Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, located in the heart of Toronto at Yonge and Dundas Square, is now incubating 32 startups and has had 41 occupy space in the zone in just two years. They will also launch internationally in May by offering fellowships to young entrepreneurs from India. As well, the Zone has expanded to over 16,000 square feet—tripling in size since it first opened.
Much of the latest focus has been on social and mobile media middleware; useful tools to navigate through increasingly complex and cluttered social and mobile worlds.
To put it simply, the most basic content on the web comes in the form of text, images, or video. As the server cost of running a really popular website stacked with images continues to decrease, we’ve seen companies make great strides with “image-based” websites.
While we’ve seen Pinterest rise into the top 25 in Canada, the Digital Media Zone was no stranger to image-driven success. It incubated and graduated one of the hottest Canadian startups around in 500px, ranked 1,838th worldwide according to Alexa, that is famously disrupting worldwide photo sharing service Flickr. Tech enthusiasts have seen Instagram get acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. And Lockerz remains competitive.
Now there’s a new generation of startups. This includes the likes of ARB Labs, which draws from a proprietary gesture recognition engine of over 70,000 human gestures. ARB Labs uses the gestures to create customized interactive digital video technology, including frameless and holographic display panels. It’s part of an ever-growing number of applications that include motion beyond the Microsoft Kinect.
Further, it’s part of a “context-aware” movement that one could argue really took off with IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy back in early 2011. The DMZ’s Director of Research Hossein Rahnama showed during the recent Open House that there are some interesting context-aware applications, like automated blogging and auto-generated comic strips based on conversation.
Rahnama is also the CEO of Flybits, a Canadian leader in context-aware computing. They developed GO Transit’s first mobile application with over 100,000 users, which is based on your personal travel preferences. Further, Flybits helped represent Canada at the Mobile World Congress in 2012 after being selected by the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation.
Understanding where the Digital Media Zone is coming from isn’t too hard—they are following an old adage: you can’t have great content without context.