Media release

Digital Main Street Lab partners with augmented reality tech company EXAR Studios

Startup to help tourism sector by using AR to showcase local arts and culture scenes across Ontario

KITCHENER, ONT., November 26, 2020 — EXAR Studios, an augmented reality (AR) development organization, and TechAlliance member company, has been selected as a participant in the Digital Main Street Lab program to help independent local businesses thrive.

Digital Main Street, supported by the federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), as well as the Government of Ontario and administered across the Southwestern part of the province by Communitech, will provide funding and resources to EXAR Studios as they embark on a pilot project to help develop AR experiences for local arts and culture businesses across Ontario through the company’s Engage app. This pilot, which is already underway, will run through March 31, 2021.

“When we started the journey to create Engage, our AR app, we started by asking ourselves how our technology could serve the small business community struggling as a result of COVID-19. We held a conviction that beauty, interactivity, arts and culture, history, local stories and a narrative of hope for the future - could be the mechanism for uplifting what ‘local’ truly means,” said Ben Switzer, co-founder of EXAR Studios. 

“We understood that small businesses are a cornerstone of what is uniquely local and irreplaceable, so we resolved to enhance the special quality of that community experience through augmented reality and other interactive technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT),” Switzer added.

“Working with Digital Main Street as part of the DMS Lab is a major milestone in our goal to engage communities through technology, highlighting our collaborative and inclusive spirit while further empowering us in our mission to serve main street businesses and cities.”

In their work with EXAR Studios, the Digital Main Street team will focus on ensuring that the pilot helps main street businesses adapt futuristic experiences for tourism and local exploration that is smarter, greener, more culturally authentic as well as fun. 

“The Digital Main Street Lab connects technology companies with locally-owned businesses to collaborate on innovations that lead to impactful digital transformation,” said Ahmed ElBedawy, Communitech’s Digital Main Street program director. “EXAR Studios shares in our belief that main street businesses are the heart of communities across Southwestern Ontario and we are honoured to support them as they work to develop technological support for local tourism sectors from all over the province.”

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our main street businesses and local economies,” said the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “The Government of Canada is pleased to support the Digital Main Street initiative and proud to work with great work partners such as Communitech and EXAR that are helping local businesses in the tourism and culture sector move online and adapt in today’s changing economy.”

At the core of this project, the Digital Main Street Lab is focused on bringing immediate and lasting improvements to neighbourhood businesses across Ontario, enabling them to not only survive, but thrive in today’s rapidly changing landscape. By launching in local communities, tech companies will gain access to real-time feedback from small businesses and effective solutions will be shared throughout the province.

To learn more about the Digital Main Street Lab program, please visit:

EXAR Studios is a digital creative technology company dedicated to improving cities and communities. To learn more about EXAR Studios, please visit

- 30 -

For more information or media inquiries, please contact:

Candace Beres

Manager, Communications, Communitech


About Communitech

Communitech was founded in 1997 by a group of entrepreneurs committed to making Waterloo Region a global innovation leader. At the time it was crazy talk, but somehow this community managed to pull it off. Today, Communitech is a public-private innovation hub that supports a community of more than 1,400 companies — from startups to scale-ups to large global players.

Communitech helps tech companies start, grow and succeed in three distinct ways.

  • Communitech is a place – the centre of gravity for entrepreneurs and innovators. A clubhouse for building cool tech and great companies.
  • Communitech delivers programs – helping companies at all stages with access to capital, customers and talent. We are here to help them grow and innovate.
  • Communitech partners in building a world-leading ecosystem – making sure we have all the ingredients (and the brand) to help companies go from a small startup to a global giant.

About Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street is a program that helps main street businesses achieve digital transformation. The program is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, and our Digital Service Squad, a team of street-level team members who help main street businesses grow and manage their operations through technology.

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages. A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa, and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses to go digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.