Press Releases

NYCEDC and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Announce Plan for VR/AR Lab

First publicly-funded Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Lab in the country Lab will support growing VR/AR companies and serve as a hub for New York’s emerging VR/AR industry

New York City has seen 125% increase in VR/AR job demand over past year

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) today announced plans for a City-supported Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) lab. The lab will support growing VR/AR companies and entrepreneurs, and convene cross-sector stakeholders and members of the academic community, with the goal of positioning New York City as a global leader in the emerging VR/AR industry.

NYCEDC and MOME will release a request for proposals (RFP) in early 2017 for an organization to establish and operate the VR/AR lab in New York City. Fueled by $6 million in public and private funding, the space will be the first VR/AR lab on the East Coast, and the first publicly-funded VR/AR lab in the country.

"Through targeted investments, NYCEDC is committed to growing nascent industries into major job creators for our city. The VR/AR sector is expanding rapidly, and New York City is well-positioned to become a global leader in this fast-moving field," said NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer. "The first publicly-funded VR/AR lab will support growth-stage companies and serve as a hub for the City's VR/AR industry to make success in this sector more accessible for more New Yorkers."

"VR and AR have rapidly emerged among the most exciting new technological advancements in recent years – and New York City has the opportunity to be at the forefront of this growth," said MOME Commissioner Julie Menin. "As the first government-funded facility of its kind, New York City’s VR/AR Lab will create access to resources that will allow the City to position itself as the home of this industry. I thank EDC for their partnership and look forward to the work ahead on this project."

"Datavized is very proud to be part of the NYC VR/AR scene. Immersive technologies (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality and 360° video) are getting a lot of traction but you’d think by looking at the headlines that this innovation is centered exclusively on the West Coast of the United States. This is very misleading. New York City has a vibrant community of startups, educational institutions and tech corporations and the time is right to coordinate this activity with the active participation of NYCEDC and MOME to ensure that the reputation of 'the media capital of the world' is both maintained and expanded into virtual space," said Hugh McGrory, Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Datavized Technologies, Inc.

"The timing could not be better. The talent in New York City, along with its anchor industries, place this city in a unique position to propel its sprouting VR/AR sector from early disruption to everyday, cross-sector application. Convening the technologists, academics, storytellers and start-up veterans that New York City hosts and attracts will create an invigorating boost to VR/AR’s momentum as we head into 2017," said Adaora Udoji, Managing Director of The Boshia Group and Adjunct Professor of Storytelling, New York University.

"As co-founder of an NYC virtual reality startup I appreciate this initiative from NYCEDC and MOME and as a female entrepreneur, I see it as a great opportunity to build a supportive culture for women in tech," said Debra Anderson, Co-founder, NY Women in VR Meetup.

"There is not only tremendous talent but intense energy surrounding augmented and virtual reality in New York City. What has been lacking is a hub or central resource to accelerate and cross-pollinate ideas and activity. This is an important development that will keep the city at the forefront of the industry," said Michael Wiley, Managing Director, Ventures, Publicis Groupe.

While New York City’s VR/AR industry has seen over $50 million in investment and a 125% increase in job demand over the past year, it is still fairly fragmented. There is currently no central hub to anchor the city’s VR/AR ecosystem and support growth-stage companies. Funding is also a challenge for early stage companies in any nascent industry, and without a central hub, there are limited resources for access to affordable technology or training.

New York City’s VR/AR lab will serve as a hub for the growing industry, and help New York City leverage its competitive advantages as its VR/AR sector grows. Specifically, the Lab will:

  • Support early growth-stage VR/AR companies with space, infrastructure and resources.
  • Provide VR/AR entrepreneurs with affordable, shared access to tools and technologies
  • Convene New York City’s academic, start-up, and business communities to increase fellowship and grant opportunities, and create a platform for companies and entrepreneurs to attract investors.
  • Strengthen the local talent pipeline and create training opportunities in VR/AR technologies and content creation.

The VR/AR industry is growing steadily. According to a 2016 report by Citigroup, the VR/AR sector has seen nearly $3 billion in investments nationally over the past two years. The report also projects that the global VR/AR market could grow to $2.16 trillion by 2035 as different industries and applications make use of the technology.

New York City is uniquely positioned to become a leader in VR/AR due to its diverse talent pool and strong anchor industries with opportunities for cross-pollination. A 2016 Goldman Sachs report identified six New York City anchor industries - healthcare, education, real estate, retail, live entertainment and video entertainment – as being amongst the most impacted by VR/AR.

This investment in the growing VR/AR sector builds on NYCEDC’s investments in a range of emerging industries. In February 2016, NYCEDC announced its Urbantech NYC initiative, which helped open hubs at Grand Central Tech and New Lab to support growth-stage urban technology and smart city companies. At the Brooklyn Army Terminal, NYCEDC recently announced the selection of Tech Shop to operate an advanced manufacturing center, which is expected to support more than 200 businesses and create over 500 jobs.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Commissioner Julie Menin to MOME in February 2016, he announced the expansion of the agency to encompass the full scope of the media and entertainment industries – including advertising, publishing, music, and digital content. This collaboration with EDC for the VR/AR lab builds upon MOME’s previous efforts in support of new media technologies, including funding of the Made in NY Media Center by IFP; support for NYC Media Lab’s Combine program; and support of the first annual Future of Storytelling Festival, exploring how storytelling is evolving in the digital age.