Microsoft Invests in Vancouver’s Mixed-Reality Market

Microsoft is doubling down on Vancouver’s 3D technology ecosystem, creating dozens of new jobs in the mixed-reality market and launching two education-focused initiatives.

Brad Smith, the company’s president, announced Microsoft will be expanding its 800-person team in Vancouver by hiring 50 new employees. Smith also said the company will be supporting a computer science pilot program for local high schools and partnering with BCIT on a mixed-reality curriculum—the first of its kind.

“Vancouver is becoming a world-class hub for mixed reality and digital innovation,” Smith said at the annual summit of the Business Council of British Columbia.

The city has become a hub for video game development and mixed reality, applications that have been used outside the gaming industry like health care and education.

“By continuing to partner with British Columbia’s business and education community, we’re excited to play a part in helping British Columbians enter the growing technology workforce,” Smith said. “Students in Vancouver will become leaders in this next wave of innovation that reinvents how we work, learn and play.”

Vancouver is the first city outside the United States that Microsoft is testing TEALS—Technology Education and Literacy in Schools. The program pairs computer scientists with classroom teachers to help students build in-demand skills like coding and become exposed to cutting-edge technology. In the U.S., the TEALS program has taught computer science courses to 12,000 students at 348 schools, 86 of those in Washington State.

Microsoft is headquartered in Seattle, not far from the flagship Vancouver office which opened last year. In September 2016, Washington state and British Columbia revived the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, a commitment by the regions to improve connectivity, strengthen innovation and generate economic opportunities.

With the Corridor ties top of mind, Smith announced Microsoft is teaming up with BCIT to develop AR/VR courses at the region’s leading polytechnic school.

“As a significant provider of IT and computing diploma graduates in the province, we know there is immense opportunity for students preparing to enter the Lower Mainland’s growing tech industry,” said BCIT President Kathy Kinloch.

“Collaborating with Microsoft will help keep BCIT at the forefront of technical innovation and sets our students up to enter the job market with the highly desirable skills that businesses are demanding,” she added.

British Columbia recently opened Canada’s first mixed-reality hub in Vancouver’s Railtown, dubbed ‘The Cube’. The city has created 17,000 jobs in the 3D development space—a local sector valued at $2.3 billion.