HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF WALES VISITS RYERSON UNIVERSITY

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Prince Charles tweets about Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone

TORONTO, May 22, 2012 – His Royal Highness Prince Charles visited today with students, staff and alumni at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone. The trip to the technology incubator at Yonge-Dundas Square was a scheduled stop on the Prince’s 2012 Royal Tour.

Premier Dalton McGuinty and Ryerson president and vice-chancellor Sheldon Levy escorted Prince Charles through the DMZ, where he greeted Ryerson staff and chatted with teams about their latest innovations and projects.

The Digital Media Zone teams Prince Charles met with included:

· Bionik Labs: a medical engineering research and development corporation with a focus on ground-breaking prosthetics and rehabilitation devices. Projects under development include brain-controlled prosthetics, a system for walking rehabilitation as well as a permanent solution for total lung replacement.

· 500px: the Prince of Wales scrolled through photos on its interface as the team described their website that enables users to browse photos, view photographer profiles, create favorites, and follow photographers.

· Greengage: promotes environmentally sustainability through employee engagement tools and interactive management systems.

· Flybits: a Canadian leader in context-aware computing that has developed Toronto’s GO Transit’s first official mobile application, GO Mobile, which was downloaded over 140,000 times in its first eight weeks.

After meeting with students, His Royal Highness posted a tweet with Ryerson University’s Twitter handle: “Engaging & impressive innovators @RyersonDMZ. Higher-ed is being taken to the next level #RoyalTour @ClarenceHouse http://pic.twitter.com/XvdA8Say.”

Digital Media Zone

Opened in April 2010, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone is a multidisciplinary workspace for young entrepreneurs infused with the energy and resources of downtown Toronto. Set atop Yonge-Dundas Square, this hub of digital media innovation, collaboration and commercialization is home to both entrepreneurial startups and industry solution-providers. With access to overhead and business services, students and alumni can fast-track their product launches, stimulating Canada’s emerging digital economy through spending and job creation. Since its launch, the Digital Media Zone has incubated and accelerated 43 companies to initiate more than 79 projects. Currently the Zone houses 165 innovators in 38 teams. For more information on the Zone, visit www.ryerson.ca/dmz.

Ryerson University

Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 28,000 students, including 2,300 master’s and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and 140,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past five years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada’s leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Lauren Clegg
Digital Media Zone
Ryerson University
Office: 416-979-5000 x 2997
lauren.clegg@ryerson.ca

If you require this in another format, please contact Ryerson University Public Affairs at 416-979-5000 x 7134.

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Prince of Wales Visits the DMZ

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Photo by Premier of Ontario Photography

The Prince of Wales visited the Ryerson Digital Media Zone this morning as part of his tour of Canada marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Escorted by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Ryerson President Sheldon Levy, The Prince first met with Valerie Fox, Executive Director of the DMZ, and Carrie-Ann Bissonnette, Manager of the DMZ. President Levy then invited His Royal Highness to meet with four cutting-edge startup companies within the DMZ.

Accompanied by President Levy and Premier McGuinty, The Prince first met with Thiago Caires and Michal Prywata of Bionik Labs who showcased their medical technology. Next, The Prince met Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev, co-founders of DMZ alumnus company 500px. Finally, The Prince met with Lindsey Goodchild of Greengage and Dr. Hossein Rahnama of Flybits. While learning about Flybits’ technology, The Prince interacted with Flybits’ Nao robot, a programmable humanoid robot, which greeted him and handed him a marker. The Prince then used the marker to send out a tweet from the @RyersonU account.

As he left the DMZ, The Prince took some time to meet with several other DMZ entrepreneurs and students.

Valerie Fox summed up the visit nicely, saying: “We are so thrilled for this incredible opportunity to introduce him to the Zone where we are enabling world-changing innovation. And meeting him was a thrill, too!”

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Peytec Wins $25,000 at OCE Discovery

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After submitting a detailed business plan and pitching in front of a panel of judges, engineering company Peytec took home the $25,000 prize for the Experiential Learning Competition at OCE Discovery 12 this past week. On Tuesday, Peyman Moeini and Taras Koulik of Peytec presented a five minute pitch to an audience of approximately 100. The judges then proceeded to ask the team tough questions ranging from their business plan to how they would spend the money.

Peytec’s pitch was for a project called Tamper-Aware RFID, an innovative patent pending technology that is able to detect physical tampering. It’s designed to be integrated into a full retail security system. The technology’s primary aim is to reduce customer theft. Peytec’s end customer is consumer retailers, however, due to the industry structure, Peytec’s main targets will be global RFID manufacturers.

With the winnings, Peytec plans on investing  into further research and development for Tamper-Aware RFID  in order to accelerate the commercialization process.

Peyman is extremely grateful for the mentorship he received from advisor Matthew Johnson, as well as the DMZ. He says that “because of the great support of Ryerson and the DMZ, we received the right resources in order to win the competition and ultimately create an overall sound, well-rounded business.”

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Prince of Wales to visit Ryerson Digital Media Zone

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This article was originally posted on Ryerson.ca.

The Prince of Wales will visit Ryerson University May 22 during his tour of Canada marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

His Royal Highness will spend about an hour at the Digital Media Zone starting at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 22. He will be escorted by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Glen Murray and President Sheldon Levy.

The visit is part of a four-day tour of Canada by the prince and the Duchess of Cornwall. The couple also have stops in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. While in Toronto, they will visit a number of locations in addition to Ryerson; the duchess is not accompanying the prince to the university.

At Ryerson, the prince will meet with teams of students and alumni who are working in the Zone developing innovative, entrepreneurial ideas into businesses. Education and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people are two of the prince’s interests. The Prince’s Trust, a charitable organization, directly supports initiatives such as The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust.

Since its launch in 2010, the Digital Media Zone has attracted international attention as a model for supporting innovation and entrepreneurship for young people. To date, there have been more than 188 collaborators in 41 teams through the Zone. In all, 39 startups have been incubated and accelerated and 357 jobs fostered and created. The Zone occupies three floors at 10 Dundas Street East.

More details about the visit to Ryerson by His Royal Highness will be posted in Ryerson Today next week.

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Q&A with DMZ’s Valerie Fox

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This article was originally posted by Anthony Reinhart on cdmn.ca.

Talent will be key to making Canada a digital nation by 2017, but a shortage of people with the right skills continues to plague our ICT sector.

At CDMN Canada 3.0 2012, a panel discussed national and international findings around ICT talent, and the challenges and opportunities they present as Canada builds its digital economy.

Valerie Fox, executive director of the Digital Media Zone at Toronto’s Ryerson University, brought her own perspective to the panel based on 25 years in tech, in industry as well as academia.

We had a quick chat following the breakout session, about her work at DMZ and how to address the talent crunch.

Q – Can you describe DMZ and your role there?

A – I’m the executive director for the Ryerson Digital Media Zone, and the Zone started as an experiment to really help Ryerson students and alumni explore entrepreneurship and innovation.

We really weren’t sure what this was going to be, but we knew that they really needed support and help with the new companies they were creating.

And so, we created an environment for them to grow these companies.

We have a great space; it’s right in the middle of the city – it’s in the heart of the city actually, at Dundas and Yonge – because we wanted the world to see this as it was growing, and as we were experimenting to see what we could do with this.

Within a very short period of time, we actually had a number of people apply to get in who were not part of the university; they were actually people from the University of Toronto, Waterloo, UBC, who had heard about us through the grapevine.

We also had serial entrepreneurs who said, ‘Wow, this is a great idea; we’re hearing that this is working; can we come in, too?’

Q – What happened then?

A – What ended up happening within a very short period of time is, we have a critical mass of people who are doing amazing things; great talent.

We developed criteria, of course, for people to come in and stay; we asked mentors to help; we found various avenues of funding, and the thing just exploded.

So, within two years, we’ve grown to where we’ve helped over 350 different people.

Right now we have about 180 people in the Zone, and we’ve helped create over 450 jobs and 41 companies.

When you look at it you go, ‘Wow, why is this so successful?’, and the truth is, it’s a learning environment where we’re learning how to service the very people who are learning how to be entrepreneurs.

It’s that learning and collaboration – which is a word that’s being used a lot; I’d much rather practise collaboration than use that word – but it’s a very interesting phenomenon when people of different headspaces; technical people, business people, creative people, user-experience people and various subject-matter experts come together and create extraordinary product, extraordinary innovation that is marketable and actually gets customers pretty fast.

And by sharing not only expertise but your networks, you enable them to have better distribution, better access to customers, better access to knowledge, better access to pretty well every facet that you could possibly think of in your particular business.

The businesses in there pretty well hit every sector. Digital media, a very loose term, is basically anything that’s digital. So, we hit the health and wellness sector, we hit finance, we hit communications, gaming, entertainment, retail.

It’s interesting. We didn’t set out to do anything in particular; it all just happened, which tells you that there’s a need for this, and I think that’s why we were so successful so quickly.

Q – What do you think sets DMZ apart from a more-traditional academic environment?

A – Number 1 is, it’s multidisciplinary.

In this case, it’s very informal; there’s not a formal program with it. It’s like we’re feeding ourselves as we need to be fed, so it’s just-in-time learning.

Peer-to-peer mentoring is very, very strong.

Yes, we do have various programs that people can utilize, but they need it when they need it.

So, the difference is it’s a place where we’re working on things that mean the most to you, and I think that’s quite important.

From a university perspective, we’re not a particular area, we’re not a program area, we’re not a faculty. We’re there to really accommodate any of those things, and have a place where things can really start to happen.

Q – When people leave the Zone, how are they prepared to enter the world compared to someone leaving, say, a traditional university program?

A – They have experience.

The panel session I was on [at CDMN Canada 3.0 2012] started to talk about the necessity of experience.

Even if you’re not an entrepreneur; let’s say you were in the Zone and you were working with a startup, what’s interesting is that no matter what happens, you still have had great experience.

You have now, because you’re a very small company, seen what it’s like to put your business together, seen what it’s like to look for money, seen what it’s like to get your customers, seen what it’s like to create a user experience that people actually want, seen what it’s like to put together your own team and have an organization from an HR perspective, and seen what it’s like to really hone your own skills to make yourself a better person.

So, anyone who comes out of that kind of environment and that kind of experience is only going to be better for it.

Q – So, how do we address this talent shortage that everyone is talking about? What steps can we take that we are not taking now?

A – We’re experiencing it too, and there actually is a shortage of specific types of developers.

Interestingly enough, one of the guys in the Zone is now starting to teach courses himself. It’s not like he’s going to tell a whole bunch of people about it, but people seem to find out about it, and he fills the room teaching people who want to be able to learn these types of skills themselves.

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

There’s a call now for what’s called “digital badges,” where people actually have certification for certain skills, and they’re going anywhere they can to get those extra skills.

Why? Because it’s needed, and because they need it. And so, if they can’t go and get those skills, they’ll want to learn them themselves.

I think that’s amazing, don’t you? If you need it, do it yourself.

What that’s telling us as universities and educational institutions is, we have to be listening and we have to be fast on the draw here, and put together programs and courses and certification capability to enable that.

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Get to know Tiny Hearts (InstaMatch)

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This article was originally posted by Jonathon Muzychka on blogTO.com.

With the explosion of smart phones and tablets, apps are quickly attracting some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs in the industry. Robleh Jama is no exception. After starting his award-winning app studio in Toronto, Tiny Hearts, he is quickly changing the way entertainment and educational games are being developed in Canada.

Tiny Hearts was created after the launch of his first app, Pocket Zoo, which was one one of the top 50 apps in the iTunes store and the number one app in the education category. Since then, the momentum has continued. Tiny Hearts was featured in the New York Times and Wired magazine and then a couple of months ago released InstaMatch – The Instagram Game. Glowing reviews are pouring in and the app was featured by Apple as a Staff Favourite.

I recently spent some time with Jama to learn a bit more about Tiny Hearts and how he has turned his ideas into reality.

Tell me about the philosophy behind Tiny Hearts, where did you get the name from?

Family is a big part of the Tiny Hearts philosophy. I started my studio as a way to create fun, family-friendly apps that I could eventually share with my daughter, who was born only days before Pocket Zoo hit the App Store.

I actually came up with the name Tiny Hearts while my wife was pregnant. The best part of our routine midwife’s visits was listening to our daughter’s precious and tiny heartbeat. That’s when I suggested the name tiny heartbeats to my wife! She thought it sounded a little off and recommended Tiny Hearts. And as usual, my wife got her way!

What’s your background and how did you get started in the mobile space?

I got into the creative, tech, and entrepreneurship space by accident. I fell in love with the web and founded my first startup while I was attending York University. My first site was a social network for sneaker fans. I ran it for a few years before eventually selling it. I really focus on starting businesses around things I’m passionate about since it makes work so much more exciting. Likewise, I transitioned into the mobile space because I was a fan of the iPhone and the app ecosystem that came along with it.

How did you come up with Pocket Zoo?

A huge part of the motivation to create Pocket Zoo was the fact that I was going to be a dad for the first time. I wanted to create something that was not only fun and educational for my daughter, but also something that we could share with other families around the world. Also, living only 10 minutes from the Toronto Zoo, I noticed that kids were eagerly lining up to see their favorite animals every day.

From these two experiences, I came up with a really unique idea that wasn’t available on the app store. Pocket Zoo combines a virtual zoo app with photos, sounds, videos and live animal cams. People can actually download the app and watch live animal camera’s from zoos all over the world at any time! In the end, Pocket Zoo allowed me to combine my passion for family, education and creating beautiful products together in harmony.

What’s your work set-up?

I’m a big fan of co-working and incubator spaces. I currently split my time between Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone and The Work Republic, a co-working space closer to my home in Scarborough. It’s great to see the idea behind co-working growing in Toronto.

Tell me about InstaMatch.

I’ve been using Instagram since it launched a couple of years ago. It’s such an incredible app because it brings out the artist in all of us. I wanted to add some more fun to the Instagram experience by turning it into a (memory) game that allows you to not only play with your own photos, but also discover new beautiful pictures. Taking the idea one step further, I partnered up with Jeremy Noonan and turned the idea into reality. We wanted to create an app like Pocket Zoo that would appeal to both the young and old, kind of like Pixar.

What kind of experience can people expect when they start InstaMatch for the first time?

Our fans can expect an enjoyable and beautifully crafted experience that adds fun into photo sharing. Not only does InstaMatch incorporate Instagram photos, but it also contains entertaining and unique twists on the traditional matching game with multiple ways to play. We spent many long days and nights polishing and crafting InstaMatch to a point where we’re proud enough to share it with the world. We obsessed over little details to make sure that this was worthy of being featured by Apple. It’s been truly humbling to see all of the great reviews and feedback so far.

Let’s talk smartphones, iPhone (iOS) vs Android, where do you see the market growing in the future?

I like to look at the mobile industry holistically. I think there’s room for both iOS and Android. Each appeals to a different type of audience. Debating over which one is better is counterproductive.

If you use Instagram as an example, they started off on iOS first and then eventually went on to create an Android app. I think this is how it’s going to be for the next few years. Apps will be developed in iOS AND Android not iOS OR Android. Personally, I’m an iPhone and iOS fan, but I’m planning on expanding my horizons and will be purchasing my first Android device in a few days to test out the upcoming release of Pocket Zoo on the Android (or Google Play) market.

Any hints on your next project? When can we expect it?

We’ve already started working on our next big education app, which I’m really excited about. It will probably take a year to build the first version. Our aim is to revolutionize how kids learn to read both at home and at school.

I’ve also started doing some public speaking and consulting on the side. I enjoy helping others grow their product ideas while encouraging the younger generation to get into entrepreneurship. On top of all that, I recently launched Busy Building Things, an online store and lifestyle brand for makers & creators. Our first line of products are inspirational art prints that are now in the offices of some amazing companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Flipboard and Toronto’s own Jet Cooper.

If people wanted to learn more about Tiny Hearts, or any of your apps, how can they track you down?

I’m on Twitter @robjama. You can learn more about Tiny Hearts and our apps at tinyhearts.com/instamatch and tinyhearts.com/pocketzoo. You can also follow TinyHearts on Twitter.

Before I forget, did Instagram’s CEO (Kevin Systrom) get your blessing before he sold Instagram to Facebook for a billion dollars?

No, but his sale did definitely help us sell more apps so we’re not complaining! We picked a pretty good time to experiment with gamifying Instagram. The sale of Instagram now means it’s only going to reach more people!

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Scanly’s Experience at Y Combinator

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How Kytephone got a Y Combinator badge

This article was originally posted by Martin Drashkov on kytephone.com.

Last September, after 6 weeks of intense development we launched Scanly at Ryerson University. Scanly allowed students to get a deal every time they bought something by scanning a QR code at the merchant’s location. Ryerson students loved Scanly and our userbase quickly swelled after launch. We thought we had a great thing going, so during the fall, we decided to apply to Y Combinator (YC), the premier startup accelerator in the world.

After a very short but intense interview with the partners at Y Combinator, we were fortunate enough to get accepted. However, as we prepared to go to California and scale up Scanly, we realized that expanding it beyond Ryerson would be very costly and risky, and that the business could never become truly big. So despite our initial success we had to make a hard choice and decided to pivot.

Abandoning a product and starting anew is always tough, but thankfully we had the support of the Y Combinator partners and the awesome YC Alumni community, who are always ready to help out. When trying to come up with an idea for a startup, everybody advised us not to think of “startup” or “business” ideas, but to think about our own problems and how we can solve them. If you solve your own problems, chances are many other people share the same problem. And if your solution is good, then those people will also likely pay you money, which is how all great companies started.

As we were trying to come up with different solutions to our problems, we realized how tough our families and friends had it when trying to give a phone to their kids. We realized that while kids these days are growing up with smartphones and love the big touchscreens, when it comes time for them to get a phone, they are forced to get a feature phone, because their parents don’t want them using such a powerful device.

We started wondering… what if you took a modern touchscreen phone, but simplified it radically and let parents have full control of it over the web? Was it possible? Would anyone buy it? After doing some research, we realized we could write an app that runs on Android phones and completely locks down the phone into a limited, kid-mode, while letting parents control the phone from the web. We had stumbled on a very interesting idea – we would be the ones to make sure every child in the world can get a smartphone! And so, Kytephone was born.

We started working on Kytephone in mid-January and the next two months were like a blur. Y Combinator is an extremely intense time and many say it’s the most productive time of your life. We quickly settled into a very productive routine – we would work 6-7 days a week for most of the day, save for eating food and going to the gym. Every Tuesday we would go to the weekly Y Combinator dinner, where we could hear about the experiences of great entrepreneurs such as Jack Dorsey and try and absorb what makes them successful. At the end of March, we were finally ready to launch our product publicly. We posted the link on several websites and to our great pleasure, we got a ton of users and extremely positive feedback from everyone.

The climax of the 3 month Y Combinator program is Demo Day, when 500 of Silicon Valley’s top investors all gather to hear pitches from every Y Combinator company. Each company gets only 2 and a half minutes to explain what they do and get investors interested. Because Kytephone solves a problem many investors (who are also parents) have, it was both easy to explain and we received a lot of interest that day.

Y Combinator truly is a special place – a very short but intense program that teaches you how to build a business and lets you become part of a very helpful and knowledgeable network.

For more on Kytephone, see this article on VentureBeat.com.

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Experience the Tactile Audio Chair at Rainbow Cinemas

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From May 4 to June 3, the public is invited to experience a new tactile dimension to film

TORONTO, April 26, 2012 — Tactile Audio Displays Inc (TADs Inc), a Toronto-based research and development company, in collaboration with Rainbow Cinemas, is inviting the public to experience its revolutionary tactile audio display system for the first time. Two TAD chairs are available for seating during screenings in Theatre 3 at Rainbow Cinemas Market Square between May 1 and June 3, 2012. Use of the chairs will be free with ticket purchase on a first-come, first-served basis, with users asked to complete a short online survey providing feedback on their experience. Completion of the survey will also enter participants into a draw to win free tickets to Rainbow Cinemas. For more information, visit http://www.tadsinc.com/rainbow/. To learn more about TAD, visit http://www.tadsinc.com . To view current film schedules for Rainbow Cinemas Market Square, visit http://www.rainbowcinemas.ca/A/?theatre=Market_Square&.

“The TAD system presents the next evolution in entertainment,” said Dr Maria Karam, TADs Inc. founder, CEO and one of the inventors. “First movies were silent, then ‘talkies’ added the element of sound. A tactile display creates a whole new layer of depth by adding a third sense, the sense of touch, to the entertainment experience. Once filmgoers experience the immersive qualities of the TAD system and its ability to take you deeper into the movie or music experience, it will reveal a new sensation that you won’t want to do without.”

“At Rainbow Cinemas we’re always looking for ways to enhance our customers’ movie experience,” said Jacquelyn Mathé, Rainbow Cinemas Market Square General Manager. “We are excited to collaborate with a local technology start-up company and to be the first to offer TAD’s tactile audio display technology to our patrons.”

The TAD tactile audio display technology was originally conceived of as part of a research project called the Emoti-Chair, headed up by Ryerson University Professor Deborah Fels, with collaborator Frank Russo. The Emoti-Chair was designed as an assistive technology device aimed at providing members of the deaf community with access to the emotional effects of sounds accompanying movies or music. Once developed, the tactile audio technology was determined to not only provide benefits for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences, but also enhance the audio and visual entertainment experience for all users. TADs Inc was then formed to commercialize the technology and to continue expanding research initiatives in the field of sensory substitution for tactile-audio translations.

The TAD system is designed to mimic the way the human inner ear collects, translates and processes sound waves. Embedded into each system is an array of voice coils aligned along strategic points on the chair’s structure. The coils translate sound information into physical sensations that are presented to the skin, thus enhancing and reinforcing the audio to the corresponding video content. This creates a new experience that will immerse and connect you deeper into the audio-visual entertainment world.

Founded in 2010, Tactile Audio Displays (TADs Inc.) is a worldwide pioneer in providing tactile sound technologies, services, and integrated solutions to help individuals and vertical markets add a new dimension of sensory experience to their everyday, mediated world. The company is currently based out of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone start-up incubator.

For more information, visit www.tadsinc.com.

Tads Inc. will be holding a media launch at Rainbow Cinemas on Tuesday, May 1st 2012 between 10am and 12pm at the Market Square location, 80 Front Street E. at Jarvis St, Toronto, Canada.

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For further information, please contact Garth Wichstrom,
Chief Operations Officer, Tactile Audio Displays Inc.
garth@tadsinc.com
416.550.3261

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The DMZ is the 10th member “node” to join the Canadian Digital Media Network

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CDMN Canada 3.0 2012 Forum Opens with Address by Governor General from Brazil and Announcement of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone Joining the Canadian Digital Media Network

STRATFORD, ON, April 24, 2012 /CNW/ – The 4th annual CDMN Canada 3.0 digital media forum gets off to an exciting start today with opening remarks from Governor General David Johnston from Brazil, an on-site keynote by Industry Minister Christian Paradis, keynotes by Canadian tech leaders, and the announcement of the 10th member ‘node’ to join the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN).  Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ) today officially joins regional centres of digital media entrepreneurship linked from coast-to-coast through the CDMN.

“This year’s CDMN Canada 3.0 forum is exciting because the program was derived from the experience of the previous three forums plus input from a cross-Canada tour undertaken over the past six months,” said Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of the CDMN. “This event brings together government, industry and academia in way that no other event in the country does, to advance our leadership position in digital media.”

Ryerson’s DMZ joins the CDMN at a time when digital media is gaining traction, Tuer said. Targeted to young entrepreneurs, DMZ provides the tools needed to make digital dreams a reality, offering an incubator environment where students and newcomers can gain entrepreneurial experience before jumping into the startup fray.

“The success of Canada’s digital media talent and entrepreneurship is dependent upon strong networks and support. The Ryerson Digital Media Zone is excited to be part of the Canadian Digital Media Network,” said Valerie Fox, Executive Director of the Digital Media Zone.

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the DMZ atmosphere reflects the energy of the city. Those who join The Zone are keen to take advantage of what the community has available including mentorships, business plan counseling, equipment, workshops, funding opportunities, exposure, and industry connections. Commercial enterprises benefit from this setup as well, turning to the technological pioneers for progressive digital solutions.

“There is nothing more rewarding than an innovative idea coming to fruition. To be a part of that in any way, whether providing resources, guidance, or the actual physical space is something to be proud of,” said Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of the CDMN. “Our collaborative relationship with DMZ will help to support Canada’s investment in its digital future by ensuring that startups, undergraduates and entrepreneurs have the foundation required for success.”

Tuer said the forum and all those who support it are helping take Canada another step forward to realizing the forum’s Moonshot goal set out in 2010, that “anyone can do anything online in Canada by 2017.”

Full information on the forum is available at: www.canada30.ca  and you can follow CDMN Canada 3.0 2012 on Twitter @Can3_0 or join the conversation using #CDA30.

About CDMN Canada 3.0 2012

CDMN Canada 3.0 2012 is a forum organized by the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) www.cdmn.ca focused on advancing Canada’s strength in digital media. CDMN encourages job creation and increases global competitiveness by linking Canada’s leading digital media centres with industry, government and academia.

About Ryerson DMZ

Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (the Zone) is a workplace and incubator designed for young entrepreneurs, infused with the energy and resources of downtown Toronto. It’s a place where students and alumni come to innovate, collaborate and market their products and services, and where commercial enterprises can turn for progressive and creative digital solutions.

For further information:

Media Contact
Shelley Grandy, Sr. PR Advisor, Canada 3.0 2012, shelley@cdmn.ca

For more coverage, please see this article published on Techvibes.

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Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone: Meet Canada’s future tech superstars

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This article was originally posted by Michelle Hampson at jobpostings.ca.

Perched over the heart of Toronto lies a room where the future is being created. From here, high above Yonge and Dundas, some of Canada’s most well-known buildings can be seen: the Scotiabank, TD Trust, Manulife, and CN towers, as well as the Eaton Centre.

Every day, thousands of people walk by Dundas Square below, looking up at the massive jumbo screens above the mall. They watch the flashy Absolute vodka ads, and romantic getaways to Mont Tremblant. But these screens only show regular, 2D ads. Inside this little room, a much more advanced form of advertising is being developed using interactive technology.

For example, Adrian Bulzacki, one of the many innovators in this futuristic lab, has leased his technology to condominium sales offices, so that as people walk by the company’s display, it will track their movement to create a 3D view that moves in whichever direction the observer moves.

And this is just a taste of what’s being created at Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone.

Some of these ideas could completely revolutionize society — from an online platform that gets the public’s most supported ideas into the hands of politicians, to Bulzacki’s virtual 3D technology which could one day form an entire market of virtual goods (to be explained in detail further on).

The Digital Media Zone (DMZ), launched in April 2010, provides innovative young entrepreneurs with the space and resources to start a company. It’s a unique learning hub where students — undergraduates, grad students, or alumni — can “incubate” their ideas.

“We began by working with students and alumni who needed a collaborative space and mentorship to take their start up to a stage where they had a greater chance of success,” explained Valerie Fox, DMZ Director, in an email to Jobpostings.

The Zone was created with the help of StartMeUp, a student run program from Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) Ryerson. To apply to the DMZ, one must pitch their idea to a StartMeUp Ryerson “Idea Consultation,” a Dragons’ Den style pitch infront of a panel of industry professionals. They look for unique and innovative ideas, enabled by digital media, that have commercial or social value, and a solid business plan and prototype. Fox says they look for entrepreneurs who are passionate, creative, collaborative, and knowledgeable.

And after touring the DMZ space, that much is evident. The following are profiles of some exciting Zoneteams. Jobpostings looks into how they came up with their ideas, grew their business, and their plans for making their startups a success.

ARB Labs

Adrian Bulzacki, founder of ARB Labs, came up with his innovative technology through a game of virtual charades. It begins by using a Kinect camera, which projects a grid of infrared light onto you, and then calculates how far away you are based on the grid.

A computer creates a virtual representation of you, which can be used to play charades over the internet with people from all corners of the world. But Bulzacki had more in mind than just a video game.

They used a priority crowd-sourcing algorithm to gather data from the game.

“If you got that gesture really fast, the learning algorithm knows to prioritize that as a better quality gesture. We kept sucking in all this data. And we in turn, have an algorithm that recognized the occurrence of those gestures anywhere,” explains Bulzacki, 29.

ARB Labs can sell that data to gaming studios hoping to make their games better, or to the oil industry, which needs it to interact with 3D samples of oil. This technology is even applicable to security companies. For example, ARB Labs can sell an aggressive gesture pack, which analyzes a bunch of gestures that shouldn’t occur in public areas, such as punches and kicks.

But Bulzacki has more in mind than selling off bits of accumulated data from his learning algorithm to security companies and gaming corporations.

All of these bits of technology — 3D interactive displays and gesture identifying algorithms — were developed for one ultimate goal. “If we pitched this product line first, nobody would give us money,” said Bulzacki, with a grin.

He hopes to create one device that you place in the centre of your living room, or a low-cost wallpaper, which will create an immersive environment. “Just like buying apps today, you’d be able to buy virtual items for the home.”

Artists or designers could post their virtual goods on the internet. You could buy a “lamp” for a low price, download it, and put it in the corner. It would still give off light, but there’s no physical object. You could have multiple versions of your living room.

“And when you’re done with it, you can save it, archive it, delete it, whatever,” Bulzacki said. “If you wanted to, you could have a window overlooking Paris in your basement apartment. It would make living environments extremely reconfigurable, very fast, at a low cost. So that’s what we’re trying to get to, and it’s all built off of this technology.”

For all you Trekkies out there, think of this as an early version of the holodeck.

For example, while Bulzacki has always had this ultimate goal, he didn’t expect ARB Labs to make it this far. “I thought somebody would just buy up our technology in a year or two, I’d make a few million dollars and go from there. I don’t see that anymore. I see it now as, I’m building the foundation to a company that could be — and I say this in all seriousness — could be the next Facebook, could be the next super company. A lot of people have that feeling in the DMZ. And I really hope it works out. But I’ve seen more and more evidence to my hypothesis.”

Bulzacki has no formal training in business. He’s currently finishing up his PhD in computer and electrical engineering at Ryerson. While he has had some experience starting up mini businesses of his own in the past, he didn’t truly delve into business until he joined the DMZ, about two years ago. The DMZ’s collaborative environment has helped him in several ways.

While conducting a demonstration of his technology at the DMZ, a businessperson approached Bulzacki and told him his ideas were great, really unique, but his profit margin was terrible. The technology was expensive to develop, and yet he was selling it individually to companies. This person pointed out that Bulzacki already had patents on the technology, and there was no competition in terms of 3D displays – why not license the technology out?

“And since I started doing that, it really changed how my business operated. I would charge a monthly fee, a yearly fee, or a daily fee, to have the technology at a specific location.”

And so, the Digital Media Zone entrepreneurs learn the ropes of running a real company. As Bulzacki points out, this is the real deal. In the DMZ, you’re not looking at a theoretical situation. “Every choice you make has a ramification, and that’s the challenge. But it’s a learning process. That’s the only way you’re going to learn.”

The bonus is you get to work with your own idea. Bulzacki says during his previous jobs, he used to hate getting up in the morning, and felt like a zombie or drone doing work someone else created for him. But that’s not the case at the DMZ. “If I’m waking up early, I’m waking up differently. I’m working for myself. I’m a slave to myself, but I’m a slave to my dreams. So it pays off in the end.”

HitSend

The story of HitSend’s innovative idea, despite the ground-breaking activism feel of it, actually has its origins from about 200 years ago.

Back then, people used take these wooden boxes, called soap boxes, to Hyde Park in London. They’d flip them upside down, hop on top, then make a speech about their ideas or passions. Usually it had to do with politics or economics. The people in the park would stop and cheer them on if they liked the idea, and if they didn’t, they would boo, while throwing lettuce and tomatoes at them. But every once in a while, there would be an idea that really resonated within the community. If a lot of people supported the idea, they’d stop merely talking about it and actually march from the park to Parliament, rallying for change.

This is the idea behind HitSend. The company produces an online platform that allows anyone to submit ideas on a topic. People can vote, yay or nay, on the issue. The ideas that gather the most support are then automatically sent to the person who can bring about change.

The platform is applicable to a wide range of scenarios. It could be used internally by a company to get feedback from employees to improve working conditions. Or it could be used externally by customers to direct the attention of CEOs to customer service issues.

Only the ideas that gather a lot of approval are sent to the person who can bring about change, and the platform even allows that person to respond to the idea.

“A lot of times, people have these really great ideas, but they don’t get them out of their mind. They don’t take them anywhere,” said Brennan McEachran, founder of HitSend (above). “The goal was to build something that could take their idea and put it somewhere useful, as simply as possible.”

McEachran came up with the idea of the Hitsend platform when he was given an unusual opportunity. He was discussing ways to improve Ryerson with his friends, but that night he couldn’t sleep. So he emailed the school’s president, and was shocked to receive a response — he had a meeting in two weeks with Sheldon Levy, the president of Ryerson University.

“So for about a week and a half, two weeks, I was trying to think up better ideas instead of these little crappy ones. I asked my friends over Facebook, Twitter, and real life, on paper, in class. It was super ineffective,” he explained. “I was hoping of a better way of doing that.”

And so HitSend was born.

He pitched his idea of the platform to the DMZ, and on the one-year anniversary of joining, HitSend signed a contract with Indigo-Chapters, which now uses HitSend’s platform for customer feedback. To optimize their product, HitSend makes sure the platform stays brandable, so companies can easily upload their colours and logos. The Facebook and Twitter apps can easily be turned on or off.

McEachran, a fourth-year business student, says that while parts of the project have been challenging, the DMZ’s environment has helped him in many ways, such as connecting with the other members of HitSend. “Hanging out with (people who have) PhDs in computer science is never a bad thing when you’re an app developer.”

As well, potential customers come through the DMZ on tours, making it easier to connect with people who might be interested in the platform. Like Indigo representatives.

In the future, McEachran says he hopes to continue working towards giving the silent majority a voice, and getting those great ideas that people think about on their commute home, to the people at the top who can bring about positive change.

Finizi

A really great combination at the DMZ is when someone already has an insider’s knowledge of an industry and an innovative idea. Take Daniel Shain, who worked at a bank for several years before a lightbulb went off above his head, leading him to quit his job to work at the DMZ.

“It’s interesting,” said Shain. “When it comes to GICs, mortgages, and other discretionary priced products, banks have quite a lot of discretion. So even if you see advertised in the paper, let’s say, a GIC that’s usually at one percent. That’s just the posted rate. The banks can usually do much better.”

While Shain knows this, many banking customers don’t. He says there are two kinds of banking customers. One who doesn’t realize that banks can often negotiate a better interest rate, and the one who shops around, then goes to a bank saying they’ve found a better interest rate at another institution. With the latter type, banks might offer a better interest rate.

Using this financial knowledge, Shain created Finizi, a reverse-auction platform where financial institutions bid against each other for customers’ business. A customer entering the live auction will state the amount of money they have and how long they wish to invest it for. Customers can be individuals or businesses, and there’s a minimum investment of $1,000. The financial institutions then bid on the money by offering the highest interest rate.

It’s clearly a good deal for the customer, but at this point you can probably guess what was the hardest aspect of initiating Finizi.

“The issue with getting banking institutions on board is that they’re really big organizations. There’s a lot of red tape. There’s a lot of regulation. There’s a lot of reputation risk,” said Shain. “Even getting in front of CEO-level people can take weeks, not to mention all the legal paperwork.”

Things got easier after the first two financial institutions signed on, because then Shain could tell the remaining financial institutions that their competitors were on board. Finizi was launched last September, but getting there wasn’t a simple task for this entrepreneur. He did extensive research before quitting his comfortable banking job, speaking with bankers and potential customers. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything. The worst thing you can do is quit your job and then realize that, due to regulation, you’re not allowed to launch it.”

It’s been a long road for Shain, but while he says it’s good to get a job for the corporate experience, he’s sticking to entrepreneurship, where every day is different. At his old job, he knew when he was going to finish work, knew what was expected of him, and could do his job with his eyes closed. “That’s when you get comfortable, when you get lazy, and the creative juices stop flowing. So I’d say getting out of my comfort zone is what I enjoy.”

The Digital Media Zone

The lab at the DMZ is one floor, crammed with more than 50 computers in clusters. A whiteboard covers the length of the longest wall, coated with company names and brainstorming lists. It’s a room for business meetings and development, but it still has that student feel.

Coffee cups are on every table. There’s a box of cereal and a bunch of tea bags next to a computer, along with a bottle of cough syrup. Beanbag chairs make a nice seating area near the entrance. It’s a mix of the student and business life here.

While some companies in this space have already reached an incredible amount of success and have “graduated,” other newbie groups are just beginning to contribute as innovative entrepreneurs.

Here students find support and networks. Shain said, “It’s great to combine resources and leverage each others’ experiences. For instance, when I started fundraising, I reached out to a few companies here that have been through the process, and asked them to introduce me to some potential investors.”

Hossein Rahnama (left), Research Director of Digital Media Zone describes the incubator as an ecosystem. It’s not only about university or just entrepreneurship, or merely teamwork, but about everything. He’s seen cases where good computer programmers come in but don’t have the communications skills necessary to start a business, yet they can do so anyways. “This is possible because there are people from business school, engineering, people from arts and humanities. They are all working together. So you can use your skills sets, you can be great at it, but you can also work with people as a team to move your ideas further.”

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