The NXNE Future Land Conference: a peek into the brave new world of Virtual Reality

In my quest to get the most out of my month of “going native” in Toronto it would have been a tremendous oversight to skip NXNE, the North by North East festival. Primarily developed as a music event the festival has diverged into the realms of independent film and digital gaming so I felt compelled to take part in the Future Land Conference.

Having been among the first in my central California hometown to have “Pong”, keynote speaker Nolan Bushnell‘s pioneering first home video game, I was really looking forward to hearing his insights into the technological revolution of the 20th century that brought humanity through the information age and into the dawn of digital culture. What he had to say about the future of education was really exciting and encouraging – I was thrilled to learn that people with the skills and the means to do something about it actually share my views as to how education needs to be retooled to the new era we live in.

Such a charismatic speaker is certainly a hard act to follow, nonetheless the following panels each offered loads of info and hands on insights as to how the edutainment industry is evolving thanks to the latest tech innovations and the creative wizardry of the talented individuals and visionary companies spear heading those developments. Every panel was peopled by amazing professionals but I will limit myself to those I actually had the opportunity to speak with.

Independent video game music composer Maggie Maclean radiates positive energy, enthusiasm and love for what she does – no wonder she does it well!

Rollie Pemberton, aka Candence Weapon is a rap writer producer and performer who also happens to be a poet laureate. He invests his chosen mode of expression with depth and sincerity.

I enjoyed an engaging discussion about the potential of VR technology to revolutionize education with Mr. Sasa Marinkovic, Head of VR Software Marketing at AMD.

Independent gamemaker, writer and editor Kaitlin Tremblay provided interesting insights regarding narrative and character in game development and how those factors can add dimension and depth to any premise.

The final panel of the day “The Next Big Thing Starts Here” was hosted by multiplatform producer and Ryerson professor Ramona Pringle who was forthcoming with valuable information about educational applications. During the mixer that followed I had the opportunity to speak with CEO of HackerNest, Shaharis, about the significance of networking and collaboration in the tech sector with a view to removing elitism and supporting inclusive approaches world wide.

I had the pleasure of meeting a number of attendees such as my self, and engaged in many fascinating discussions during the breaks and mixers, one of the highlights was meeting innovative electronic composer Kai Winter, I expect to see many amazing things from her in the future.

As a parting gift for all interested participants the conference organizers provided us with tickets to the Portlands music festival. I managed to catch Quincy Matthew Hanley, known to his fans as Schoolboy Q, and Dennis Coles known with the handle Ghostface Killah.  It brought back memories of younger adventures of mine, and there was an enthusiastic audience with plenty of interaction.  Were I to make a suggestion to the organizers it would be not to open the gates so early (13:00) right at the heat of the day unless they provide some shade – and the space seems vast and vacant for early arrivals.  Maybe they could involve more young local performers to get the momentum going if they want to start so early, and more in-kind sponsors would also make the venue more appealing.

All in all North by Northeast (NXNE) is a great concept and has loads of potential for exciting developments.  I hope to have the opportunity to attend again in the future.

Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer, editor and translator. Her film noir WWII crime novel The Führer Must Die will be released November 8th 2016 by Yucca Publishing, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing.





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