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City Seeks Space For Its Virtual Reality Hub

By Amy Zimmer | February 28, 2017 7:29pm | Updated on March 1, 2017 2:47pm
 The city plans to create the nation’s first publicly funded virtual reality lab.
The city plans to create the nation’s first publicly funded virtual reality lab.
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This hub is getting closer to reality.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment are planning to create the nation’s first publicly-funded virtual reality and augmented reality lab, announcing Monday a request for proposals for a space that will include $6 million in public and private funding.

The city is looking for bidders who will be able to provide space for VR and AR entrepreneurs with affordable, shared access to tools and technologies and gather academic, start-up and business communities to increase the talent pipeline and funding opportunities, as DNAinfo previously reported.

Proposals are due April 7.

“VR and AR are fast-growing sectors in the media and entertainment space, and with this new facility we are positioning New York City to be a primary hub for new and growing VR/AR companies,” MOME Commissioner Julie Menin said.

EDC President James Patchett said the lab would spur innovation.

“By investing in growing companies with emerging technologies, we can create good-paying, 21st century jobs for New Yorkers,” he said.

There’s been a recent uptick in virtual and augmented reality offerings across the city, from Samsung’s flagship store in the Meatpacking District and the “virtual reality arcade” in the World Trade Center Oculus to the pop-up “vr bar” in Park Slope, occupying a small Union Street storefront for the winter months in a space normally run by the People’s Pops in warmer weather.

There's also a virtual reality training lab coming to The Bronx's CUNY on the Concourse, a branch of Lehman College , which will offer an 11-month program starting in April to teach students about topics including 3D graphics, web design and animation.

The VR/AR industry has seen more than $50 million worth of investment and 125 percent increase in job demand over the past year, according to city officials. But the industry is still fragmented and funding still a challenge, they say, without a central hub to anchor it.

The focus on virtual and augmented reality is part of the de Blasio administration’s pledge to foster 100,000 “good” jobs over the next 10 years in industries like tech, life sciences and high-end manufacturing.

Earlier this month, the administration released plans for a Union Square Tech Hub that’s projected to create 600 jobs and includes a work and event space called Civic Hall for community organizations, tech companies, government agencies and entrepreneurs.