Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are both what are known as immersive technologies that can be used to alter the perception of the real world. Both offer a vast array of advantages, for example, in gaming, accessing music and sports events, and in various industries such as architecture and design.

Even though AR and VR technologies are still fairly new to the mainstream audience, they are already reshaping the way Canadians interact with both the digital and the physical world. In this article, we have collated key statistics on these immersive technologies to give you an overview of the AR and VR industries in Canada.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Statistics for Canadians

  • The Canadian AR and VR market is expected to generate $959 in revenue in 2023.
  • There are over 350 immersive technology companies in Canada.
  • 81% of Canadian AR and VR companies provide products and services outside the entertainment sector.
  • Over 90% of immersive technology companies in Canada are categorised as small or medium-sized companies.
  • Most AR and VR companies are located within four provinces: Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta.
  • 14% of Canadian AR and VR companies have more than one office.
  • Just over half of Canada’s AR and VR companies were founded in 2013 or later.
  • Only 8% of leadership roles in immersive technology companies are held by women.

What is the Difference Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that enhances the user’s perception without replacing the real world. AR can be delivered through various devices, such as smartphones, AR headsets, and smart glasses. Smartphones are the most commonly used AR platform. You may use AR to, for example, try furniture in your home or have directions overlaid on top of the real world on a smartphone. AR is also used in education, retail, and healthcare among various other fields.

Unlike AR, Virtual Reality (VR) completely replaces the real world with a computer-generated environment. Users will usually need dedicated VR hardware, such as headsets to access the VR world and have a fully enclosed, interactive experience. When using VR, the two-dimensional screen is replaced with a virtual space and the user can engage with the virtual environment as if they were physically in it. While many people may associate VR first and foremost with gaming, it has many uses beyond that, for example, in design visualisation, education, and medical procedures.

Overview of the AR and VR Market in Canada

According to Statista, the Canadian AR and VR market is forecast to generate $959 in revenue by 2023. The annual growth rate is expected to be 12.33% between 2023 and 2028, which would result in a market volume of $1,715 by 2028. The largest segment is AR Software with a market value of $362 in 2023. The immersive technology sector was valued at around $0.6 billion in 2018. It has experienced phenomenal growth and was projected to reach a value of $8 billion in 2022.

Augmented Reality is commonly accessed through social media apps, including Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where users can, for example, change the lens on their camera to enhance their environment or their features. Another extremely successful AR application is Pokémon Go, with over 600 million downloads worldwide.

Meta is currently dominating the VR headset market with more than a third of unit sales. The VR market is moving toward more sophisticated applications and the quality of the technology is constantly advancing leading to strong market growth.

AR Software and VR Hardware Generate the Most Revenue Within the Sector

Looking at the revenue from the AR and VR sector in Canada reveals that the biggest source of revenue is AR software. In 2023, it is expected to generate $263.9 million in revenue. The next largest source is VR hardware with an estimated revenue of $218.1 million. AR advertising is expected to generate around $86.4 million, VR software $80.8 million, AR hardware $46.4 million, and VR advertising $3.5 million in revenue.

Canada Has Over 350 Immersive Technology Companies

Canada has 353 companies specialising in immersive technology. However, these do not all specialise in AR and VR technologies, with some of them focusing on, for example, mixed reality or 360-degree video. Between 2014 and 2017, over 100 immersive technology companies were founded in Canada.

Canada Has Both Service and Product Immersive Technology Companies

In Canada, the companies in the field of immersive technology are relatively evenly split between service and product companies. The product companies, which represent 50% of all immersive technology companies in Canada, supply AR and VR products such as VR experiences for sports and entertainment purposes and video games. They also design and make content development tools.

Immersive technology product companies can be divided further into three types of companies. 38% of product companies develop creative content such as VR experiences and video games for entertainment purposes. 36% of product companies supply hardware and software for AR and VR systems, while the remaining 26% are companies supplying off-the-shelf solutions, such as AR sports goggles, generalised training simulations, and remote worker support tools.

Service companies represent 46% of immersive technology companies in Canada. These companies build AR and VR ICT solutions for their clients. The remaining 4% are hybrid companies, which provide both services and products.

Most Canadian Immersive Technology Companies Are Small

91% of immersive technology companies operating in Canada, including both Canadian and non-Canadian-owned companies, are classified as small or medium-sized (SME companies). If we were to only look at Canadian-owned companies, 98% of them would be SME companies. 83% of the immersive technology companies have 26 or fewer employees and 63% have up to ten employees.

However, this is not unusual in Canada. Across all industries, 99.8% of all Canadian companies are classed as small or medium and among ICT companies 85.3% had up to nine employees in 2018.

Ontario Has the Most AR and VR Companies

Most AR and VR companies in Canada are found in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta. Ontario has the largest concentration of immersive technology companies, many of them based in Toronto. British Columbia is next, followed by Quebec and Alberta. While there are some immersive technology companies in all the other provinces, too, there were none in the territories in 2020.

Because Ontario has the greatest number of AR and VR companies, it also has the most jobs within the industry. Between 2017 and 2020, almost 400 unique jobs were posted in the province. British Columbia had nearly 300 unique job postings, Quebec just over 200 and Alberta a little under 100 unique job postings.

Canada Experienced a Surge of New AR and VR Companies Between 2013 and 2016

Canada has firm immersive technology roots with some of its AR and VR companies dating back to the 1980s. The number of companies has increased steadily over the years, with a surge in new companies between 2013 and 2016.  Just over half (51%) of Canada’s AR and VR companies were established in 2013 or later. The surge hit its peak in 2016 and the number of new companies founded each year has since slowed down. This may be partly due to funding becoming harder to obtain.

Some Canadian Immersive Technology Companies Are Expanding Outside of Canada

Even though many Canadian AR and VR companies are still young and do not employ many members of staff, some are expanding beyond their initial location. Around 14% of Canadian immersive technology companies have opened another office in Canada or another country.

Use of VR and AR Outside Entertainment is Growing

AR and VR technologies are increasingly employed outside entertainment and Canadian AR and VR companies have responded to this by expanding their reach beyond the field of entertainment. Approximately 81% of Canadian AR and VR companies provide products and services in areas such as first response, national defence, pharmaceutical and medical industries, heavy machinery, and real estate.

Most People Working in Immersive Technology Are Male

There is a gender imbalance within the immersive technology industry, just like there is across the whole ICT sector in Canada. While 31.8% of the people working in the sector are women, only 20% of technically oriented roles are performed by women.

The lack of balance between the genders is even more evident higher up in the companies. Only 8% of AR and VR companies have a female leader in Canada. Male-led companies account for 89% of the companies and the remaining 3% have female-male leadership duos.

Studying AR and VR Technologies in Canada

In Canada, students interested in a career in immersive technologies can choose from several academic institutions. There are academic programmes that specialise in, for example, 3D design or game development in all the provinces. However, only universities in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta have academic programmes that specialise in VR, AR, or MR (mixed reality).

Working in the Immersive Technology Industry

People interested in working in the AR/VR industry can choose from a range of roles including developer, designer, hardware engineer, content creator, and educational technologist. Depending on the role, candidates may be expected to know of some or all of the following: programming and development; 3D design and modelling; user experience design; or hardware devices.

Salaries in the industry vary depending on the role. Here is a look at some of the jobs within the AR/VR industry with their average base salaries in 2023.

  • XR Developer – the role includes using coding and understanding of immersive technologies to develop immersive experiences, the average base salary is $79,414 per year.
  • Software Developer – there is a lot of demand for software developers in the industry and this is reflected in the $135,750 average base salary per year.
  • AR/VR Maintenance and Support Technicians – most often equipment AR/VR equipment failures are caused by installation errors or inappropriate repairs. The role of the maintenance and support technician is to ensure this does not happen, average annual salary of $59,000.
  • XR Designer – work includes collaborating with designers and artists to develop effects and visualisations and build prototypes, average base salary is $66,279 per year.
  • Software Engineer – core members of the team who develop software and create features to make disparate AR/VR tools work together, base salary for software engineers is $132,540 per year.

Conclusion

The AR and VR industry in Canada is an exciting and fast-growing industry. While using VR requires specific equipment to use, AR can be used on our regular devices and many of us are using more AR tools than we may realise.

While the majority of Canadian immersive technology companies are small, several have expanded and opened another office in Canada or overseas. Currently, the immersive technology sector, like the rest of the ICT sector in Canada, is very male-dominated, especially in the leadership roles and the industry could do more to attract more diverse talent.

The majority of AR/VR companies are concentrated in the four main hubs of Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, and Alberta, but it is possible to find work within the field in other provinces, too. As the industry is growing year-on-year, it is a worthwhile industry to train in for anyone interested in immersive technologies.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much you can earn in the virtual reality sector depends on a range of factors such as location, experience, and the role. While the average base salary for maintenance and support technician is $59,000 per year, a software developer can have a base salary of $135,750 per year.

AR stands for augmented reality and VR for virtual reality. While they both deal with changing our experience of reality, AR will enhance it, while VR will change it completely. You need specific tools, such as a VR headset, to use VR technology, while AR tools can be used on most devices, such as our smartphones.

Canadians are using both augmented and virtual reality technology. Especially, AR tools are used by Canadians probably more often than they realise, for example, when changing the lens to take a picture on Instagram or Snapchat.

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