Talking VRTO with Founder + Executive Director Keram Malicki-Sánchez

vrto 2017

The Virtual & Augmented Reality World Conference Expo aka VRTO is returning to Toronto this weekend (Saturday, June 24th to Monday, June 26th)! It features a fantastic lineup of virtual reality experts and experiences for fans to try. The convention will host more than 65 expert speakers and have 10 interactive virtual reality rooms, halls and studios;; including executives and researches from Google, Microsoft, IMAX, Telefilm, CFC, OCAD U, and AMD. But that’s not all. It will also be previewing 2 exhibits that will be showcased at the AGO and Nuit Blanche respectively in 2017.

VRTO is taking place in downtown Toronto at Ryerson University within the Rogers Communication Centre from 10am – 6pm both Sunday, June 25th and Monday June 26th.

Here’s a look at some of the Convention highlights:


  • Artist-Run Media Art Centres Panel | (Sunday, June 25, 1:30pm-2:25pm)

    • Celebrating the past and future of artist-run tech co-ops featuring executives from four Toronto based artist-run media art centres: Trinity Square Video, Charles Street Video, Gamma Space, and Dames Making Games
  • Optimizing Web VR Panel | (Sunday, June 25, 4:00pm-4:50pm)

    • Researchers from Google, Microsoft, JanusVR and more share how to best utilize (and optimize) VR for web based content
  • Canadian VR Market Opportunities Panel | (Monday, June 26, 2:30pm-4pm)

    • Reps from CMF/Telefilm, FACTOR, OCE, OMDC, and SIRT/IRAPoutline Canada’s increasing investment in VR, AR and 360° productions
  • Out-Of-Home VR Panel | (Monday, June 26, 3pm-4:25pm)

    • VR change-makers from IMAX, AMD, THE VOID, and more a reveal their vision for a future with VR as the new form of public entertainment
  • Augmented Reality: The Next Big Medium Panel | (Monday, June 26, 4pm-4:45pm)

    • With projections for 1 billion mobile users of AR by 2021, what steps should AR companies take to thrive? Google, Forbes, Jam3 and more discuss the future of AR — the next big medium.

Exhibits/Activations (Available for full VRTO run):

  • Interactive Sensory “Time-Travel” Pavilion

    • One-of-a-kind pavilion of works combining surround audio arrays, interactive VR experiences, EEG mind readers, holograms, AR, and haptics (vibration) — with previews of tech to be showcased at the AGOand Nuit Blanche respectively later this year
  • FIVARS (Festival of International Virtual & Augmented Reality Stories)

    • The world’s best immersive films, hosted inside a special IMAX dome-like 8K projection mapped spherical cylinder making its debut in Canada
  • ARt Gallery

    • Augmented Reality art gallery featuring international works by Dan Goldman, Daniel Leighton, Branislav Dordevic, and Alex Mayhew
  • VR Arcade

    • A highly stylized arcade featuring multiple VR activations from Canadian developers Secret Location and Iris VR


  • David A. Smith | (Sunday, June 25, 10am-10:55am)

    • Computer scientist; creator of both the first 3D interactive game “The Colony” and the virtual set/camera used in James Cameron’s “The Abyss”
  • Graham Smith | (Sunday, June 25, 11am-11:50pm)

    • Canadian VR pioneer; Chief Science Officer, WebChair
  • Dr. Sara Diamond | (Sunday, June 25, 12pm-12:55pm)

    • President, OCAD University
  • Moses Znaimer | (Sunday, June 25, 1pm-1:25pm)

    • Canadian media mogul; creator of Dora Award-winning audience-interactive play “Tamara” and “Tour of the Universe” the world’s first flight simulator ride
  • Michael Page | (Sunday, June 25, 5:30pm-6:00pm)

    • Professor of Holography, OCAD U
  • Peggy Wu | (Monday, June 25, 10:30am-10:55am)

    • NASA Ames Research
  • Dr. Walter Greenleaf | (Monday, June 26, 11am-12pm)

    • Stanford University research neuroscientist, technologist and leading authority on the medical applications of virtual reality technology
  • Michael Leventhal | (Monday, June 26, 1:30pm-1:55pm)

    • Former VP of Magic Leap
  • Todd Makurath| (Monday, June 26, 2:00pm-2:25pm)

    • CEO, Bullitt
  • Roy Taylor | (Monday, June 26, 2:30pm-2:55pm)

    • Corporate VP – Studio Alliances, Content & VR, AMD
  • Alex Mayhew | (Monday, June 26, 3:30pm-3:50pm)

    • Renowned VR/AR artisit, previewing his AR exhibit reBlink coming to theAGO in July
  • Ana Serrano | (Monday, June 26, 5:00pm-5:55pm)

    • Chief Digital Officer, CFC Media Lab


I have been working with VR for the past year as many of you know on a secret project that I’m very excited about and am eager to learn more this weekend. Founder + Executive Director Keram Malicki-Sanchez was kind enough to answer some questions I had over email this week about the event.

Brock McLaughlin – You started as an actor and are now tackling VR, why the switch? 

Keram Malicki-Sanchez – I had been acting for thirty years. It taught me a lot about designing other worlds, both external and internal. I started producing and directing more as I got older – I felt acting left too much up to other people to decide about my ability to create. But it was more than that. I decided to turn towards the independent game scene with my full attention around 2006. I felt like that was where the new underground was, the new fringe voices, and as the tools became more robust, more powerful, more varied, some truly amazing stories began to get told through that media. I felt like “acting” took on a whole new dimension through these tools and ideas.
What drives your passion?
Since I was a kid I have had this furious ambition to save humans from destroying the beautiful planet we live on. Of course, my therapist eventually started to persuade me that I can’t save everyone or everything, but most of what I do is driven by the desire to make things better for more people, and to find ways of persuading or leading more people to suffer less or do less harm to others. Or just basically appreciate the stuff we have and that we are. When I looked around and tried to reconcile my rampant idealism, I felt that the renaissance of Virtual Reality might be my best shot at applying my varied skill set to making the biggest impact. So that is where I turned my attention. Also, I truly want VR to help those with phobias, OCD and mental trauma. Opioids and psychiatric drugs are overprescribed. I have personally found paths to coping with my own anxiety, stress and mental unwellness through neurolinguistic programming, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, Jungian therapy and other practices. It may not apply or work for everyone, but I think VR could legitimately help many more people than the drugs that are often prescribed them.

What was your first experience in VR?

I feel like it was at EPCOT in the early 80s – a basic roller coaster construction set/ride simulation. It was HMD-based VR per se, but for me it was that interactivity and transportive technology that changed me a little. In the early 90’s I saw Jaron Lanier do a live musical concert wearing a Power Glove as he flew through some VR environments. But really, the first time I FELT VR myself what with the Citadel demo on the Oculus DK1 back in 2013. And wow. So intense and visceral.


Do you foresee a future where VR is in everyone’s home?

Yes. But it won’t resemble the present iteration of the tech at all. I would be taking too big a risk to speculate just what it will become, though.

Outside of movies and games, what do you see and hope VR can achieve in the near and distant future.

A lot. Simulation training, telemaniputfon of robots, drones, heck even cyborgs and emergent bioforms. Dimensional travel at scales we couldn’t otherwise perceive – whether gigantic or subatomic. We need to use our whole imagination. These tools are begging us too and I feel our perspective tends to be aggressively narrow.


What are ways that both the public and developers can use VR to help better the world?

Kids can teach educators how they receive and want to receive information. We can communicate complex ideas using symbolic spaces and impressions that do not require spoken language, or even emotions and sensations that may be otherwise impossible to communicate to one another. We must, of course be careful with this power and consider the implications of a medium that is this powerful both psychically and physiologically. There is a lot of opportunity for positive experiences and a lot of opportunity for abuse. But I think it is a medium that can help communicate ideas faster, that can be retained longer and how we ultimately deploy that opportunity will be a reflection of the ultimate destiny that we create for ourselves.

For more on VRTO be sure to check out their website and I hope to see you out this weekend.

Brock McLaughlin

Brock McLaughlin

Brock McLaughlin 🕹 🎮 Twitter @brockmclaughlin New Media (B)Rockstar. Blogger. Video Gamer. Podcaster at the Game Moose. UnBrocxer. Host/Producer at @comedygamers4u. Somewhat Charming.

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