high-level connections forged through the first two years of Auckland’s Tripartite Economic Alliance with Los Angeles and Guangzhou. Having gone from concept to reality in just three months, it shows council can identify and swiftly seize growth opportunities, and lead a project involving diverse partners to drive Auckland’s high-tech economic transformation.”

The AR/VR Garage comprises two buildings at Auckland Council’s GridAKL/Uptown innovation hub with 10 tenant companies now, and another 10 expected by the end of October. The operating model, being delivered by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) is unlike any other current AR/VR facility around the world: a collaboration between industry, major corporates including multi-nationals, tertiary and research institutions, and local and central government agencies – all connected to key international players.

Jonas Hudson, VR Society board member and advisor to the AR/VR Garage says: “The VR Society is thrilled with the opportunity to participate in this important initiative, not just for Auckland, but for New Zealand’s digital manufacturing sector. As the leading VR organisation in Hollywood, the society is well aware of New Zealand’s reputation for high quality content creation.”

He says the Oceania Chapter will be a partnership of like-minded peers with member studios including Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Sony Entertainment, Paramount, DreamWorks Animation and Virtual Reality Company.

“This alliance with AR/VR Garage will enable Los Angeles and Auckland to deliver on the Tripartite Economic Alliance’s goals by driving new business, creating jobs and training programmes in production and technology. It will also grow a Pacific Rim technology corridor for VR and AR start-ups,” says Jonas Hudson.

The AR/VR Garage is the newest component of the GridAKL innovation community which is expanding across the region. The Garage premises is leased from Auckland Transport until December 2017, when the operation will move to a permanent site.

Importantly, the Garage includes project research and development space where virtual teams from around the world can collaborate on complex innovations, as well as co-location space for Auckland’s burgeoning AR/VR community which features contemporary New Zealand art courtesy of the Wallace Arts Trust.

The facility has a rapidly increasing commercial project pipeline of more than 15 projects, some with international partners to solve globally significant challenges. A dedicated area on-site enables New Zealand AR/VR innovation to be showcased globally, and provides a high-tech focal point for investors and key international AR/VR players when visiting Auckland.

Brett O’Riley, ATEED Chief Executive, says: “The Garage enables companies to have a global advantage from day one, and that is hugely important in this fast-paced technology sector. They can scale up much faster, connect with the big international industry players, and showcase their work to major international tech investors.

“While the Garage is a great boost for Auckland’s world-leading screen, digital and creative content industries, VR is becoming a crucial enabling platform for a whole range of sectors, including skills training and education. The future is definitely now.”

With the support of the AR/VR Garage’s partners, its tenants have subsidised access to technology and tools which they would not be able to otherwise afford; they can easily connect with potential partners in the co-working space; source local and international contacts, and the wider support services they need.

Datacom is the AR/VR Garage’s first corporate partner. Greg Davidson, Datacom NZ CEO says: “We’re seeing real interest from companies wanting to know more about augmented, virtual and mixed reality with some of our own customers already actively prototyping.

“The Garage is an excellent way to develop a safe environment to test potential AR use cases and to use the strength of GridAKL to tap into new groups of early adopters to engage with the AR ecosystem.”

Matt Coleman, the founder of Magnify – which held the AR/VR summit during Techweek in May where the AR/VR Garage concept was announced, and is among the inaugural Garage tenants – says: “The AR/VR Garage has the ability to explode this new and expanding sector, and we are delighted to be part of it. With the quality of local and international entrepreneurs and education institutions engaged in the Garage, we can’t wait to see where this goes.”

Magnify will host its next event at the AR/VR Garage on 22 September.

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