Special collaboration by Andres Restrepo
The interactive component of the 2019 edition of the South by Southwest conference (SXSW) drew more than 100 participants from Montréal to Austin as part of the mission led by Export Québec. Each year, thousands of people from about 30 countries flock to SXSW, a crossroads where new ideas and business concepts intermingle and take flight. The Québec delegation of entrepreneurs rallied around a hashtag (#sxswqc) and a common space, Canada House, located on Rainey Street, just a few blocks from the convention centre. Canada House served as a meeting place for members of Canadian delegations and as an international showcase for Canadian culture. It was a golden opportunity to promote the spirit of innovation in the province of Québec and its creative capital, Montréal.
The government of Québec’s 2019 mission brought together some 70 companies and organizations and more than 125 participants. This is the fifth commercial mission of its kind organized by Export Québec. We took advantage of the festivities organized as part of Québec Day at Canada House to talk to five Montréal companies that were turning heads at this iconic innovation conference – which, rumour has it, is thinking of exporting the SXSW model to other creative cities…
Stradigi AI came to SXSW to present an algorithm capable of interpreting American Sign Language (ASL) gestures, making it possible to translate signs, and even order a coffee. More than 1500 people had a chance to try out the application at the conference. This activation allowed Stradigi AI to demonstrate how its technology could facilitate communication with deaf and speech impaired people, even for those who do not know or understand ASL.
“Our company helps organizations to transform their activities through solutions powered by artificial intelligence. Stradigi has one of the largest applied research laboratories in Canada and our solutions enable managers to better predict, recommend or make strategic decisions,” says Philip Mitsopoulos, Head of Partnerships at Stradigi AI.
Studio Gentihomme, founded by Thibaut Duverneix, has worked with touring shows and permanent multimedia installations, and has created a variety of video advertising and music videos. The studio brings together a group of directors, designers, programmers, producers, special effects artists and musicians under one roof in Montréal. Their list of clients includes Madonna, Elton John, Nine Inch Nails, Microsoft and the Singapore Airport.
Their presence at SXSW was the perfect opportunity to attract new clients. As the creative force behind videos appearing on Rolling Stone’s list of the 10 Best Music Videos of 2018, many prominent artists, brands and international agencies were eager to meet or reconnect with the studio.
Hub Studio develops multisensory experiences, a specialization in which Montréal entrepreneurs are clearly ahead of the pack, particularly in the fields of the performing arts and interactive public art. The group, founded by Gonzalo Soldi and Thomas Payette, is at the intersection of performing arts, urban design and multimedia. Hub Studio attended SXSW to capitalize on the current buzz around interactive public art. American cities are more and more drawn to this kind of approach to urban design Montréal's expertise in this field is highly recognized internationally. Hub Studio strutted their stuff and it paid off.
LocketGo is a technology backed by Montréal accelerator FounderFuel, which helped to make the dream of a connected or “smart” locker a reality. LocketGo’s service not only manages the inventory of locker contents, but also integrates directly with any event ticketing system.
SXSW was an incredible international showcase for this innovative technology, given that some of the biggest players in the event arena attend the conference each year. LocketGo was created by Catherine D’avril and Gabrielle Larue, both based in Montréal, city of festivals. They piqued attendees’ curiosity by partnering with Canada House to install a prototype in their space, giving their technology a chance to be seen and tried by thousands of visitors, trend hunters and potential customers.
The Ombrages Group specializes in architectural and urban lighting. They are the only lighting design firm in Canada with both a lighting engineering division and an in-house research and innovation hub. Ombrages is also part of Cabinet Créatif’s 2018 cohort of businesses selected be part of their program to help creative and cultural firms develop new international markets.
“Our participation in SXSW 2019 was a first; although last year, Living Connections, our lighting project for the Jacques-Cartier Bridge [designed and produced in collaboration with Moment Factory and five other Montréal studios] was awarded the 2018 SXSW Interactive Innovation Award in the Smart Cities category,” says Joëlle Plamondon, group partner. “Currently, there is a great interest in architectural lighting and illuminations of urban spaces, so we attended SXSW to capitalize on this trend and meet with the many cities of the UNESCO network who have heard about our ‘luminous’ projects.”
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