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RLab Virtual reality and augmented reality at RLab/ photo courtesy of NYCEDC

NEW YORK CITY—A virtual realty and augmented reality center to support startups, training, research and innovation has been unveiled by the city. The New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment have launched the initiative with funding of $5.6 million.

A facility, called RLab, will offer more than 16,500 square feet of classrooms, co-working labs and studios when it’s completed in 2019. The space on the third floor of Building 22 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard formerly served as a manufacturing plant. The enterprise will also extend to a workforce development center at CUNY Lehman College in the Bronx.

RLab will house the venture capital firm, Super Ventures, which will support startup companies, accepted into the RLab accelerator program. As a competitive program, it will be geared towards attracting entrepreneurs from around the world. It will work with RLab’s enterprise and corporate innovation programs at commercializing new technologies emerging from the city’s universities.

The NYU Tandon School of Engineering with representatives from Columbia University, CUNY and The New School will administer the lab. It’s the first VR/AR city-funded project in the US, and the city projects it will create over 750 jobs.

Several programs are already operating in the space: XR, an extended reality startup bootcamp brings together teams from NYU, Columbia, CUNY, The New School and Pratt Institute. Lehman College is working with Eon Reality and The Knowledge House to help local businesses learn how to use virtual and augmented reality. The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism is developing training and workshops to integrate VR/AR into newsrooms. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY and Eyebeam, a non-profit art and technology organization, have created RLab fellowship programs.

RLab is part of the New York Works plan, which Mayor Bill de Blasio launched in 2017 as a program to generate 30,000 technology jobs in the city.

“NYCEDC is charged with building and diversifying our economy for the present and future, and investing in virtual and augmented reality gives us an opportunity to do just that,” says NYCEDC president and CEO James Patchett. “With RLab, we’ll be able to fuel homegrown startups and grow a diverse talent pipeline of New Yorkers, all working in an industry with high growth potential in New York City.”

Media and entertainment commissioner Julie Menin explains VR and AR have already been a part of many industries in New York City. She lists media, entertainment, live events, education, surgery, healthcare and real estate as examples. Both Menin and David Ehrenberg, the president and CEO of Brooklyn Navy Yard, state that RLab will connect New Yorkers from all boroughs to growing opportunities in technology.

Betsy Kim

Betsy Kim is the bureau chief, East Coast, and New York City reporter for Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. As a lawyer and journalist, Betsy has worked as the director of editorial and content for LexisNexis Lawyers.com, a TV/multi-media journalist for NBC and CBS affiliated TV stations in the Midwest, and an associate producer at Court TV.

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