By Dana Ciak
Alumni Council member and alumnus Vikas Gupta (BSc ’91) is the co-founder and CEO of AVARA, a company creating innovative technology to enable compelling and immersive virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences that transport people to unique places, moments, and interactions around the world that are far beyond their imagination.
AVARA recently announced the release of three unprecedented AR experiences as part of the acclaimed Anthropocene exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. Each of these AR experiences is of a scale, quality, and realism never before achieved in the world.
Visitors will be transported to Kenya, Africa, to experience the Presidential Tusk Pile from the largest ivory burning in history, which took place in April 2016; stand at the foot of the iconic Big Lonely Doug on Vancouver Island, the second largest Douglas fir in Canada, rising up at 225 feet and over 1,000 years old; and interact with Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, who died on March 19, 2018.
Each AR experience delivers unprecedented realism at a true-to-life scale, enabling visitors to experience extraordinary places and moments as if they were actually there.
“We pushed the technological boundaries at AVARA with months of sophisticated and complex software development to create the most visually stunning and realistic AR experiences possible like nothing ever seen before,” says Gupta.
A process called photogrammetry was utilized to create the individual AR experiences; thousands of high-resolution photographs, combined with complex and proprietary IP generated each 3D model that was further refined, optimized, and transformed into AR objects. Each AR image can be viewed from 360 degrees with a visual fidelity that allows visitors to see the most granular of details.
Gupta has been the CEO of various interactive digital media and electronic entertainment public and private companies for the majority of his professional career, and has developed a passion for melding art and technology. He co-founded AVARA with world-renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky to extend the narrative in Burtynsky’s photography about humankind’s impact on the planet into an experiential medium that would be accessible to a global audience.
“Analyzing complex problems from unique perspectives, thinking globally, asking difficult questions, and architecting large-scale solutions are foundational skills that I acquired at the University of Waterloo. Combining all of these with a strong appetite to always push technological boundaries without trepidation is how I have forged my career. I’m now aspiring to leverage my experience and expertise to make a positive impact on the world by leveraging bleeding-edge technology to showcase both the beauty and the fragile nature of the planet we all share,” commented Vikas Gupta.
The Anthropocene exhibition runs until January 6, 2019, at the Art Gallery of Ontario and until February 24, 2019, at the National Gallery of Canada.