Virtual reality lab in Brooklyn, an NYC-NYU joint, to open in late 2017

City Hall and New York University are looking to tag team their way into another realm – a time and place where the city’s virtual reality sphere rivals the tech scene in Silicon Valley.

City officials announced Tuesday that NYU Tandon School of Engineering has been selected to operate a virtual and augmented reality lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard that is expected to open in late 2017.

As part of its agreement with the city, NYU is organizing a workforce development program with CUNY that will direct graduates from the Lehman College’s Virtual Reality Training Academy and Development Lab to the 15,000-square-foot lab in Brooklyn.

City officials said the government invested $6 million in the project – making it the first publicly funded virtual reality lab in the country focused on growing the industry – because they believe it will help create 500 jobs over the next decade. These positions are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to create 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 annually over the next 10 years.

“By training the next generation in [virtual reality] and [augmented reality], it’s really making sure that we are having people trained in New York, who stay in New York and work in these fields,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin.

NYU Tandon School of Engineering Vice Dean Kurt Becker said the lab would admit fledgling startups to an accelerator program meant to help them through their first few months and more established firms to a two-year stay.

The accelerator program will help companies conduct market research and glean how their ideas could fit consumers’ needs, attract seed funding and craft a viable business plan.

All firms admitted to the lab will receive legal, intellectual property, human resources and accounting services on top of help meeting investors, according to Becker.

“We will host pitch days; we will host demo days; we will host networking events to bring the companies in front of people with money,” Becker said.

NYU will likely charge a per-desk rate for firms using the lab, and will likely receive a stake in the firms going through its accelerator program in lieu of charging for the program, Becker said.

He said NYU has not yet heard from groups looking to join the lab, but has already lined up some partnerships with corporations looking to support its occupants.

NYU and Lehman are still finalizing the details of the workforce development plan.

The university beat out 14 other applicants looking to run the lab, in part, because of its approach to training New Yorkers for the field, according to Ryan Birchmeier, a spokesman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

“One of the foundations of the city’s plans to establish a VR/AR lab is to make the industry more accessible to New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds,” Birchmeier said in a statement. “NYU Tandon was selected to develop the lab, largely due to their commitment to workforce development, and the breadth of significant efforts they outlined in their proposal to drive accessibility.”

With Sarina Trangle

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