This year, I had the pleasure of attending FITC Toronto 2014 (Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity.). Still fresh from the jet-lag, and feeling inspired, here’s my (rather lengthy) top 10 of technology, speakers, work, and generally cool stuff I learned about in this “storytelling” themed conference.

(In the spirit of interactivity, click on the many integrated links below to discover more!)


1) The Happy Show

The conference opened with Stefan Sagmeister. For the past few years, Sagmeister has been exploring his own happiness using off-beat methods and personal “tests” in the real world, which has led to the creation of an interesting interactive gallery show, called The Happy Show. You can see some great examples of the show on their Tumbr feed. Eventually, his learnings will be put into a short film (currently in editing).

FUN FACT: The top three things that contribute to happiness? Meditation, therapy, and perhaps surprisingly – drugs.


2) Indoor Positioning Techniques

This presentation by Calgary’s very own Edward Keeble was a little more technical, but definitely interesting. Keeble discussed using presence detection, proximity triggers (like iBeacon) and absolute positioning, to detect, track and push messages to smartphone users based on their physical location.

The interesting part of this presentation for me was the application, specifically with beacons that use Bluetooth technology. For a relatively low cost (many sites like Roximity or Estimote sell 3 for $100), you can purchase and integrate beacons into your app. If a user has your app, once they enter your location, they’ll be pushed messages based on their proximity to a beacon. This has endless uses to enhance real-world experiences by bringing a deeper story to the device in your hand. One thing we’ll probably see very soon will be malls and retailers using this to promote location-based product information or offers in the next few years.


3) James White does some cool sh*t. 

James White from Signalnoise definitely inspired me (who has an account and content background) to start looking up some sketching and art courses myself. His passionate talk about progression reminded me the importance of doing things you love (I grew up painting and drawing, and dropped it all when I got into the ad biz) and always striving to push yourself further.

A few examples of his work are below, but you can check out more on his Facebook page.

adobe1     crg_canon1     montreal


4) Telling incredible stories through video. 

In this content-driven presentation, Tatjana Green and Matthew Barnett from, shared some examples and tips to bring brand stories to life, while connecting with real people.

They stressed how people don’t want brand stories, they want stories about THEM. For a brand story to be successful, people need to connect with the characteristics of that brand. It’s not about “going viral”, it’s about being relevant.

A couple examples I really loved:

Trip Print Press 

This is an amazing video that tells the story of a Toronto letterpress maker.

Go Find Momo 

While they didn’t develop the idea for Momo, they did find a way to leverage creator Andrew Knapp’s values and audience to create a great campaign for Sony and MTV. Can you spot Momo below?

tumblr_n4jkbyMR3y1rl7jb2o1_500     tumblr_n4htxtjRjO1rl7jb2o1_500


5) bubl – 360 Camera

This is a really rad camera that captures 360 degree video at a low cost (will be under $600, delivers in June 2014). Plus, they’ve developed software so you can easily interact and edit the videos on your phone, tablet or desktop. And it’s open source so developers can work together to enhance the experience even more.

Imagine what this will do for Oculus. Anyone else think Facebook has their eyes on this camera technology?


6) Interactive storytelling as an art form.

For this presentation, Ingrid Kopp from Flightphase and Director of Digital Initiatives at the Tribeca Film Institute, showed a number of great examples of artistic installations coming to life through digital experiences.

One of my favourites was Sniff, a CG dog that interacted with people who walked by a storefront. The dog would perform a number of actions based on a viewer’s movements. Check out the video below to see it in action.

Two of the other projects Kopp shared, were also exceptionally well done:

Dadaab Stories 

Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp, with 500,000 people calling the camp “home”. To help tell these important stories that would normally go unheard, FilmAid International decided to bring digital support to them, capturing their stories and about life in the camp. This amazing project is always evolving as an online documentary.

The Hollow Documentary

I just really love this website. It’s shows the story of West Virgina’s dying McDowell County as you scroll through the site using a great mix of stats, photos and video. Be sure to click through all of the areas hidden in the bottom navigation of the site!


7) Metajive on creating great brand stories online. 

You could tell Dave Benton from Metajive is an ad man a professional communicator. Not that that’s a bad thing. This was one of the most organized and helpful talks I attended, and he’s the first to get his presentation up on Slideshare. Benton broke “brand stories online” into just that. Brand. Stories. Online. You need to examine each one separately to successfully share their stories.

  • For the brand, you need to be different, know your audience, know WHY you are doing something, and then find a way to make it all cohesive.
  • For the story, you need to connect the brand’s values with those of the audience. Don’t be afraid to show your brand’s strengths, and tell the story in such a way that people will draw their own conclusions (versus forcing it on them).
  • For online, it’s good to organize content into bite-sized pieces, and create something simple – yet memorable and engaging.

An example that showed this strategy was a campaign created for Lenova – a touchscreen with a  younger audience. Check out the video below to see why this rocked.


8) Augmented reality is getting freakin’ crazy. 

For this talk, Helen Papagiannis shared some very next-level AR technology. I found two types especially interesting.

Invoked computing takes everyday objects, and turns them into computers. Like turning a banana into a phone, and a pizza box into a laptop.

The second makes me think Google Glass needs to step up its game. Space Glasses feature a holographic interface and used gestures as a control.


9) The future is now – how computers are going to change.

Taking the previous presentation a step further, Jared Finklin from Argo Design discussed singularity – where technology progresses past human intelligence. While we’re not there yet (technology is about as smart as a mouse, which is still fairly impressive), he did a live demo of a prototype by Frog Designs. It was mind-blowing.

I honestly don’t know how this video only has just over 13,000 hits and not over a million. The fact that a computer can tell when you are specifically talking to a certain object, or use hand gestures to control it, is phenomenal. It’s amazing to think that in the coming years, people will develop and learn a new gesture-based language. Will this be the start to a unified, global language?


10) Google commercials are awesome. 

To end the conference, Google’s Chief Creative Officer, Robert Wong, gave an inspiring presentation where he talked about Google’s innovation.

My biggest takeaway? Google is damn good at advertising. The two commercials below literally brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful way to show the power of human connection in stories, and bring it back to FITC’s storytelling theme.


Have comments about all of this crazy technology? Hit us up on Twitter!








  1. april

    thanks for the shout out for metajive and dave. being his “partner” (in biz and life) i got a nice little chuckle out of you calling him an ‘Ad Man’ … he’s so far from it – i mean he won’t even watch Mad Men! ha! thanks again.

    1. Heleena Webber

      Fair enough, haha. Maybe ‘professional communicator’ is a better term! Regardless, his talk was very well organized and easy to follow. You could tell he was comfortable in front of groups (some of the others at FITC, not so much, although they didn’t make it onto this list). You guys do great work, thanks again!!

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