Category Archives: Vancouver

United Nations Virtual Worlds Day on June 14, 2024

So the United Nations (UN) organization is moving onto virtual worlds in addition to our current world? It makes a kind of sense when you realize the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a UN agency. Also, in my opinion, the UN has shown increasing interest in emerging technology and science over the last few years.

Here’s more about the UN’s interest in virtual worlds and their potential role in city life in a June 14, 2024 ITU press release (also received via email),

ITU and partners advance virtual worlds to shape future city living

First UN Virtual Worlds Day launches international effort on the CitiVerse

Geneva, 14 June 2024

A global initiative for virtual worlds to support sustainable development and enhance city life was announced today at the first UN Virtual Worlds Day at ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The Global Initiative on Virtual Worlds – Discovering the CitiVerse will define norms and principles to guide the governance of metaverse solutions in cities for areas such as urban planning, education, and municipal services.

Led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN International Computing Centre (UNICC) and Digital Dubai, the initiative will drive capacity development, facilitate sharing of best practices, and develop a sandbox environment for cities to simulate virtual world scenarios.

“By harnessing the transformative power of virtual worlds, we can accelerate progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, [SDGs]” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “The virtual worlds initiative is an essential step on the path of metaverse innovation that can enrich the lives of people in cities around the world.”

Advancing progress on virtual worlds

UN Virtual Worlds Day highlights the transformative power of virtual worlds, including the metaverse and spatial computing, to accelerate the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The new initiative launched at the event builds on the work of ITU’s Focus Group on metaverse, which has laid the groundwork for international standards to support an open, inclusive metaverse that drives progress towards the SDGs.

Established in late 2022, the focus group has identified compelling opportunities for the metaverse to support smart cities.

In urban planning and management, city leaders could simulate their innovations before implementation at scale. A virtual city space can also advance education and training, improve access to public services, and support participatory governance.

The Global Initiative on Virtual Worlds will complement the work of ITU’s standardization expert group for the Internet of Things and smart cities and communities, ITU-T Study Group 20. It will also work alongside United for Smart Sustainable Cities, a UN initiative supported by ITU together with 19 UN partners.

The initiative rests on three pillars that will bring the CitiVerse from concept to community:

  1. Bringing the CitiVerse to Life: Developing expert guidance, raising awareness around CitiVerse opportunities and challenges, and developing and adopting key performance indicators.
  2. Connecting Cities with the Virtual and Real Worlds: Advancing cities’ integration of emerging technologies, curating CitiVerse use cases, and developing a sandbox environment and related technical tools.
  3. Tunneling the CitiVerse: Fostering a community of practice to encourage collaboration among cities, organizing urban problem-solving competitions, and implementing training programmes to boost CitiVerse expertise.

Virtual worlds adding real value to city life

The launch of Global Initiative on Virtual Worlds – Discovering the CitiVerse, comes alongside a new UN Executive Briefing developed by ITU, the UN Agency for Digital Technologies, together with 17 UN partners, on the relevance of virtual worlds and the metaverse to the SDGs.

The UN Executive Briefing also stresses the essential factors – such as responsible technology governance, ethical considerations, and privacy and security concerns – that need to be addressed to ensure that the benefits of virtual worlds are fully realized.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this ITU initiative, there’s the Global Initiative on Virtual Worlds – Discovering the CitiVerse webspace.

Some thoughts about Vancouver (Canada) and ‘Discovering the CitiVerse’

What follows is pure self indulgence:

I hope there’s interest from Vancouver in this initiative especially given this description from the ITU Webinars Digital Transformation Episode no. 35,

Description

The citiverse is a concept for a network of interconnected virtual worlds that are synchronized with their physical counterparts. It is envisioned as a way to create more inclusive, sustainable, and participatory cities. [emphasis mine]

Smart city initiatives have often focused on technology for its own sake, rather than on how technology can be used to improve the lives of people. This has led to some smart city projects being expensive, inefficient, and even harmful.
It is important that we develop a people-centered citiverse, which is one that uses technology to solve real-world problems and improve the quality of life for all residents. This means that people should be at the heart of the city planning and development process.
For example, smart city platforms can allow residents to submit feedback on city services or vote on proposed projects. It can also improve the quality of life for residents in a number of ways, such as by reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, and making it easier to access essential services. Also, it can help to attract new businesses and industries to the city, and they can also help to create new jobs in the citiverse related sector.
Overall, people-centered citiverse have the potential to make cities more livable, sustainable, and equitable for all residents.

I’m not too hopeful since Vancouver City Council (other municipalities have expressed opposition) recently voted in favour of a plan that provoked outrage over erosion of local democracy and serious concerns about the rush to build. Ostensibly, the initiative [mandated by the province of British Columbia] is intended to solve the homelessness crisis although there are doubts about the proposed solution. (If you’re curious, see this June 13, 2024 article by Elizabeth Murphy, formerly with the City of Vancouver’s housing and properties department,,for The Tyee: “Why BC’s Forced Rush to Rezone Neighbourhoods Is Wrong; The province’s push fails to promote democracy, local planning and once vibrant co-op funding.”)

Not present for the city council vote was Vancouver’s mayor Ken Sim who has a spotty attendance record for city council meetings, from a March 14, 2024 article by Lisa Steacy for CTV news online,

Vancouver’s mayor has been absent for nearly a third of votes at public council meetings since taking office, data shows.

The City of Vancouver’s database on voting records shows that members have voted on 777 items since being sworn in on Nov. 7, 2022. Mayor Ken Sim has been marked absent 222 times, including during the vote on one of his most significant campaign promises.

With a supermajority on council, the mayor’s vote isn’t needed to push forward the agenda that his ABC slate was elected on. However, Prest [Stewart Prest, a lecturer in political science at the University of British Columbia] says voting in and of itself is only a very small part of public meetings, which are opportunities for the mayor to hear feedback from constituents, debate with the opposition, and to tell the public and his colleagues where he stands on an issue and why.

“The mayor is still elected to represent constituents, to voice opinions and to exercise a leadership role at council. And to take that for granted, to assume other members of ABC can do it just as well in his absence, at a certain point, the question becomes: Well, why do we need Mayor Sim?” [quote from Stewart Prest]

Apparently, mayor Ken Sim was in London, England, from a June 13, 2024 article by Mike Howell for vancouverisawesome.com, Note: A link has been removed,

Council was scheduled to discuss June 11 [2024; the same day as the new rezoning/planning report was up for a vote] what a city staff report described as a “reallocation” of $80,000 from the city clerk’s department to Sim’s office budget, so he can hire an administrative assistant.

Postponement came after Coun. Peter Meiszner successfully moved a motion to defer debate to June 25. Meiszner’s rationale was that Sim was in London, England at a tech conference and would not be available to respond to questions.

There was a big technology conference in London, England on that date, London Tech Week June 10 -12, 2024, from the Why Attend page,

London Tech Week is the global tech ecosystem – where visionaries and entrepreneurs, investors and enterprise tech leaders come together in the right balance to accelerate the infinite cycle of tech innovation.

it’s not clear to me what value attending this event would have for the mayor of Vancouver who is not a technology entrepreneurr. For the record, Ken Sim is an accountant and the owner of a nursing business and a bagel business.

Fingers crossed, he made time to attend the’ UN Virtual Worlds Day’ on June 14, 2024 in Switzerland where they were considering issues that affect cities.

Interweave: A multi-sensory show (March 21, 2024 in Vancouver, Canada) where fashion, movement, & music come together though wearable instruments.

Interweave is a free show at The Kent in the gallery in downtown Vancouver, Canada. Here’s more from a Simon Fraser University (SFU) announcement (received via email),

SFU School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) alumnus, Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi, is hosting Interweave, a multi-sensory show where fashion, movement, and music come together though wearable instruments.

Embrace the fusion of creativity and expression alongside your fellow alumni in a setting that celebrates innovation and the uncharted synergy between fashion, music, and movement. This is a great opportunity to mingle and reconnect with your peers.

Event Details:

Date: March 21, 2024
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8:00pm
Location: The Kent Vancouver, 534 Cambie Street
Free Entry, RSVP required

Interweave is the first event from Fashion x Electronics (FXE), a collective created by Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi, SCA alumnus, composer, and performer, and designer Kayla Yazdi. FXE is an interdisciplinary collective that is building multi-sensory experiences for their community, bridging together a diverse range of disciplines.

This is a 19+ event. ID will be checked at the door.

RSVP Now!

I wasn’t able to discern much more about the event or the Yazdi sisters from their Fashion x Electronics (FXE) website but there is this about Kayla Yazdi on her FXE profile,

Kayla Yazdi

Designer / Co-Producer

Kayla Yazdi is an Iranian-Canadian designer based in Vancouver, Canada. Her upbringing in Iran immersed her in a world of culture, art, and color. Holding a diploma in painting and a bachelor’s degree in design with a specialization in fashion and technology, Kayla has cultivated the skill set that merges her artistic sensibilities with innovative design concepts.

Kayla is dedicated to the creation of “almost” zero-waste garments. With design, technology, and experimentation, Kayla seeks to minimize environmental impacts while delivering unique styles.

Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi’s FXE profile has this,

Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi

Sound Artist / Co-Producer

Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi(b. 1997 Tehran, Iran) is a California/Vancouver-based composer and performer. She writes for hybrid instrumental/electronic ensembles, creates electroacoustic and audiovisual works, and performs electronic music. Kimia explores the unfamiliar familiar while constantly being driven by the concepts of motion, interaction, and growth in both human life and in the sonic world. Being a cross-disciplinary artist, she has actively collaborated on projects evolving around dance, film, and theatre. Kimia’s work has been showcased by organizations such as Iranian Female Composer Association, Music on Main, Western Front, Vancouver New Music, and Media Arts Committee. She has been featured in The New York Times, Georgia Straight, MusicWorks Magazine, Vancouver Sun, and Sequenza 21. Her work has been performed at festivals around the world including Ars Electronica Festival, Festival Ecos Urbanos, Tehran Contemporary Sounds, AudioVisual Frontiers Virtual Exhibition, The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Yarn/Wire Institute, Ensemble Evolution, New Music on the Point, wasteLAnd Summer Academy, EQ: Evolution of the String Quartet, Modulus Festival, and SALT New Music Festival. She holds a BFA in Music Composition from Simon Fraser University’s Interdisciplinary School for the Contemporary Arts, having studied with Sabrina Schroeder and Mauricio Pauly. Kimia is currently pursuing her DMA in Music Composition at Stanford University.

For more details about the sisters and the performance, Marilyn R. Wilson has written up a February 21, 2024 interview with both sisters for her Olio blog,

Can you share a little bit about your background, the life, work, experiences that led you to who you are today?
Kayla: I’m a visual artist with a focus on fashion design, and textile development. I like to explore ways to create wearable art with minimal waste produced in the process. I studied painting at Azadehgan School of Art in Iran and fashion design & technology at Wilson School of Design in Vancouver. My interest in fashion is rooted in creating functional art. I enjoy the business aspect of fashion however, I want to push boundaries of how fashion can be seen as art rather than solely as production.

Kimia: I’m a composer of acoustic and electronic music, I perform and build instruments, and a lot of times I combine these components together. Working with various disciplines is also an important part of my practice. I studied piano performance at Tehran Music School before moving to Vancouver to study composition at Simon Fraser University. I am currently a doctorate candidate in music composition at Stanford University. I love electronic music, food, and sports! My family, partner, and friends are a huge part of my life!

You have your premier event called “Interweave” coming up on March 21st at The Kent Gallery in Vancouver. What can guests attending expect this evening?

Kayla & Kimia: Interweave is a multidisciplinary performance that bridges fashion, music, technology, and dance. Our dancers will be performing in garments designed by Kayla, that are embedded with microcontrollers and sensors developed by Kimia. The dancers control various musical parameters through their movements and their interaction with the sensors that are incorporated within the garments. Along with works for movement and dance, there will be a live electronic music performance made for costume-made instruments. So far we have received an amazing amount of support and RSVP’s from the art industry in Vancouver and look forward to welcoming many local creative individuals.

We’d love to know about the team of professionals who are working hard to create this unique experience. 

Kayla & Kimia: We are working with the amazing choreographers/dancers Anya Saugstad and Daria Mikhailiuk. We are thankful for Laleh Zandi’s help for creating a sculpture for one of our instruments which will be performed by Kimia. Celeste Betancur and Richard Lee have been our amazing audio tech assistants. We are very appreciative of everyone involved in FXE’s premiere and can’t wait to showcase our hard work.

I have a bit more about Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi and her work in music from a February 27, 2024 profile on the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts website, Note: Links have been removed,

Please introduce yourself.

I’m a composer of acoustic and electronic music, I perform and build instruments, and a lot of times, I combine these components together. Working with various disciplines is also an important part of my practice. I studied piano performance at Tehran Music School before moving to Vancouver to study composition at Simon Fraser University, graduating from the SCA in 2020. I am currently a doctoral student in music composition at Stanford University, where I spend most of my time.

Tell us about your current studies.

I’m in the third year of the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) program at Stanford University. I do the majority of my work at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). I’m currently trying to learn and to experiment as much as possible! The amount of resources and ideas that I have been exposed to during the last couple of years has been quite significant and wonderful. I have been taking courses in subjects that I never thought I would study, from classes in the computer science and the mechanical engineering departments, to ones in education and theatre. I’m grateful to have been given a supportive platform to truly experiment and to learn.

As for my compositions, they are more melodic than before, and that currently makes me happy. I have started to perform more again (piano and electronics), and it makes me question: why did I ever stop…?

Koochakzadeh-Yazdi’s mention of building instruments reminded me of Icelandic musician, Bjork and Biophilia, which was an album, various art projects, and a film (Biophilia Live), which featured a number of musical instruments she created.

Getting back to Interweave, it’ s on March 21, 2024 at The Kent, specifically the gallery, which has,

… 14 foot ceilings boasts 50 track lights with the ability to transform the vacuous hall from candlelight to daylight. The lights are fully dimmable in an array of playful hues, according to your whim.   A full array of DMX Lighting and control systems live alongside the track light system and our recently installed (Vancouvers only) immersive projection system [emphasis mine] is ready for your vision.  This is your show.

I wonder if ‘multi-sensory’ includes an immersive experience.

Don’t forget, you have to RSVP for Interweave, which is free.

March 6, 2024 Simon Fraser University (SFU) event “The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” in Vancouver, Canada

*Unsurprisingly, this event has been cancelled. More details at the end of this posting.* This is not a free event; they’ve changed the information about fees/no fees and how the fees are being assessed enough times for me to lose track; check the eventbrite registration page for the latest. Also, there will not be a publicly available recording of the event. (For folks who can’t afford the fees, there’s a contact listed later in this posting.)

First, here’s the “The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” event information (from a January 10, 2024 Simon Fraser University (SFU) Public Square notice received via email),

The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future

Wednesday, March 6 [2024] | 7:00pm | In-person | Free [Note: This was an error.]

Generative AI has dominated headlines in 2023, but these new technologies rely on a dramatic increase in the extraction of data, human labor, and natural resources. With increasing media manipulation, polarizing discourse, and deep fakes, regulators are struggling to manage new AI.

On March 6th [2024], join renowned author and digital scholar Kate Crawford, as she sits in conversation with SFU’s Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. Together, they will discuss the planetary politics of AI, how we got here, and where it might be going.

A January 11, 2024 SFU Public Square notice (received via email) updates the information about how this isn’t a free event and offers an option for folks who can’t afford the price of a ticket, Note Links have been removed,

The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future

Wednesday, March 6 | 7:00pm | In-person | Paid

Good morning,

We’ve been made aware that yesterday’s newsletter had a mistake, and we thank those who brought it to our attention. The March 6th [2024] event, The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future, is not a free event and has an admission fee for attendance. We apologize for the confusion.

Whenever possible, SFU Public Square’s events are free and open to all, to ensure that the event is as accessible as possible. For this event, there is a paid admission, with a General and Student/Senior Admission option. That being said, if the admission fees are a barrier to access, please email us at psqevent@sfu.ca. Exceptions can be made. [emphasis mine]

Thank you for your understanding!

“The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” registration webpage on eventbrite offers more information about the speakers and logistics,

Date and time

Starts on Wed, Mar 6, 2024 7:00 PM PST

Location

Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema (SFU Vancouver — Woodward’s Building) 149 W Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7

[See registration page for link to map]

Refund Policy

Refunds up to 7 days before event

About the speakers

Kate Crawfordis a leading international scholar of the social implications of artificial intelligence. She is a Research Professor at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles, a Senior Principal Researcher at MSR in New York, an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, and the inaugural Visiting Chair for AI and Justice at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her latest book, Atlas of AI (Yale, 2021), won the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology, the ASSI&T Best Information Science Book Award, and was named one of the best books in 2021 by New Scientist and the Financial Times.

Over her twenty-year research career, she has also produced groundbreaking creative collaborations and visual investigations. Her project Anatomy of an AI System with Vladan Joler is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the V&A in London, and was awarded with the Design of the Year Award in 2019 and included in the Design of the Decades by the Design Museum of London. Her collaboration with the artist Trevor Paglen, Excavating AI, won the Ayrton Prize from the British Society for the History of Science. She has advised policy makers in the United Nations, the White House, and the European Parliament, and she currently leads the Knowing Machines Project, an international research collaboration that investigates the foundations of machine learning. And in 2023, Kate Crawford was named on of the TIME100 list as one of the most influential people in AI.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Simon Fraser University’s Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media, Professor in the School of Communication, and Director of the Digital Democracies Institute. At the Institute, she leads the Mellon-funded Data Fluencies Project, which combines the interpretative traditions of the arts and humanities with critical work in the data sciences to express, imagine, and create innovative engagements with (and resistances to) our data-filled world.

She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her research on digital media. She is author many books, including: Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT 2011), Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT 2016), and Discriminating Data: Correlation, Neighborhoods, and the New Politics of Recognition (2021, MIT Press). She has been Professor and Chair of the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where she worked for almost two decades and is currently a Visiting Professor. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has also held fellowships from: the Guggenheim, ACLS, American Academy of Berlin, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

I’m wondering if the speakers will be discussing how visual and other arts impact their views on AI and vice versa. Both academics have an interest in the arts as you can see in Crawford’s event bio. As for Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, in my April 23, 2021 posting where if you scroll down to her name, (about 30% of the way down), you’ll see she was involved with “Multimedia & Electronic Music Experiments (MEME),” History of Art and Architecture,” and “Theatre Arts and Performance Studies” at Brown University.

A February 12, 2024 SFU Public Square announcement (received via email), which includes a link to this Speaker’s Spotlight webpage (scroll down), suggests my speculation is incorrect,

For over two decades, Kate Crawford’s work has focused on understanding large scale data systems, machine learning and AI in the wider contexts of history, politics, labor, and the environment.

Her latest book,  Atlas of AI (2021) explores artificial intelligence as the extractive industry of the 21st century, relying on vast amounts of data, human labour, and natural resources. …

One more biographical note about Crawford, she was mentioned here in an April 17, 2015 posting, scroll down to the National Film Board of Canada subhead, then down to Episode 5 ‘Big Data and its Algorithms’ of the Do Not Track documentary; she is one of the interviewees. I’m not sure if that documentary is still accessible online.

Back to the event, to get more details and/or buy a ticket, go to: “The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future” registration webpage.

Or, SFU is hosting its free 2023 Nobel Prize-themed lecture at Science World on March 6, 2024 (see my January 16, 2024 posting and scroll down about 30% of the way for more details).

*March 4, 2024: I found a cancellation notice on the SFU’s The Planetary Politics of AI: Past, Present, and Future event page,,

Unfortunately, this event has been cancelled due to extenuating circumstances. If you have questions or concerns, please email us at psqevent@sfu.ca. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and we thank you for your understanding.

My guess? They didn’t sell enough tickets. My assessment? Poor organization (e.g., the confusion over pricing), and poor marketing (e.g., no compelling reason to buy a ticket, (e.g.,, neither participant is currently a celebrity or a hot property, the presentation was nothing unique or special, it was just a talk; the title was mildly interesting but not exciting or provocative, etc.).

Hype, hype, hype: Vancouver’s Frontier Collective represents local tech community at SxWS (South by Southwest®) 2024 + an aside

I wonder if Vancouver’s Mayor Ken Sim will be joining the folks at the giant culture/tech event known as South by Southwest® (SxSW) later in 2024. Our peripatetic mayor seems to enjoy traveling to sports events (FIFA 2023 in Qatar), to Los Angeles to convince producers of a hit television series, “The Last of Us,” that they film the second season in Vancouver, and, to Austin, Texas for SxSW 2023. Note: FIFA is Fédération internationale de football association or ‘International Association Football Federation’.

It’s not entirely clear why Mayor Sim’s presence was necessary at any of these events. In October 2023, he finished his first year in office; a business owner and accountant, Sim is best known for his home care business, “Nurse Next Door” and his bagel business, “Rosemary Rocksalt,” meaning he wouldn’t seem to have much relevant experience with sports and film events.

I gather Mayor Sim’s presence was part of the 2023 hype (for those who don’t know, it’s from ‘hyperbole’) where SxSW was concerned, from the Vancouver Day at SxSW 2023 event page,

Vancouver Day

Past(03/12/2023) 12:00PM – 6:00PM

FREE W/ RSVP | ALL AGES

Swan Dive

The momentum and vibrancy of Vancouver’s innovation industry can’t be stopped!

The full day event will see the Canadian city’s premier technology innovators, creative tech industries, and musical artists show why Vancouver is consistently voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world.

We will have talks/panels with the biggest names in VR/AR/Metaverse, AI, Web3, premier technology innovators, top startups, investors and global thought-leaders. We will keep Canada House buzzing throughout the day with activations/demos from top companies from Vancouver and based on our unique culture of wellness and adventure will keep guests entertained, and giveaways will take place across the afternoon.

The Canadian city is showing why Vancouver has become the second largest AR/VR/Metaverse ecosystem globally (with the highest concentration of 3D talent than anywhere in the world), a leader in Web3 with companies like Dapper Labs leading the way and becoming a hotbed in technology like artificial intelligence.

The Frontier Collective’s Vancouver’s Takeover of SXSW is a signature event that will enhance Vancouver as the Innovation and Creative Tech leader on the world stage.It is an opportunity for the global community to encounter cutting-edge ideas, network with other professionals who share a similar appetite for a forward focused experience and define their next steps.

Some of our special guests include City of Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine], Innovation Commissioner of the Government of BC- Gerri Sinclair, Amy Peck of Endeavor XR, Tony Parisi of Lamina1 and many more.

In the evening, guests can expect a special VIP event with first-class musical acts, installations, wellness activations and drinks, and the chance to mingle with investors, top brands, and top business leaders from around the world.

To round out the event, a hand-picked roster of Vancouver musicians will keep guests dancing late into the night.

This is from Mayor Sim’s Twitter (now X) feed, Note: The photographs have not been included,

Mayor Ken Sim@KenSimCity Another successful day at #SXSW2023 showcasing Vancouver and British Columbia while connecting with creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs from around the world! #vanpoli#SXSW

Last edited from Austin, TX·13.3K Views

Did he really need to be there?

2024 hype at SxSW and Vancouver’s Frontier Collective

New year and same hype but no Mayor Sim? From a January 22, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive, Note: A link has been removed,

Frontier Collective, a coalition of Vancouver business leaders, culture entrepreneurs, and community builders, is returning to the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference next month to showcase the city’s tech innovation on the global stage.

The first organization to formally represent and promote the region’s fastest-growing tech industries, Frontier Collective is hosting the Vancouver Takeover: Frontiers of Innovation from March 8 to 12 [2024].

According to Dan Burgar, CEO and co-founder of Frontier Collective, the showcase is not just about presenting new advancements but is also an invitation to the world to be part of a boundary-transcending journey.

“This year’s Vancouver Takeover is more than an event; it’s a beacon for the brightest minds and a celebration of the limitless possibilities that emerge when we dare to innovate together.”

Speakers lined up for the SXSW Vancouver Takeover in Austin, Texas, include executives from Google, Warner Bros, Amazon, JP Morgan, Amazon, LG, NTT, Newlab, and the Wall Street Journal.

“The Frontier Collective is excited to showcase a new era of technological innovation at SXSW 2024, building on the success of last year’s Takeover,” added Natasha Jaswal, VP of operations and events of Frontier Collective, in a statement. “Beyond creating a captivating event; its intentional and curated programming provides a great opportunity for local companies to gain exposure on an international stage, positioning Vancouver as a global powerhouse in frontier tech innovation.

Here’s the registration page if you want to attend the Frontiers of Innovation Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024,

Join us for a curated experience of music, art, frontier technologies and provocative panel discussions. We are organizing three major events, designed to ignite conversation and turn ideas into action.

We’re excited to bring together leaders from Vancouver and around the world to generate creative thinking at the biggest tech festival.

Let’s create the future together!

You have a choice of two parties and a day long event. Enjoy!

Who is the Frontier Collective?

The group announced itself in 2022, from a February 17, 2022 article in techcouver, Note: Links have been removed,

The Frontier Collective is the first organization to formally represent and advance the interests of the region’s fastest-growing industries, including Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR [virtual reality/augmented reality], AI [artificial intelligence], climate tech, and creative industries such as eSports [electronic sports], NFTs [non-fungible tokens], VFX [visual effects], and animation.

Did you know the Vancouver area currently boasts the world’s second largest virtual and augmented reality sector and hosts the globe’s biggest cluster of top VFX, video games and animation studios, as well as the highest concentration of 3D talent?

Did you know NFT technology was created in Vancouver and the city remains a top destination for blockchain and Web3 development?

Frontier Collective’s coalition of young entrepreneurs and business leaders wants to raise awareness of Vancouver’s greatness by promoting the region’s innovative tech industry on the world stage, growing investment and infrastructure for early-stage companies, and attracting diverse talent to Vancouver.

“These technologies move at an exponential pace. With the right investment and support, Vancouver has an immense opportunity to lead the world in frontier tech, ushering in a new wave of transformation, economic prosperity and high-paying jobs. Without backing from governments and leaders, these companies may look elsewhere for more welcoming environments.” said Dan Burgar, Co-founder and Head of the Frontier Collective. Burgar heads the local chapter of the VR/AR Association.

Their plan includes the creation of a 100,000-square-foot innovation hub in Vancouver to help incubate startups in Web3, VR/AR, and AI, and to establish the region as a centre for metaverse technology.

Frontier Collective’s team includes industry leaders at the Vancouver Economic Commission [emphasis mine; Under Mayor Sim and his majority City Council, the commission has been dissolved; see September 21, 2023 Vancouver Sun article “Vancouver scraps economic commission” by Tiffany Crawford], Collision Conference, Canadian incubator Launch, Invest Vancouver, and the BDC Deep Tech Fund.  These leaders continue to develop and support frontier technology in their own organizations and as part of the Collective.

Interestingly, a February 7, 2023 article by the editors of BC Business magazine seems to presage the Vancouver Economic Commission’s demise. Note: Links have been removed,

Last year, tech coalition Frontier Collective announced plans to position Vancouver as Canada’s tech capital by 2030. Specializing in subjects like Web3, the metaverse, VR/AR, AI and animation, it seems to be following through on its ambition, as the group is about to place Vancouver in front of a global audience at SXSW 2023, a major conference and festival celebrating tech, innovation and entertainment.  

Taking place in Austin, Texas from March 10-14 [2023], Vancouver Takeover is going to feature speakers, stories and activations, as well as opportunities for companies to connect with industry leaders and investors. Supported by local businesses like YVR Airport, Destination Vancouver, Low Tide Properties and others, Frontier is also working with partners from Trade and Invest BC, Telefilm and the Canadian Consulate. Attendees will spot familiar faces onstage, including the likes of Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim [emphasis mine] and B.C. Innovation Commissioner Gerri Sinclair. 

That’s right, no mention of the Vancouver Economic Commission.

As for the Frontier Collective Team (accessed January 29, 2024), the list of ‘industry leaders’ (18 people with a gender breakdown that appears to be 10 male and 8 female) and staff members (a Senior VP who appears to be male and the other seven staff members who appear to be female) can be found here. (Should there be a more correct way to do the gender breakdown, please let me know in the Comments.)

i find the group’s name a bit odd, ‘frontier’ is something I associate with the US. Americans talk about frontiers, Canadians not so much.

If you are interested in attending the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event on March 10, 2024, just click here.

Aside: swagger at Vancouver City Hall, economic prosperity, & more?

What follows is not germane to the VR/AR community, SxSW of any year, or the Frontier Collective but it may help to understand why the City of Vancouver’s current mayor is going to events where he would seem to have no useful role to play.

Matt O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article for Vancouver Magazine offers an eyeopening review of Mayor Ken Sim’s first year in office.

Ken Sim swept to power a year ago promising to reduce waste, make our streets safer and bring Vancouver’s “swagger” back. But can his open-book style win over the critics?

I’m sitting on a couch in the mayor’s third-floor offices, and Ken Sim is walking over to his turntable to put on another record. “How about the Police? I love this album.”

With the opening strains of  “Every Breath You Take” crackling to life, Sim is explaining his approach to conflict resolution, and how he takes inspiration from the classic management tome Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

Odd choice for a song to set the tone for an interview. Here’s more about the song and its origins according to the song’s Wikipedia entry,

To escape the public eye, Sting retreated to the Caribbean. He started writing the song at Ian Fleming’s writing desk on the Goldeneye estate in Oracabessa, Jamaica.[14] The lyrics are the words of a possessive lover who is watching “every breath you take; every move you make”. Sting recalled:

“I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realise at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”[15][emphasis mine]

The interview gets odder, from O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article,

Suddenly, the office door swings open and Sim’s chief of staff, Trevor Ford, pokes his head in (for the third time in the past 10 minutes). “We have to go. Now.”

“Okay, okay,” says Sim, turning back to address me. “Do you mind if I change while we’re talking?” And so the door closes again—and, without further ado, the Mayor of Vancouver drops trou [emphasis mine] and goes in search of a pair of shorts, continuing with a story about how some of his west-side friends are vocally against the massive Jericho Lands development promising to reshape their 4th and Alma neighbourhood.

“And I’m like, ‘Let me be very clear: I 100-percent support it, this is why—and we’ll have to agree to disagree,’” he says, trading his baby-blue polo for a fitted charcoal grey T-shirt. Meanwhile, as Sim does his wardrobe change, I’m doing everything I can to keep my eyes on my keyboard—and hoping the mayor finds his missing shorts.

It’s fair to assume that previous mayors weren’t in the habit of getting naked in front of journalists. At least, I can’t quite picture Kennedy Stewart doing so, or Larry or Gordon Campbell either. 

But it also fits a pattern that’s developing with Ken Sim as a leader entirely comfortable in his own skin. He’s in a hurry to accomplish big things—no matter who’s watching and what they might say (or write). And he eagerly embraces the idea of bringing Vancouver’s “swagger” back—outlined in his inaugural State of the City address, and underlined when he shotgunned a beer at July’s [2023] Khatsahlano Street Party.

O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article goes on to mention some of the more practical initiatives undertaken by Mayor Sim and his supermajority of ABC (Sim’s party, A Better City) city councillors in their efforts to deal with some of the city’s longstanding and intractable problems,

For a reminder of Sim’s key priorities, you need only look at the whiteboard in the mayor’s office. At the top, there’s a row labelled “Daily Focus (Top 4)”—which are, in order, 3-3-3-1 (ABC’s housing program); Chinatown; Business Advocacy; and Mental Health/Safety.

On some files, like Chinatown, there have been clear advances: council unanimously approved the Uplifting Chinatown Action Plan in January, which devotes more resources to cleaning and sanitation services, graffiti removal, beautification and other community supports. The plan also includes a new flat rate of $2 per hour for parking meters throughout Chinatown (to encourage more people to visit and shop in the area) and a new satellite City Hall office, to improve representation. And on mental health and public safety, the ABC council moved quickly in November to take action on its promise to fund 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health professionals [emphasis mine]—though the actual hiring will take time.

O’Grady likely wrote his article a few months before its October 2023 publication date (a standard practice for magazine articles), which may explain why he didn’t mention this, from an October 10, 2023 article by Michelle Gamage and Jen St. Denis for The Tyee,

100 Cops, Not Even 10 Nurses

One year after Mayor Ken Sim and the ABC party swept into power on a promise to hire 100 cops and 100 mental health nurses to address fears about crime and safety in Vancouver, only part of that campaign pledge has been fulfilled.

At a police board meeting in September, Chief Adam Palmer announced that 100 new police officers have now joined the Vancouver Police Department.

But just 9.5 full-time equivalent positions have been filled to support the mental health [emphasis mine] side of the promise.

In fact, Vancouver Coastal Health says it’s no longer aiming [emphasis mine] to hire 100 nurses. Instead, it’s aiming for 58 staff and specialists [emphasis mine], including social workers, community liaison workers and peers, as well as other disciplines alongside nurses to deliver care.

At the police board meeting on Sept. 21 [2023], Palmer said the VPD has had no trouble recruiting new police officers and has now hired 70 new recruits who are first-time officers, as well as at least 24 experienced officers from other police services.

In contrast, it’s been a struggle for VCH to recruit nurses specializing in mental health.

BC Nurses’ Union president Adriane Gear said she remembers wondering where Sim was planning on finding 100 nurses [emphasis mine] when he first made the campaign pledge. In B.C. there are around 5,000 full-time nursing vacancies, she said. Specialized nurses are an even more “finite resource,” she added.

I haven’t seen any information as to why the number was reduced from 100 mental health positions to 58. I’m also curious as to how Mayor Ken Sim whose business is called ‘Nurse Next Door’ doesn’t seem to know there’s a shortage of nurses in the province and elsewhere.

Last year, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Quartz published a January 28, 2022 article by Aurora Almendral about the worldwide nursing shortage and the effects of COVID pandemic,

The report’s [from the International Council of Nurses (ICN)] survey of nurse associations around the world painted a grim picture of strained workforce. In Spain, nurses reported a chronic lack of PPE, and 30% caught covid. In Canada, 52% of nurses reported inadequate staffing, and 47% met the diagnostic cut-off for potential PTSD [emphasis mine].

Burnout plagued nurses around the world: 40% in Uganda, 60% in Belgium, and 63% in the US. In Oman, 38% nurses said they were depressed, and 73% had trouble sleeping. Fifty-seven percent of UK nurses planned to leave their jobs in 2021, up from 36% in 2020. Thirty-eight percent of nurses in Lebanon did not want to be nurses anymore, but stayed in their jobs because their families needed the money.

In Australia, 17% of nurses had sought mental health support. In China, 6.5% of nurses reported suicidal thoughts.

Moving on from Mayor Sim’s odd display of ignorance (or was it cynical calculation from a candidate determined to win over a more centrist voting population?), O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article ends on this note,

When Sim runs for reelection in 2026, as he promises to do, he’ll have a great backdrop for his campaign—the city having just hosted several games for the FIFA World Cup, which is expected to bring in $1 billion and 900,000 visitors over five years.

The renewed swagger of Sim’s city will be on full display for the world to see. So too—if left unresolved—will some of Vancouver’s most glaring and intractable social problems.

I was born in Vancouver and don’t recall the city as having swagger, at any time. As for the economic prosperity that’s always promised with big events like the FIFA world cup, I’d like to see how much the 2010 Olympic Games held in Vancouver cost taxpayers and whether or not there were long lasting economic benefits. From a July 9, 2022 posting on Bob Mackin’s thebreaker.news,

The all-in cost to build and operate the Vancouver 2010 Games was as much as $8 billion, but the B.C. Auditor General never conducted a final report. The organizing committee, VANOC, was not covered by the freedom of information law and its records were transferred to the Vancouver Archives after the Games with restrictions not to open the board minutes and financial ledgers before fall 2025.

Mayor Sim will have two more big opportunities to show off his swagger in 2025 . (1) The Invictus Games come to Vancouver and Whistler in February 2025 and will likely bring Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle to the area (see the April 22, 2022 Associated Press article by Gemma Karstens-Smith on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website) and (2) The 2025 Junos (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys) from March 26 – 30, 2025 with the awards show being held on March 30, 2025 (see the January 25, 2024 article by Daniel Chai for the Daily Hive website).

While he waits, Sim may have a ‘swagger’ opportunity later this month (February 2024) when Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle) visit the Vancouver and Whistler for a “a three-day Invictus Games’ One Year to Go event in Vancouver and Whistler,” see Daniel Chai’s February 2, 2024 article for more details.

Don’t forget, should you be in Austin, Texas for the 2024 SxSW, the daylong (11 am – 9 pm) Vancouver Takeover at SxSW 2024 event is on March 10, 2024, just click here to register. Who knows? You might get to meet Vancouver’s, Mayor Ken Sim. Or, if you can’t make it to Austin, Texas, O’Grady’s October 4, 2023 article offer an unusual political profile.

February 1, 2024 talk about ‘CULTUS’: a scifi, queer art installation at the University of British Columbia’s Belkin Gallery in Vancouver, Canada

Spanning religiosity, science fiction, contemporary perspectives on artificial intelligence, and the techno-industrial complex, artist Zach Blas and writer/editor Jayne Wilkinson will be discussing CULTUS, an art installation currently being shown as part of the Belkin Gallery’s January 12 – April 14, 2024 exhibition, Aporia (Notes to a Medium),

Zach Blas, CULTUS , 2023, from the 2024 exhibition at Arebyte Gallery, London, UK. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Max Colson

Here’s what the folks at the Belkin Art Gallery (Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery) had to say in their January 30, 2024 announcement (received via email),

Artist Talk with Zach Blas and Jayne Wilkinson

Thursday, February 1 at 5 pm 

Please join us for a lecture by interdisciplinary artist Zach Blas, with a dialogue to follow with writer/editor Jayne Wilkinson. Blas will discuss his most recent work, CULTUS, the second in a trilogy of queer science-fiction installations addressing the beliefs, fantasies and histories that are influential to the contemporary tech industry. CULTUS (the Latin word for “worship”) considers the God-like status often afforded to artificial intelligence (AI) and examines how this religiosity is marshalled to serve beliefs about judgement and transcendence, extraction and immortality, pleasure and punishment, individual freedom and cult devotion. The conversation to follow will address some of the pressing intersecting political and ethical questions raised by both using and critiquing contemporary image technologies like AI.

This conversation will be audio-recorded; email us at belkin.gallery@ubc.ca if you are interested in listening to the recording following the event.

This talk is presented in conjunction with the Belkin’s exhibition Aporia (Notes to a Medium) and Critical Image Forum, a collaboration between the Belkin and the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC.

For anyone (like me) who’s never heard of either Blas or Wilkinson, there’s more on the Belkin’s event page,

Zach Blas is an artist, filmmaker and writer whose practice draws out the philosophies and imaginaries residing in computational technologies and their industries. Working across moving image, computation, installation, theory and performance, Blas has exhibited, lectured and held screenings at venues including the 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Tate Modern, 12th Gwangju Biennale and e-flux. His 2021 artist monograph Unknown Ideals is published by Sternberg Press. Blas is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.

Jayne Wilkinson is a Toronto-based art writer and editor.

Should you be interested in attending the talk and/or the exhibition, here are some directions, from the Belkin Gallery’s Visit webpage,

Directions

The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery is located at the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus, 1825 Main Mall, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z2

Open in Maps

By Public Transit

TransLink offers many routes to UBC, including several express services (44, 84, R4, 99). The UBC Bus Loop is the last stop for each of these buses, and is located in the central area of campus near the AMS Nest. To get to the gallery, walk west on University Boulevard. (about 1 block) until you reach Main Mall. Turn right onto Main Mall and continue for about 3 blocks until you reach Crescent Road. We are located on your left at the corner of Main Mall and Crescent Road, near the Flagpole Plaza.

By Car

From downtown Vancouver, proceed west on West 4th Avenue, which becomes Chancellor Blvd and then merges with NW Marine Drive. Continue west on NW Marine Drive, to the Rose Garden Parkade (on your left).

From the airport, proceed to SW Marine Drive. Stay on SW Marine Drive, which eventually merges with NW Marine Drive. Continue just past the Museum of Anthropology (on your left) to the Rose Garden Parkade (on your right).

Accessibility

Entrance

The Belkin is wheelchair accessible. The main entrance is located on the east side of the building next to Main Mall. For people requiring wheelchair or easier accessibility, use the ramp from Crescent Road to access the main gallery doors.  This entrance is level and accessible and has both a revolving door and a powered wheelchair-accessible door.

Washrooms

Washrooms are all-gender and include two multi-stall washrooms with wheelchair-accessible stalls and one stand-alone washroom that is wheelchair accessible.

Seating

Portable gallery stools are available for use.

Large Print Materials

Large print materials are available.

ASL Interpretation

ASL interpreters are available upon request for Belkin programs and events. To request interpretation for an event or tour, please contact us in advance.

Service Animals

Service dogs are welcome to accompany visitors.

Scent

The Belkin’s office is scent free. Occasionally, there are works or projects that are scent-focused.

Please ask our staff if you require any assistance or have any questions.

Admission to the gallery is free.

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU; Vancouver, Canada) Café Scientifique Winter/Spring 2024 events + a 2023 Nobel-themed lecture

There are three upcoming Simon Fraser University (SFU) Café Scientifique events (Zoom) and one upcoming Nobel=themed lecture (in person) according to a January 15, 2024 notice (received via email), Note: All the events are free,

Hello SFU Cafe Scientifique friends!

We are back with a brand new line up for our Cafe Scientifique discussion series.  Zoom invites will be sent closer to the event dates [emphasis mine].  We hope you can join us.

All event information and registration links on this page: https://www.sfu.ca/science/community.html

Café Scientifique: Why Do Babies Get Sick? A Systems Biology Approach to Developing Diagnostics and Therapeutics for Neonatal Sepsis. 

Tuesday, January 30, 5:00-6:30pm over Zoom 

Around the world five newborn babies die each second from life-threatening infections. Unfortunately there is no fast or easy way to tell which microbes are involved. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry assistant professor Amy Lee will share how we can use genomics and machine learning approaches to tackle this challenge.
Register here. https://events.sfu.ca/event/38235-cafe-scientifique-january-why-do-babies-get-sick?

Cafe Scientifique: From data to dollars: A journey through financial modelling
Tuesday, February 27, 5:00-6:30 pm over Zoom 

Financial modelling involves using mathematical and statistical techniques to understand future financial scenarios, helping individuals and businesses make informed decisions about their investments. Join Dr. Jean-François Bégin as he explores how these models can empower us to navigate the complexities of financial markets.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/763521010897

Cafe Scientifique: Overtraining and the Everyday Athlete
Tuesday, April 30, 5:00-6:30 pm over Zoom 

What happens when we train too hard, don’t take enough time to recover, or underfuel while exercising, and how that applies to both elite athletes and just your “everyday athlete.” Join Dr. Alexandra Coates from our Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology Department in this interesting discussion.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/763521010897

Missed our last Café Scientifique talk [Decoding how life senses and responds to carbon dioxide gas] with Dustin King? [SFU Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Dustin King’s Indigenous background is central to his work and relationship with the biochemical research he conducts. He brings Indigenous ways of knowing and a two-eye seeing approach to critical questions about humanity’s impact upon the natural world …] Watch it on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCHTSbF3RVs&list=PLTMt9gbqLurAMfSHQqVAHu7YbyOFq81Ix&index=10

The ‘2023 Nobel Prize Lectures’ being presented by SFU do not feature the 2023 winners but rather, SFU experts in the relevant field, from the January 15, 2024 SFU Café Scientifique notice (received via email),

BACK IN-PERSON AT THE SCIENCE WORLD THEATRE!

Location: Science World Theatre 1455 Quebec Street Vancouver, BC V6A 3Z7

NOBEL PRIZE LECTURES  

Wednesday, March 6, 2024 

6:30-7:30 pm Refreshments, 7:30-9:30 pm Lectures 

Celebrate the 2023 Nobel awardees in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine!

SFU experts will explain Nobel laureates’ award-winning research and its significance to our everyday lives. 

Featured presenters are

*Mark Brockman from Molecular Biology and Biochemistry for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology;

*Byron Gates from Chemistry for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; and

*Shawn Sederberg from the School of Engineering Science for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nobel-prize-lectures-tickets-773387301237

For anyone who has trouble remembering who and why the winners were awarded a 2023 Nobel Prize, here’s a nobleprize.org webpage devoted to the 2023 winners.

XoMotion, an exoskeleton developed in Canada causes commotion

I first stumbled across these researchers in 2016 when their project was known as “Wearable Lower Limb Anthropomorphic Exoskeleton (WLLAE).” In my January 20, 2016 posting, “#BCTECH: being at the Summit (Jan. 18-19, 2016),” an event put on by the province of British Columbia (BC, Canada) and the BC Innovation Council (BCIC), I visited a number of booths and talks at the #BC TECH Summit and had this to say about WLLAE,

“The Wearable Lower Limb Anthropomorphic Exoskeleton (WLLAE) – a lightweight, battery-operated and ergonomic robotic system to help those with mobility issues improve their lives. The exoskeleton features joints and links that correspond to those of a human body and sync with motion. SFU has designed, manufactured and tested a proof-of-concept prototype and the current version can mimic all the motions of hip joints.” The researchers (Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park) pointed out that the ability to mimic all the motions of the hip is a big difference between their system and others which only allow the leg to move forward or back. They rushed the last couple of months to get this system ready for the Summit. In fact, they received their patent for the system the night before (Jan. 17, 2016) the Summit opened.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any pictures of WLLAE yet and the proof-of-concept version may differ significantly from the final version. This system could be used to help people regain movement (paralysis/frail seniors) and I believe there’s a possibility it could be used to enhance human performance (soldiers/athletes). The researchers still have some significant hoops to jump before getting to the human clinical trial stage. They need to refine their apparatus, ensure that it can be safely operated, and further develop the interface between human and machine. I believe WLLAE is considered a neuroprosthetic device. While it’s not a fake leg or arm, it enables movement (prosthetic) and it operates on brain waves (neuro). It’s a very exciting area of research, consequently, there’s a lot of international competition. [ETA January 3, 2024: I’m pretty sure I got the neuroprosthetic part wrong]

Time moved on and there was a name change and then there was this November 10, 2023 article by Jeremy Hainsworth for the Vancouver is Awesome website,

Vancouver-based fashion designer Chloe Angus thought she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life after being diagnosed with an inoperable benign tumour in her spinal cord in 2015, resulting in permanent loss of mobility in her legs.

Now, however, she’s been using a state-of-the-art robotic exoskeleton known as XoMotion that can help physically disabled people self-balance, walk, sidestep, climb stairs and crouch.

“The first time I walked with the exoskeleton was a jaw-dropping experience,” said Angus. “After all these years, the exoskeleton let me stand up and walk on my own without falling. I felt like myself again.”

She added the exoskeleton has the potential to completely change the world for people with motion disabilities.

XoMotion is the result of a decade of research and the product of a Simon Fraser University spinoff company, Human in Motion Robotics (HMR) Inc. It’s the brainchild of professors Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park.

Arzanpour and Park, both researchers in the Burnaby-based university’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, began work on the device in 2014. They had a vision to enhance exoskeleton technology and empower individuals with mobility challenges to have more options for movement.

“We felt that there was an immediate need to help people with motion disabilities to walk again, with a full range of motion. At the time, exoskeletons could only walk forward. That was the only motion possible,” Arzanpour said.

A November 15, 2023 article (with an embedded video) by Amy Judd & Alissa Thibault for Global News (television) highlights Alexander’s story,

SFU professors Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park wanted to help people with motion disabilities to walk freely, naturally and independently.

The exoskeleton [XoMotion] is now the most advanced of its kind in the world.

Chloe Angus, who lost her mobility in her legs in 2015, now works for the team.

She said the exoskeleton makes her feel like herself again.

She was diagnosed with an inoperable benign tumor in her spinal cord in 2015 which resulted in a sudden and permanent loss of mobility in her legs. At the time, doctors told Angus that she would need a wheelchair to move for the rest of her life.

Now she is part of the project and defying all odds.

“After all these years, the exoskeleton let me stand up and walk on my own without falling. I felt like myself again.”

There’s a bit more information in the November 8, 2023 Simon Fraser University (SFU) news release (which has the same embedded video as the Global News article) by Ray Sharma,

The state-of-the-art robotic exoskeleton known as XoMotion is the result of a decade of research and the product of an SFU spin off company, Human in Motion Robotics (HMR) Inc. The company has recently garnered millions in investment, an overseas partnership and a suite of new offices in Vancouver.

XoMotion allows individuals with mobility challenges to stand up and walk on their own, without additional support. When in use, XoMotion maintains its stability and simultaneously encompasses all the ranges of motion and degrees of freedom needed for users to self-balance, walk, sidestep, climb stairs, crouch, and more. 

Sensors within the lower-limb exoskeleton mimic the human body’s sense of logic to identify structures along the path, and in-turn, generate a fully balanced motion.

SFU professors Siamak Arzanpour and Edward Park, both researchers in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, began work on the device in 2014 with a vision to enhance exoskeleton technology and empower individuals with mobility challenges to have more options for movement. 

“We felt that there was an immediate need to help people with motion disabilities to walk again, with a full range of motion. At the time, exoskeletons could only walk forward. That was the only motion possible,” says Arzanpour. 

The SFU professors, who first met in 2001 as graduate students at the University of Toronto, co-founded HMR in 2016, bringing together a group of students, end-users, therapists, and organizations to build upon the exoskeleton. Currently, 70 per cent of HMR employees are SFU graduates. 

In recent years, HMR has garnered multiple streams of investment, including a contract with Innovative Solutions Canada, and $10 million in funding during their Series A round in May, including an $8 million investment and strategic partnership from Beno TNR, a prominent Korean technology investment firm.

I decided to bring the embedded video here, it runs a little over 2 mins.,

You can find the Human in Robotics (HMR) website here.

AI for salmon recovery

Hopefully you won’t be subjected to a commercial prior to this 3 mins. 49 secs. video about the salmon and how artificial intelligence (AI) could make a difference in theirs and our continued survival,

Video caption: Wild Salmon Center is partnering with First Nations to pilot the Salmon Vision technology. (Credit: Olivia Leigh Nowak/Le Colibri Studio.)

An October 19, 2023 news item on phys.org announces this research, Note: Links have been removed,

Scientists and natural resource managers from Canadian First Nations, governments, academic institutions, and conservation organizations published the first results of a unique salmon population monitoring tool in Frontiers in Marine Science.

This groundbreaking new technology, dubbed “Salmon Vision,” combines artificial intelligence with age-old fishing weir technology. Early assessments show it to be remarkably adept at identifying and counting fish species, potentially enabling real-time salmon population monitoring for fisheries managers.

An October 19, 2023 Wild Salmon Center news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the work,

“In recent years, we’ve seen the promise of underwater video technology to help us literally see salmon return to rivers,” says lead author Dr. Will Atlas, Senior Watershed Scientist with the Portland-based Wild Salmon Center. “That dovetails with what many of our First Nations partners are telling us: that we need to automate fish counting to make informed decisions while salmon are still running.” 

The Salmon Vision pilot study annotates more than 500,000 individual video frames captured at two Indigenous-run fish counting weirs on the Kitwanga and Bear Rivers of B.C.’s Central Coast. 

The first-of-its-kind deep learning computer model, developed in data partnership with the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority and Skeena Fisheries Commission, shows promising accuracy in identifying salmon species. It yielded mean average precision rates of 67.6 percent in tracking 12 different fish species passing through custom fish-counting boxes at the two weirs, with scores surpassing 90 and 80 percent for coho and sockeye salmon: two of the principal fish species targeted by First Nations, commercial, and recreational fishers. 

“When we envisioned providing fast grants for projects focused on Indigenous futurism and climate resilience, this is the type of project that we hoped would come our way,” says Dr. Keolu Fox, a professor at the University of California-San Diego, and one of several reviewers in an early crowdfunding round for the development of Salmon Vision. 

Collaborators on the model, funded by the British Columbia Salmon Recovery and Innovation Fund, include researchers and fisheries managers with Simon Fraser University and Douglas College computing sciences, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, and the Skeena Fisheries Commission. Following these exciting early results, the next step is to expand the model with partner First Nations into a half-dozen new watersheds on B.C.’s North and Central Coast.

Real-time data on salmon returns is critical on several fronts. According to Dr. Atlas, many fisheries in British Columbia have been data-poor for decades. That leaves fisheries managers to base harvest numbers on early-season catch data, rather than the true number of salmon returning. Meanwhile, changing weather patterns, stream flows, and ocean conditions are creating more variable salmon returns: uncertainty that compounds the ongoing risks of overfishing already-vulnerable populations.

“Without real-time data on salmon returns, it’s extremely difficult to build climate-smart, responsive fisheries,” says Dr. Atlas. “Salmon Vision data collection and analysis can fill that information gap.” 

It’s a tool that he says will be invaluable to First Nation fisheries managers and other organizations both at the decision-making table—in providing better information to manage conservation risks and fishing opportunities—and in remote rivers across salmon country, where on-the-ground data collection is challenging and costly. 

The Salmon Vision team is implementing automated counting on a trial basis in several rivers around the B.C. North and Central Coasts in 2023. The goal is to provide reliable real-time count data by 2024.

This October 18, 2023 article by Ramona DeNies for the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) is nicely written although it does cover some of the same material seen in the news release, Note: A link has been removed,

Right now, in rivers across British Columbia’s Central Coast, we don’t know how many salmon are actually returning. At least, not until fishing seasons are over.

And yet, fisheries managers still have to make decisions. They have to make forecasts, modeled on data from the past. They have to set harvest targets for commercial and recreational fisheries. And increasingly, they have to make the call on emergency closures, when things start looking grim.

“On the north and central coast of BC, we’ve seen really wildly variable returns of salmon over the last decade,” says Dr. Will Atlas, Wild Salmon Center Senior Watershed Scientist. “With accelerating climate change, every year is unprecedented now. Yet from a fisheries management perspective, we’re still going into most seasons assuming that this year will look like the past.”

One answer, Dr. Atlas says, is “Salmon Vision.” Results from this first-of-its-kind technology—developed by WSC in data partnership with the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority and Skeena Fisheries Commission—were recently published in Frontiers in Marine Science.

There are embedded images in DeNies’ October 18, 2023 article; it’s where I found the video.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Wild salmon enumeration and monitoring using deep learning empowered detection and tracking by William I. Atlas, Sami Ma, Yi Ching Chou, Katrina Connors, Daniel Scurfield, Brandon Nam, Xiaoqiang Ma, Mark Cleveland, Janvier Doire, Jonathan W. Moore, Ryan Shea, Jiangchuan Liu. Front. Mar. Sci., 20 September 2023 Volume 10 – 2023 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2023.1200408

This paper appears to be open access.