Inside the New Zealand VR/AR Association's plan for virtual world domination

Some of New Zealand's top VR and AR innovators have teamed up. Their goal: (virtual) world domination.

Aotearoa is a world-leader in a lot of things. Sheep. Kiwifruit. The most dominant sports team ever. Add virtual reality to that list.

The Land of the Long White Cloud’s top innovators in the booming virtual and augmented reality sector have joined forces to create the newly-formed New Zealand VR/AR Association. It’s part of a worldwide group of VR and AR innovators that has chapters in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Asia, with a goal of accelerating growth, fostering research and education, developing industry standards, connecting member organisations, and promotimng services of member companies.

Foundation members include Wellington-based virtual and augmented technology company 8i, Massey and Victoria Universities, and a number of emerging companies, such as Auckland-based Imersia and the recently opened Christchurch HTC room-scale virtual reality experience space, The VR Room. The association’s 16-person executive committee comes from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

“We’re all amazed at the potential of this emergent industry, which is predicted to be worth $205 billion globally in five years,” New Zealand VR/AR Association executive director Jessica Manins, says. “Spring-boarding off the game and entertainment industry could see the sector rivalling wine as a NZ$2.5 billon export industry for New Zealand within a decade.”

New Zealand VR/AR Association executive director Jessica Manins.

The new association will represent and promote New Zealand’s virtual, augmented and mixed reality sectors nationally and internationally. Such a mission is critical to help New Zealand companies make inroads intot he worldwide market, Manins says. “It’s vital that we connect nationally and build a robust platform for collective offshore representation. Being connected to the rapidly expanding global VR/AR Association is a great springboard to the US and other markets.”

Global VR/AR Association president Nathan Pettyjohn says he’s thrilled to see New Zealand getting on board. “The global connectivity created by the two organisations working together will help accelerate efficient growth and knowledge-sharing for companies across the world, and will help the world to tap into the innovation taking place in New Zealand,” he says.

The association’s representatives have met with Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) to discuss links with its AR/VR Garage in Auckland. Manins says the association plans to host an international virtual, augmented and mixed reality conference in March 2017 in Wellington. She says the association is keen to welcome new members, including virtual and augmented reality innovators and those working or interested in the industry.