Discovering Iceland: How They’re Revolutionizing Tech

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A view of the Reykjavik skyline from the observation deck of the Perlan.

On a recent trip to Iceland, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the city of Reykjavik and the rest of the country and learn about their culture. This is part one of a blog series that I’m developing featuring tidbits of my vacation to Iceland and insights into some of the things I’d learned about their lifestyle, industry and history.

Part one will feature insights into Iceland’s tech industry with the upcoming parts 2 and 3 focusing on interesting and fun tidbits of the country’s history and lifestyle.

Stepping Into Reykjavik

The stunning glass architecture of the iconic Harpa Conference Center.

The stunning glass architecture of the iconic Harpa Conference Center.

Before I landed in Reykjavik, I had vague notions of what to expect in the capital city and in Iceland in general. I had an idea of what to expect regarding their food, landmarks I wanted to see and of course, geothermal pools I wanted to soak in. But I didn’t know much about their tech industry.

It was a definite eye opener to see how Iceland has started to become a hot bed for industries such as virtual reality gaming, special effects and home grown start-ups.

International Tech in Iceland

Microsoft office in Iceland.

Microsoft office in Iceland.

Walking down the Shore and Sculpture path en route to the iconic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre along the harbour in downtown Reykjavik, I was definitely surprised to see the Microsoft logo emblazoned on a building.

I didn’t think Iceland had a population large enough to sustain a corporate office for Microsoft, yet there they were. Based on some research, it looks like the Reykjavik office has their own division that manages product marketing for office products and deals with legal affairs surrounding customer data protection in Europe. Near as I could tell, it doesn’t seem like the Iceland office has a software development division, but it was still a welcome surprise to see that the Seattle based tech giant made the leap.

A Hotbed for VR Video Games and Special Effects

Sculpture commemorating EVE Online from CCP Games

Sculpture commemorating EVE Online from CCP Games

Iceland actually has a sculpture dedicated to a video game. That’s right, the sculpture in the above photo is dedicated to EVE Online, one of the world’s biggest and popular MMORPGs (massive multi-player online roleplaying games) developed by video game powerhouse CCP Games. Not only can you participate in different forms of combat from player versus player to player versus environment in the game, but you can also take up several occupations from mining and manufacturing to exploring and trading.

CCP Games is also a pioneer in virtual reality gaming in Iceland with more than one of their titles. Gunjack, a virtual reality arcade shooter was released for the Samsung Gear VR in 2015 and the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in 2016 and EVE: Valkyrie, a first person space combat simulator was released for the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive in 2016. But they’re not the only gaming company in Reykjavik developing virtual reality titles.

Gaming startup Sólfar Studios specializes purely in VR games with several titles such as Everest VR and Godling available exclusively on VR platforms such as Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive.

Reykjavik’s harbor district is also an up and coming area for special effects in film and television. Local company RVX, founded in 2008, has provided VFX supervision for the Harry Potter film franchise, Hollywood blockbusters such as 2 Guns and Contraband and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Home Grown Icelandic Start Ups in Tech, Tourism & Beyond

Cottages in Iceland

Cottages in Iceland

Other start-ups outside of video games and VFX effects have started up in Iceland as well, thanks in part to the annual Startup Iceland tech conference.

I discovered Bungalo, a great accommodation site that allows travelers to find local cottages where hotels, hostels and bed & breakfasts are harder to come by. It’s Iceland’s largest cottage marketplace with accommodations all over the country. Although we didn’t go with them this time, I definitely think it might be worth trying to book through them for our next Iceland trip.

A success story in the hospitality industry, Blendin isn’t just another app that gives users information like the times bars and clubs are open. Nominated for Nordic start up of the years in 2014, it even connects friendship groups together in one go, eliminating the need to create separate event invites on Facebook.

On the tech side, Activity Stream is developing operational intelligence software. The software monitors a company’s operations and uses artificial intelligence to improve daily operations and customer support.

This vacation was an eye opener when it came to learning about Iceland’s tech and gaming industry. But that’s not the only thing I learned about Iceland. Next up, fun, interesting and thought provoking facts that I learned about Icelandic history in Part 2 of Discovering Iceland.

From Brunch and Wine to Traveling and Marketing: Changes on the Way

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you all on new developments and projects as well as blog posts that I’m working on, that will be coming your way in the near future.

In the coming weeks, you’ll be seeing blog posts on the Taste Victoria brunch at Vista 18, afternoon tea at the Empress as well as reviews of the eye-opening documentary ‘Art & Copy’ on the advertising industry and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it, it’s a real eye-opener).

I’ll also be talking about my experiences on one of Wilson’s Tours newest walking tours, ‘Saloons, Scandals & Sweets’ as well as my first trip up island to the Courtenay/Comox area and stay at the luxurious Old House Village Hotel & Spa.

In the meantime, I’d like to tell you all about a new venture of mine that I’ve recently started on. A few months ago, I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’m expanding my list of writing services for clients to include tourism/travel writing, PR, blogging and social media.

Well, slowly, I’ve started writing more travel articles and have since expanded the list of other websites where you can view some of my work:

 

Trip Advisor

Sante Spa: The Best in Luxurious Treatments & Environment

My review of my one-of-a-kind spa treatment at Sante Spa Victoria at Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Eagle Wing Whale Watching: Searching for the Whales

My review of my first-ever experience going whale watching with Eagle Wing Whale Watching Tours in Victoria, BC

Boatswain’s Beach Adventure Park & Turtle Farm, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Visiting with sea turtles on excursion at Grand Cayman during a Princess Cruises Caribbean cruise

Dolphin Discovery, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Part two of my shore excursion in Grand Cayman, swimming with the dolphins.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Las Vegas, NV

My first trip to Madame Tussaud’s in Las Vegas.

 

Tourism BC Blog

Discovering China & Botanical Beaches

How some friends and I discovered China and Botanical Beaches along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

A Historical Gem: Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park

My journey through Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park during my first time in Comox.

 

Big Time Tours (Online Community for Tourism/Travel Writers)

Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Resort & Spa, Parksville, BC

My experiences at Tigh-Na-Mara’s Grotto Spa and Treetop Tapas Lounge.

Scuba Diving for the First Time, Victoria, BC

Learning how to scuba dive from Wilson Diving.

I plan on building on this list as I continue to write more articles about tourism, accommodations, attractions and events out there. Currently, I’m also working on a couple of pieces for Life As A Human.com, which I will post to the Online Writing section of my blog once they have been approved.

I won’t reveal too much of what else I’m working on, however, I will say that I’ve also turned some of my attention to writing for magazines and here’s to hoping that I will have further published articles to share with you in the near future.

As always, thank you for your continued readership and support

 

Sincerely,

Lilian Sue-In Retrospect Writing Service, Owner & Operator.

Announcing a New Service: Destination/Travel/Tourism PR, Blogging & Marketing

June 20th, 2011-Announcing my new service: Travel/Tourism PR, Blogging & Marketing

To reflect my love of travel and desire to promote and raise awareness for Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland’s accommodations, restaurants, attractions and culture, I’ve ventured into travel blogging, writing and marketing.

What began a few years ago as a web copy project for jetPADs Luxury Vacation Rentals’ Vancouver and Los Angeles microsites, has blossomed into a strong desire to understand the unique challenges and the creative opportunities within Vancouver Island’s and the Lower Mainland’s tourism industries and experience the hospitality and one-of-a-kind attractions that my own backyard has to offer.

In blogging and promoting these experiences, I hope to give travelers the world over a taste of why Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland are-and continue to be, the absolute best destinations to travel to and allow them glimpses into the unique experiences, accommodations and attractions we offer.

Some of my recent travel & attraction review/blogging/writing work

Sante Spa Victoria: The Best in Luxurious Treatments and Environment (under the username LSue23)

Chasing the Whales: Whale Watching for the First Time with Eagle Wing Tours

As I continue to add more travel/event/attraction experiences to my portfolio, they will be posted in the Online Writing Section of my site for your reading pleasure.

As always, thank you for the support!