A few years ago, a little known Montreal XR company was putting its patented technical chops into building out what many think is the “last interface”, one that Facebook (ahem, Meta’s) CEO Mark Zuckerberg is betting the social media giant’s future on. Today, that Montreal company, and some pretty impressive Canadian innovators, find themselves thick in the middle of the Metaverse’s battle of the titans.
Setting the Meta-genda
The rest of the world knows it as the Metaverse and, as has become extremely evident, Facebook would really Like 👍 to set up shop in every corner of the upcoming virtual world. While the reaction from the industry to Zuckerberg’s presentation has been mixed, from cautious optimism to outright bluff-calling, it’s hard to argue that, by clearly staking his claim, Zuck is now setting the agenda, and is the loudest voice in the discussion.
Hold up…Apple has entered the chat.
According to Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo, anyways. Based on some research documents seen by MacRumors and 9to5Mac, we could be looking at a 2022 set of AR glasses that not only won’t require an iPhone to operate…but may pack a level of juice comparable with the M1 chip.
In addition to AR, Kuo rumored the headset will also be able to support virtual reality (VR) experiences thanks to a pair of 4K Micro OLED displays from Sony, which require the computing horsepower of an M1-like chip. Apple’s AR headset requires a separate processor as the computing power of the sensor is significantly higher than that of the iPhone. For example, the AR headset requires at least 6-8 optical modules to simultaneously provide continuous video see-through AR services to users. In comparison, an iPhone requires up to 3 optical modules running simultaneously and does not require continuous computing.
While we won’t know yet quite what they have in store, Apple’s track record of being able to step in and immediately become the flagship example for any hardware leap is basically set in stone at this point, as we saw from computing, music, mobile, tablets…even earbuds.
The acquisition of VRVANA
This is where bootstrapping Canadian XR entrepreneur Bertrand Nepveu re-enters our story, whose company VRVANA was bought by Apple in 2017 with a group of investors like famed Microsoft Ventures founder Rahul Sood. A whole four years ago, they quietly were preparing for something the world is only now realizing could be the equivalent of the monumental shift the smart phone ushered in.
Some say as powerful as the invention of the internet itself.
Call it what you want, XR / Mixed Reality / Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technology has now been invested in by almost every tech company in the world in an attempt to plant their flag in the next technological leap.
But Apple is one of the few companies that has the power to take a ‘geek tech’…and make it a household necessity.
Because we’ve been following the space for years, we naturally wanted to dig into the Canadian angle.
What tech have Canadians brought to the table?
To catch Apple’s attention, Bertrand and his team had been extremely busy on their bleeding-edge tech. Before the acquisition, the VRVANA Totem incorporated state of the art hardware that allowed positional tracking and hand gesture recognition capabilities.
It integrated a 1440p OLED display, two onboard cameras and sophisticated lenses, developed exclusively for BOTH virtual reality and augmented reality. It should be noted that VRVANA cornered the hybrid head mounted display back when people were largely unaware the technology even existed.
Apple bought that Montreal Canadian XR company, VRVANA, in 2017 and moved their nimble and brilliant team to Northern California to help Apple build their device, and, if the rumors are true, it looks like VRVANA’s tech is tightly integrated.
We reached out to VRVANA founder Bertrand Nepveu personally for comment. Bert was happy to give us the scoop.
Nepveu would go on to comment “All I can say is Apple is serious about building products right. I’ve experienced that first hand.” So that doesn’t tell us much…but highly regarded analyst Ming-chi Kuo’s comments do provide some insight.
Kuo goes on to say the initial AR headset will be able to operate independently without needing to be tethered to a Mac or iPhone, and Apple is intending it to support a “comprehensive range of applications” with an eye toward replacing the iPhone within ten years. If so, it means Apple’s dead serious about the Metaverse.
A veteran Canadian innovator behind the scenes…
Canadians don’t just have a hand in the building of the tech, they’ve been helping shape it from the investment side of things as well. One of VRVANA’s early investors was Calgary-born tech innovator Rahul Sood.
In Canada, Sood built one of the world’s most high end gaming PC companies to ever exist. VoodooPC was purchased in mid-2000’s by Hewlett Packard. After that, HoloLens creator Microsoft brought Rahul to Seattle create Microsoft Ventures. Most recently his global esports wagering company Unikrn took an exit when it was acquired by gambling giant Entain.
Before that, Sood would meet Bertrand Nepveu and believed in what Nepveu was building so much he made his own investment in VRVANA’s mixed reality technology.
Rahul’s passion for the subject led to him consulting on technology products for Vrvana Inc., revitalizing the company’s brand and overall strategy, contributing to an increase in its valuation, and ultimately resulting in its acquisition by Apple.
Canadian Sood has moved on to build Irreverent Labs, a venture-backed gaming studio with a mission to build insanely fun, highly intelligent, hundred year entertainment experiences on blockchain.
Rahul was a 2020 finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) Region, and his products and companies have received numerous industry accolades. His involvement in the pre-Apple era, and his continued expertise brings a boastful level of Canadian clout to whatever it is that Apple announces next year.
All Eyes on the XR Horizon…
Augmented Reality will be a pivotal shift in how humans interact with the outside world in almost every facet of society and, when dropped a scoop that Apple is ready to hit the FABs running with their own head mounted display the tech world perked up.
Over the past 10+ years, that world watched as companies like Google invested billions into Magic Leap and Google glasses. The enterprise world felt the reality of augmented reality as Microsoft’s successful HoloLens development landed in developer hands.
But now, the innovator that brought immediate, and impactful change to how we all communicate today through the iPhone, Apple Inc., is likely looking to lead the charge where almost every major tech player has attempted to lead the way.
One bet TechBomb can make is that whatever Apple delivers, especially helped by the continued involvement of capable Canadian innovator hands, it will have instant credibility for its millions of users and grow the Metaverse to critical mass.
Now, we wait…