“Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m very happy to be here today to open this event. This event has all my favorite things: start up companies, innovative individuals, cool new gadgets and a promise of something big in the future.
This event gives Finnish extended reality companies a chance to connect globally, and even shine globally. I’m happy to hear that there is also a large international audience at this event, and for them this event will certainly offer a unique opportunity to meet and experience the professionals of the Finnish extended reality field in a meaningful way. The event is full of interesting speeches, panel discussions and presentations that I hope you will learn from and enjoy.
Up until last winter, we were all quite certain that the biggest digitalization leaps in our organizations would be made by our CTO or CIO or CDO. Turned out, the leap was made by the C-O-V-I-D. We have leapt into, and embraced, digitalization at the speed of light – because we had to. But digitalization of course, was profoundly changing society much before the pandemic. In fact, I believe that digitalization might have a more profound impact on our lives than industrialization. Digitalization will have an impact in everything we do.
Helsinki’s mission is to be the most functional city in the world. Functionality, in this day and age, in so many ways means increased digitalization.
Helsinki is also a start up city, and part of that is certainly due to the fact that we are so functional and that we value digitalization. According to many studies, Helsinki’s start-up scene is the most connected start up community in the world. I often say that it makes sense to come to Helsinki: Helsinki is small enough to be a test-bed for new innovations, but large enough to deliver scalable results. In the future, we also want to grow in size – not just in the size of corporations, but in size of impact, responsibility and influence. This is why we need the best talent and innovations to make Helsinki their home – and talent and innovation is something you will see quite a lot of in this event.
Especially the gaming sector is thriving in Helsinki. The likes of Supercell and Rovio have helped spur scores of new Finnish gaming companies as well as companies in the VR/AR sector. We know these are sectors that will continue growing strongly in the coming years. The competence of the gaming industry combined with the exceptional start up scene makes Helsinki fertile breeding ground for new business.
The city of Helsinki is proud to be a partner of Helsinki XR Center. Through the City of Helsinki Innovation Fund we support the work being done here. The city of Helsinki has also taken an active role in making virtual reality reality through different events. This May we celebrated May day, or as it is called in Finland: Vappu, in an exceptional way. We had an online celebration, which culminated in a virtual gig by the band JVG. The event attracted a peak audience of 1.4 million Finns. The City of Helsinki also has a digital twin in virtual reality. It has been created by Zoan and you can find it at virtualhelsinki.fi.
When a layman thinks of Virtual Reality, he or she often thinks of the entertainment applications of VR. The truth is however, that that is not the sector that most will be revolutionized by virtual, mixed or augmented reality.
Through virtual reality we will see major leaps in medical training and the preparation for medical operations. Militaries are using virtual reality to train soldiers for bomb disposal, and companies can recreate risky scenarios on rigs or factories or other high-risk environments. Education, architecture, construction and the performing arts are all just some of the sectors that will be positively disrupted by virtual reality.
And if we do think of virtual reality in the entertainment context, I can see only good things and opportunities ahead. I’m convinced that VR is not going to replace TV or cinema or any other forms of entertainment. Nothing will go away. People used to say that radio was the end of literature, or that TV was the end of radio or that audiobooks would be the end of reading. Yet here we are: still reading, writing, listening to the radio and watching TV.
Finally: Remember the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall? In it people could buy virtual reality memory implants of vacations. And us viewers would think: how silly, why would you want to go on vacation without actually travelling somewhere? But now that we’ve been stranded in a global pandemic for the last year, virtual vacations don’t sound so stupid anymore, do they? Virtual interaction, virtual collaboration and virtual development isn’t science fiction anymore. It’s the “new normal”.
I think, that there will be as many applications for VR as you can think of. The possibilities aren’t restricted by technology or science or – indeed –reality. They’re only restricted by our imagination. There are decades of innovation ahead. We’re only at the very beginning.
With these words, I wish you all warmly welcome to this event.”