05 Sep 2016
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AR/VR Garage set to turn Auckland into a virtual reality innovation hub

By Sara Barker

New Zealand's ability to produce more augmented and virtual reality content has become much stronger, after the launch of a dedicated facility in Auckland last week.

AR/VR Garage, situated in Auckland Council's GridAKL innovation hub in Eden Terrace, will be a focal point for game development, animation, education and digital media projects. The developers believe the Garage will boost jobs, innovation, investment and the country's overall digital footprint.

Len Brown was alongside Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce, helped to officially open the facility.

“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," Brown says.

The Garage has been touted as the basis for becoming an 'international hub' for AR and VR technology and will become the Oceania base for VR Society, a US-based organisation that is bridging global connections in the industry.

The society has been a powerful force, having facilitated US$170 million in VR project funding for its members worldwide.

The new garage is also attracting attention from another US-based company, the VR/AR Association. The International Game Developers Association will also have a 'presence' in the facility, highlighting the interest and importance of this kind of technology in New Zealand.

“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," Brown continues.

The Garage has been developed through this year's Tripartite Economic Summit Auckland and Techweek AKL Magnify VR/AR Pacific Summit. So far the facility has attracted ten tenants, with an additional 10 expected to reside in the Garage by October.

The innovation hub as a whole brings together local and global industry, corporates, educational institutions and government agencies, which according to Auckland Council, is a model that is unlike any other on the planet.

“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," says Jonas Hudson, VR Society board member and advisor to the AR/VR Garage.

The VR/AR Garage will also play a part in contributing to large film studios such as Walt Disney, Pixar and Marvel - all major industry players. ATEED CEO Brett O'Riley believes the garage will be a major method of showcasing work to investors and industry.

“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," O'Riley says.

The first industry corporate to join the AR/VR Garage is Datacom, which looks to expand services for its customers interested in the area.

"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," comments Greg Davidson, Datacom NZ CEO.

Auckland Council has 'initially' invested more than $20 million over a decade in the GridAKL project, designed to help Auckland's innovation community.

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