What’s Next in Augmented and Virtual Reality Innovation?

What’s Next in Augmented and Virtual Reality Innovation?

Written by: Alex Koupal

Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) are on the forefront of innovation right now. When most people think of AR/VR they usually think of video games and recreational applications, but did you know that there’s a multitude of applications for this innovative technology?  Read on to learn more about the AR/VR Association and the impact Jake Taylor and James Hanusa are having on this industry here in Phoenix.  

How did you hear about Venture Café?  

Jake Taylor: Stephanie Tomlin. The very first night it was open I was working with PEI in the Smart City Connective and she reached out because she knows we do a lot on the entrepreneurial/creative side.  I think it was the 2nd Venture Cafe and we’ve come periodically since.

James Hanusa: From Jake Taylor, the Phoenix maven of Converging Technologies.   

What does Venture Café Phoenix mean to you?

Jake: For me it’s been learning what’s taking place in the environment. I have had a long line of entrepreneurship and I would love to get back into that space. It’s daunting, I don’t think I have that killer idea that’s allowed me to go back into the startup world.  It’s still home for me, so I come here and everyone is doing that. Maybe I haven’t found my next partner, but Phoenix is on the up and this is really a sign of that. You can really see what’s taking place here.

James: This is my first time I would say my experience, I have seen the past topics and things like that, and it seems like there is a lot of energy in the room. I ran into let’s say 5 people that I didn’t expect to see here. It’s cool to have a community already and be entering a bigger community. I can see that since the frequency is so high, every week, that relationships can be built through that process 

 Have you had any memorable connections at Venture Café Phoenix? 

Jake: This is a good example – it wasn’t my project but I’m working with a good friend on an augmented virtual reality layover for the music industry. We envision a different vision of concert attendance and we had an open mic night where, just roll of the dice,  three people in a row talked about how they want to transform the music industry. You can’t make this stuff up! Now Gabrial and Tadi, we got them in touch and now the entire crew is an entity trying to work towards the future of music from the greater Phoenix region. That’s ongoing and it’s taking off, it’s really cool.

James: You (Alex Koupal). The conversation we had about what we could do with the Space Force Gaming and Swedish Gaming delegation was easy and I think that it’s going to be an impactful experience both or our organization and what we are trying to do with international engagement  and industry engagement, but I think that for the wider community that is going to get exposed to those guests, it will give Phoenix a story. What we are finding is that when we talk to the Arizona Commerce Authority or the Greater Phoenix Economic Council is, they haven’t focused on creative industries and emerging technologies historically and that’s true for city economic development as well. Through the association now, we have a place to reach out and start to develop that narrative around those industries that will then begin to kind of feed on itself and start to potentially attract businesses and grow the talent we have here. 

 Tell us a little more about the VR/AR Association?

Jake: We are the VR/AR Association. We are a brand new chapter here to the greater Phoenix region. Our mission really is as a professional association to work on the advancement of the industry. One of the things I am particular passionate about is that I know that Phoenix really has the capacity. I have for ten years. The other venture that I didn’t mention is I have had a game studio in Tempe/Mesa for now 11 years. I would go and talk to people in California, and as soon as they found out that I was from Arizona the conversation died. It was someone finally, it was the founder of Guitar Hero, explained to me: “I get it, you believe you are talented but to too many people, Arizona is a flyover state. Nobody cares”. I have been on this 10 year mission to change that.  That is genuinely what drives me. As an association we are putting us on the map. We are getting everyone that’s in this sphere and we are showcasing to the world what we are doing. 

James: We are just launching the chapter next week. It does research, it does training, it does industry engagement. There are, I think about  different committees: Automotive, Aerospace, Defense, Metaverse for Good. It allows people to build their networks in their industires or the areas that they have interest and it’s a global network. There is one in most major North American cities and then most countries as well. Depending on the size of the country – for XR, it’s traditionally West Coast cities such as Vancouver, San Francisco, LA and I think that’s true for gaming as well. What we’ve said to the economic development agencies is “Can we put Phoenix on the map?” We believe that the new ASU Media Immersive Experience Center gives us a world-class lifehouse that we can point to and invoke the talent pool on research that’s going on there, for us to invite in delegations from other countries and be able to show some things off. 

Can you discuss your experience at Venture Café Phoenix and any impact the event has had on your organization?

Jake: As an entity, this is our first, we are brand new. I would say it’s helped shape my vision, personally, coming into this, seeing what’s available. I would say the greatest impact is that. We were chatting about this early as a sidebar – the idea that, especially communities latch on to an idea and run with it but there is a multiplicity between those lines. For example, today is fashion, I have no interest in fashion but I absolutely see it’s applicability into our industry and those are conversations we want to begin having and facilitating. And so that’s what this Thursday night ritual does for me. 

James: We got a very generous invitation to attend and promote our chapter event and developed an event for the future within the first 15 minutes I was here. Then we got to see our colleagues, Dean Duncan from the Connective and Stephanie Tomlin from the Next Center, so that was super helpful to see the people we are going to be with next week here. We are just trying to build this bridge between Metaverse and Smart Cities, following Dubai and Soeuls’ example – we want to be one of the top 10 Metaverse cities. We want to collaborate with them and maybe be part of that small network of top 10. 

 Any final thoughts on Venture Café Phoenix?

Jake: I would say “Come”. Especially when you don’t think it applies to you because you are going to learn very quickly that it does. This is a recurring theme for me, even on LinkedIn I call myself a Converging Technologies Specialist – the net 10 years is going to be seeing things connect that you don’t think are connected. That’s what happens here – connections here that you didn’t expect. 

James: I would like to look for more collaboration with the community and as I understand it is also a global network, so I think that our collaboration here will get back to the Global Executive Director. And I think that maybe we can have a conversation about where Venture Cafe’s chapters are and where our chapters are and see where it goes.


To connect with Jake Taylor on LinkedIn click here.

To connect with James Hanusa on LinkedIn click here.

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