Inside RLab, a Place to Create Virtual New Realities

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I reached out and touched a human cadaver yesterday, using a scalpel to dissect a deltoid muscle. I might have been more squeamish about the experience, but this was not a human body of the deceased kind. It was a corpse created in virtual reality, viewed through a VR headset. Yet it was vividly real.

“It’s intended to replace cadaver dissection, because that’s kind of expensive,” explained Sam Seidenberg, a software engineer for Medivis, a Brooklyn-based company developing an educational product called Anatomy X. “You still get the same three-dimensional exploration without having to deal with an actual human cadaver.”

Seidenberg and his company were among 30 exhibitors demonstrating their projects at the launching of RLab, the first city-funded lab in the U.S. dedicated to virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). When completed next year, the lab will house 16,500 sq. ft. of co-working labs, classrooms and studios in a former manufacturing building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

At the launch event, hundreds of visitors tried on headsets to get a sense of things to come, inspiring many waving arms and swiveling heads as they explored virtual worlds ranging from construction sites to medieval sword fights.

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In a nearby space, a dancer/technologist spun about in acrobatic patterns, her body fitted with motion-capture sensors to enable a computer to record a 3D rendering of her movements. The exhibit was the work of an NYU class that seems to represent the kind of cross-disciplinary creativity and community that’s expected to thrive at RLab. The class brings together both engineering and art students, who learn motion-capture techniques, graphics rendering, and the conceptual development to create stories in VR, said class’s instructor, Todd Bryant.

If the new lab is a success, it will have many beaming parents. It represents a $6.5 million investment by the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), and will be administered by Brooklyn’s NYU Tandon School of Engineering, with a participating consortium including Columbia University, CUNY and The New School.

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New York City Opens a City-Funded AR/VR Lab In Brooklyn’s Navy Yard

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New York City wants to make an old naval yard in Brooklyn a hotbed for virtual reality and augmented reality.

City officials, professors and entrepreneurs on Thursday gathered in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard for the opening of RLab, a 16,000-square-foot center that will house AR and VR startups while also providing research, education and training for New Yorkers working with the emerging technologies.

To jumpstart the project, the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment are investing $5.6 million into RLab, which they say is the first city-funded AR/VR facility in the U.S. The initiative is part of a joint collaboration with several universities including Columbia University, City University of New York, The New School and New York University. The center will also be home to the venture capital firm Super Ventures, which will support startups through investments and guidance.

According to Karen Bhatia, vice president of tech at NYCEDC, the city had studied why VR and AR growth hadn’t yet taken off in New York, and through interviews with various stakeholders, all the “main parts” of the industry were in the city—the technologies, researchers, creators, academics, financiers—but it was fragmented.

“We saw an opportunity here if we created a physical space, a lab, where they could all come together and be housed under the same roof but simultaneously have a space where they could experiment,” she said. “It could catalyze further development of VR and AR technologies here in New York City.”

Along with the city’s investment, Bhatia said officials are also seeking private investments for RLab. And between public-private partnerships and various revenue sources, she said the center could be self-sufficient within three years. Another initiative within RLab will be to build a relationship with a similar lab in London, which could include collaborations and visits between the two.

So why the Navy Yard? Along with the growing area of innovation in that part of Brooklyn, the space lends itself to helping AR and VR, which often requires high ceilings and wide, open spaces. For example, on one end of RLab, developers are raising the ceiling in order to make room for a motion-capture studio.

The space won’t be just specifically about media and advertising. Rather, officials hope to attract both large and small businesses across a variety of industries. For example, one startup giving demos of their technology on Wednesday created a mixed-reality tool for studying the human body using Magic Leap and Microsoft HoloLens headsets that allows users to walk around a digital skeleton and examine different systems.

The lab will be initially led by Justin Hendrix, executive director of the NYC Media Lab, which is another city initiative that collaborates with media companies, brands and others to experiment with emerging technologies. Along with working directly with AR and VR companies, RLab will collaborate with city schools and other parts of the community to better educate the students interested in pursuing careers in VR and AR. Over the next decade, officials project RLab will help create more than 750 jobs.

“What has changed over the past few months and what’s incredible right now is just the pace at which people are able to prototype,” Hendrix said of the growth of AR and VR. “And that to me is the sign of a coming boom in applications.”

Originally published on AdWeek.

NYU Tandon rLab - Brooklyn Navy Yard Demo Event

 MAD is proud to unveil the work we have been doing for the NYU Tandon rLab. This Brooklyn Navy Yard space is having an opening showcase, Wednesday, October 24th! While the project is not complete yet, this special event will showcase the future plans for the lab and feature interactive XR technology demos. (   more info   )

MAD is proud to unveil the work we have been doing for the NYU Tandon rLab. This Brooklyn Navy Yard space is having an opening showcase, Wednesday, October 24th! While the project is not complete yet, this special event will showcase the future plans for the lab and feature interactive XR technology demos. (more info)

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