With Toronto as the home of WWTO, the Raptors, Leafs, TFC, Blue Jays and TIFF it was most appropriate for this city to host a conference exploring how wearable tech is changing the game of sports and the face of entertainment: WEST.
WEST returned to the city with a bang as this sold-out event took up two floors at the MaRS Discovery District Centre. Over 600 guests got their hands-on some amazing tech from over 31 exhibitors in wearable tech, IoT and 3D printing. And attendees participated in conversations with 42 thought leaders from as far as Japan, Australia, the US and from here at home in Canada.
I kicked things off this year with a look at the four wearable tech trends impacting sports and entertainment. These included the use of VR to give everyone the "best seat in the house" for live events like sports while in the comfort of their own home. Leveraging data to shape entertainment experiences themselves. Using wearable tech to tap into and strengthen the crowd experience. And merging the digital with the physical world to create a mixed reality experience.
Curtis Hickman, co-founder of The VOID, the world's first virtual reality theme park, wowed the crowd with the magic behind this new entertainment centre. Hickman, who got his start as a magician performing custom designed miracles for large businesses and aided in creating wonders performed by magicians such as David Copperfield and Criss Angel, talked to the crowd about the "Illusion of Reality" and the use of carefully created "misdirection" to create powerful virtual reality experiences.
In the exhibitors area, Montreal-based Hykso which has created a wearable sensor for boxers were making sure attendees were getting their workout. Hykso was challenging event goers to compete against Olympic boxer Caroline Veyre in a 30 second contest to match her record of 216 punches thrown at speeds averaging 18 mph using their sensor-enabled boxing system. Smart toy, Moff, was also getting people moving. The connected slap bracelet had attendees selecting sounds and waving their hands to make fireworks go off or turn their arm into a ninja sword. While Muse was chilling people out with live demos of its brain-sensing headband which walks you through a meditation exercise guided by your brainwave activity.
Back in the auditorium, the audience engaged with panel discussions and fireside chats which covered topics such as the use of wearables to keep players safe from head injuries to how this tech is changing the fan experience in-stadium. And things got brainy - literally! Dan Iwasa-Madge from Brainsights sat down with me and Grant Thibault from Rogers to talk about the rise of neuromarketing and how looking inside someone's brain will become a critical component to future marketing and advertising.
Scott Stinson moderated a very though provoking conversation on "Upping the game of sports analytics with wearable tech" with the likes of Brian Bulcke, Defensive Linesman for the CFL Hamilton Tiger-cats, Paul Robbins of STATS Inc., Jill Stelfox of Zebra and Joe Ross from theScore. You can catch some of the issues and opportunities from this discussion in his article in The National Post.
Closing out the event were two big thinkers in the wearable space. Billie Whitehouse, co-founder of Wearable Experiments and a leading wearable fashion designer in the space got the crowd all worked up with her steamy keynote on "Designing for Humans in a Digital Age". Whitehouse strongly advised designers of things to avoid "putting the tech before the human experience" and to think about how to be innovative, useful and aesthetic while keeping enough discovery and fun in the product.
US Presidential Candidate for the Transhumanist Party, Zoltan Istvan, on the other hand talked on how tech will take us beyond human in our natural evolution to become machines in his futuristic closing keynote. Specifically focusing on a possible "Transhumanist Olympics", Zoltan used todays wearable trends and extrapolated them to give the audience a glimpse of our possible transhumanist path which we are just beginning on today.
A big thank you to all how attended and to the amazing group of volunteers who took the time out to make this event possible. And special thanks goes out to speakers, exhibitors and sponsors including MaRS Discovery District Centre, CFC Media Lab ideaBOOST, Ryerson Sport Innovation Hub, TELUS, City of Toronto, Proto3000, BetaKit and Herscu & Goldsilver for an amazing event.
Check out some of the photos from the event in our gallery (a smattering of them are below).
And you can also head on over to check out the media coverage from the event to catch up on it from different perspectives.