Jayson Hilchie – President & CEO, Entertainment Software Association of Canada

There is a very good chance that you are a gamer. In fact, just over half the Canadian population are gamers, 52% to be exact, or just over 18 million of us. And those who don’t consider themselves to be gamers know what a video game is and have likely played one at some point in their lives. But though we are all aware of what a video game is, many people likely don’t know how video games are influencing their lives in ways that don’t involve leisure. As technology evolves, it is increasingly true that the same technology powering your latest video game experience is also driving innovation in industries far removed from your entertainment.

Vehicle Design

One of the most well-known advancements in video game technology of late is the emergence of Virtual and Augmented Reality. This technology, developed for video games, is revolutionizing everything from mechanical maintenance to vehicle design and medical training. One of the leading companies in Canada developing this content is Port Coquitlam BC’s Finger Food Studios. Their work, using Microsoft’s Hololens, has helped one of the world’s largest truck manufacturers by allowing them to design models virtually and then seamlessly augment the design to achieve maximum efficiencies. This replaces a decades-old design process of clay models, which took over 3-6 months, with an innovative virtual solution that takes days, allowing the company to get new trucks to market faster.

Healthcare

An increasing area of virtual reality is surgical trainers like the one developed by the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in collaboration with Sunnybrook Hospital’s Simulation Centre. Using the HTC Vive, a leading VR headset, physicians practise the preparatory process required before administering an epidural, providing enhanced training options that better prepare doctors for real life scenarios.

Ubisoft’s partnership with McGill University and Amblyotech has resulted in an effective treatment for the problem of amblyopia or more commonly known as “lazy-eye.” The condition affects three per cent of children internationally and occurs when the brain favours one eye over the other. Dig Rush, played on a tablet with 3D glasses encourages active focusing and is thought to be five times more effective than the current treatment option of eye-patching. Already, this innovative treatment is yielding rapid improvement in 90% of patients and is currently the only known therapy for adults.

Companies like Jintronix are using Microsoft’s Kinect, a technology originally developed for the Xbox video game console, to make rehabilitation more interactive and rewarding.  By “gamifying” rehabilitation patients are much more engaged in their regimen and more likely to follow-through on their prescribed programs. As an FDA approved product, clinicians can track data and patients can follow their progress, resulting in more effective health outcomes.

Robotics & Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is the new frontier, driving innovation and change within every aspect of our lives. One player that has been talked about, perhaps more than any other within this landscape is NVIDIA. A company once known as a pioneer in graphics chips for video games has expanded its expertise and technology to robotics and autonomous machines. NVIDIA Isaac enables the AI-training of robots in a simulated virtual world, to prepare them for later interactions in real life. This makes developing and training robots safer, faster, and more cost-effective.

CGI and Animation

There is an increasingly good chance that your favorite animated television show is also likely being made through video game engines such as Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4. One company leading the way in this innovative new production format is Montreal’s Digital Dimension. In a recent announcement, the company disclosed that it had completely changed the way that it animates its television programs by using Epic’s technology. In the announcement the company stated that by taking advantage of real-time rendering within Unreal 4 the company is able to achieve greater efficiencies, allowing the studio to focus on other aspects of the production like animation and character modeling. This makes the company more productive and frees up resources to improve the quality of their product in a host of other ways that time would previously not allow.

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The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) presents at the Beyond Entertainment: How Video Games are Driving Innovation conference on Monday, October 23.

An Innovative Industry

Video game companies are at the heart of an innovation ecosystem. They are often first to innovate and quick to build partnerships with others. All of the examples cited above are being developed in Canada and having a government that encourages innovation ensures that our ecosystem remains strong and attractive to these crucial partnerships. Through policies such as the Global Skills Strategy, championed by Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, we now have the ability to secure the best talent in the world, enabling companies in our sector to invest and drive further growth right here in Canada.

And we are on the right track. According to a new study conducted by Nordicity, game companies in Canada are continually innovating on processes and products. More than 50% of video game firms indicated they created at least one process innovation in the last year, while 69% of companies indicated they developed an innovative new product. 22% of respondents indicated that their product had been used for some type of non-entertainment purpose.

One of those purposes is helping scientists uncover the secrets of the universe. Without advances in video game graphics hardware, the creators of the CHIME telescope – a partnership between three of Canada’s leading universities and the National Research Council – wouldn’t have the processing power to analyze the massive amount of data they are collecting. With the help of 1,024 GPUs powering its signal processing backend, the telescope can handle more than 1TB of data per second.

But you don’t have to look to the stars to see how video games are influencing advances in almost every area of technology.  There are plenty of examples right here on earth.  Some of those examples were discussed and showcased in Ottawa on Monday, October 23 where guests discovered out how video games are going Beyond Entertainment.

On October 23, 2017, ESAC along with Ubisoft, EA and Microsoft presented a 1-day conference and showcase Beyond Entertainment: How Video Games are Driving Innovation, featuring many of the innovations mentioned in this article.

Posted October 24, 2017