How EXAR Studios built tourism-focused AR experiences during a global pandemic
EXAR Studios of London, Ontario, is powering immersive environments to captivate audiences through visual technologies. Basically, you dream it, and they can create an immersive experience you can engage, explore, and share with your community. When the pandemic hit, the team at EXAR saw it as a unique situation to create experiences worthy of visiting for their clients.
Naturally, tourism was one of many industries that needed to adapt, and through this, EXAR Studios has been able to create immersive experiences with the Engage App, even while meeting social-distancing restrictions. “During the pandemic, we were able to achieve two things quickly. The first was that we could quickly learn new uses for the technology, making this type of tourism activation much more affordable. The second was that we were able to transform our production. We no longer required everyone to be in the same physical space and have now adapted to serve clients around the world,” explained Daniel Kharlas, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder.
EXAR Studios saw an opportunity to help the tourism industry in London, ON rebound and applied to the Digital Main Street (DMS) Lab program. Working with their DMS Lab partners TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario and the Old East Village BIA, EXAR Studios developed a pilot project for Old East Village, focused on local exploration that showcased heritage and culture in a smarter, greener, and clever way. The Old East Village augmented reality tour includes interactive and audio-based experiences highlighting museums and main street businesses in the area. The tour includes a permanent augmented reality attraction at the Banting House National Historic Site of Canada, this birthplace of insulin, allowing visitors to gain a greater understanding of Dr. Banting’s life contributions, even when the museum is closed. “Working with our DMS Lab partners allowed us to highlight the value of our platform, because it was one of the few things locally you could do while in lockdown. It also allowed us as a team to be more agile with the technology, our implementation of the experiences and in how we develop them,” detailed Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer Ben Switzer.
“Augmented reality experiences EXAR Studios created in the Old East Village pilot project are an excellent example of how through disruption, technology innovators can have a profound impact on the recovery of our region’s cultural heartbeats and main street businesses,” said Christina Fox, Chief Executive Officer at TechAlliance.
With support from DMS Lab, EXAR Studios was able to create meaningful experiences to support the needs of businesses to spark tourism within the area. “Tourism as an industry had only begun slight digital transformation when the pandemic hit. It caused an immediate crisis, and the Engage App was ready to go. The timing was everything for us; we entered the DMS Lab at the same moment BIA’s, culture and arts councils were capturing the attention of locals to explore their neighbourhoods and cities,” said Kharlas.
EXAR Studios leveraged the DMS Lab experience to expand its immersion-technology solutions and grow its team to 17 to support ongoing projects in the future. Alongside their active engagement with TechAlliance, DMS Lab offered them access to additional resources that positioned them to grow quickly, creating new opportunities and partnerships with municipalities looking to bring tourism and tourism marketing back, even during a global pandemic.
About TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario
We are the place for dreamers, innovators, and world-changing ideas. We empower world-class ventures and fuel growth in Canada’s innovation economy. We do this collaboratively by championing, coaching, and amplifying businesses, while fostering a vibrant technology community of innovators.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.