Play Labs, a Summer Accelerator at MIT, Announces First Class of VR/AR/Playful Startups and Demo Day

First class on the MIT campus to showcase 13 startups across a mix of gaming, enterprise VR, esports, AR technologies

Cambridge, MA -- June 21, 2017 -- Play Labs @ MIT, a summer accelerator hosted at the MIT Game Lab, has announced its first batch of startups that have been admitted to the program.  The first batch runs from June-August, and the Demo Day will be on August 15, 2017 at 6:00 pm EDT at MIT in classroom 10-250. The Demo Day will be open to investors, members of the MIT community, and the general public. In addition to the physical event, Play Labs Demo Day will be streamed live on the web for those not in the Boston area.  

Sign up to watch Demo Day in person at MIT or online at www.playlabs.tv.

The overall focus of the accelerator is on startups that employ “playful tech” in a variety of industries.  The first batch of startups was selected with a concentration on Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), as well as online gaming and esports.

The first batch consists of  startups spanning a wide breadth of categories, including:

  • VR pets & games (2 startups)

  • VR business applications (2 startups)

  • AR/MR  Applications/Tools (2 startups)

  • VR/VRWeb/360 development tech (3 startups)

  • eSports (2 startups)

  • Machine Vision and Deep Learning (2 startups)

  • Online Games (2 startups)

“We are excited at the quality and breadth of startups that we have in our first batch,” said Rizwan Virk, Executive Director of Play Labs @ MIT. “Being on campus at MIT gave us access to many innovative entrepreneurs and technologies, and while we had many applicants, the startups we selected in this first class represent the best applications of playful technology. I’m personally inspired to help the next group of MIT startups go on to great success.”

“The inaugural class began with teams of creative, passionate and determined people. This is history in the making,” said Tuff Yen, President of Seraph Group and Partner at Play Labs @ MIT.

The following is a list of the startups in the first batch (in alphabetical order):

  • Coresights: Coresights provides evidence-based training to improve wellness and enhance resilience. The platform combines virtual and augmented reality technologies with clinical-grade wearables to make training engaging and capture real-time data.

  • Datavized:  Datavized brings another dimension to enterprise and big data with 3D visualization. Combining the immersive power of virtual reality with the seamless delivery of the mobile web, the software enables cross platform collaboration and enhanced decision making.

  • Empathy Box:  The Myth Machine is a first-person mystery-adventure set in the weird, magical world of tech start-ups. It is the first project by Empathy Box, a company that aims at revolutionizing immersive storytelling.

  • Escape Labs: Escape Labs uses innovative technology to create Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality (AR/MR) experiences for escape-rooms, team-building exercises and room scale puzzles. Our goal is to transform the ordinary physical space into a high quality 4D experience using holographic content.

  • Esports One: Esports One is a revolutionary esports company, comprised of esportspedia, one of the largest esports information resources in the world, and providing an advanced computer vision and real time data analysis platform for esports

  • Hidden Switch: Hidden Switch is developing a digital card battler, Spellsource, whose new gameplay lets you connect with the biggest stars in eSports. Based on research at the MIT Media Lab, its mission is to make everybody part of a great player's journey.

  • Minda Labs: Minda offers virtual reality diversity training to companies who are looking for fresh, research-driven approaches to improving company culture. Our game simulations help employees build empathy and communication skills through practice and feedback from peers.

  • Ridgeline Labs: RoVR is the first realistic VR dog simulator. Get ready to give tummy rubs to, dress up, and do so much more with your new virtual best friend!

  • SavvyStat: Deep learning and predictive tools and dashboards for managing virtual economies and virtual goods

  • Team Future: Black Hat Cooperative is an award-winning stealth game that pits you and an ally against robot agents that seek to remove you from the system. Explore complex levels filled with hidden dangers, and work together to survive.

  • Total Respawn: Total Respawn creates real-life shooter games for action sports arenas with augmented reality.  Our product lineup will feature experiences from shooting your way out of the zombie apocalypse to a military-themed laser tag on steroids.  Lots, and lots of steroids.

  • VRemedy: VRemedy Labs creates new, empowering locomotion for VR. The MIT startup is focused on mitigating nausea through movement design and training sequences that are specialized to teach motion in the most comfortable manner. Providing development tools alongside a “VR motion acclimation” app will allow developers to provide new levels of immersion for users prone to motion sickness.

  • Wonda VR: Wonda VR develops intuitive tools to turn 360° videos into engaging VR experiences. It provides a simple drag & drop interface and a one-click publishing solution that puts the power of experiential storytelling in the hands of every video creator.

To learn more about these startups, to attend Demo Day or view it online, visit www.playlabs.tv or contact the Play Labs contacts below.

About PlayLabs

Play Labs (www.playlabs.tv) is an incubator/accelerator at MIT which invests and mentors startups that are utilizing playful technology in a variety of industries.   The focus of the first batch will be Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies and applications, though the incubator will also consider startups using other playful tech, including 3d modeling, rendering, streaming, gamification, artificial intelligence. The applications of playful technology can be in any industry, including online/mobile/VR gaming, esports, entertainment, education, healthcare, finance, etc.

Play Labs is run by by Bayview Labs (www.bayviewlabs.com), and its executive director, Rizwan Virk, an MIT alumnus (MIT ‘92 BS Computer Science & Engineering), and a prolific Silicon Valley angel investor, advisor and mentor, in conjunction with the Seraph Group ( www.seraphgroup.net), a seed stage venture capital investment firm founded by Tuff Yen.

About Ludus, The MIT Center for Games, Learning, and Playful Media

Ludus, the MIT Center for Games, Learning, and Playful Media, coordinates the efforts of MIT labs and research groups exploring games and play with a community of member practitioners. Research groups include the MIT Game Lab (gamelab.mit.edu); The Education Arcade (education.mit.edu); the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory (icelab.mit.edu); the Trope Tank (tropetank.mit.edu); the Creative Communities Initiative (ccimit.mit.edu); and the Open Documentary Lab (opendoclab.mit.edu).

Media Contacts:

Play Labs
Rizwan Virk
riz@playlabs.tv

Kate Pietrelli for Play Labs
kate@pathadvisors.com
+1 760-518-2633

MIT Game Lab and Ludus
Rik Eberhardt
gamelab-request@mit.edu

Investor Contacts:

Play Labs
Tuff Yen
tuff@playlabs.tv

 

Play Labs is now part of GAN (the Global Accelerator Network)

We are happy to announce that Play Labs@MIT is now part of GAN, the Global Accelerator Network, a highly-curated community of independent accelerators, corporates, and investors and creates opportunities around the world for startups to access the human and financial capital they need to build businesses and make a meaningful impact, wherever they call home.

GAN encompasses 80+ accelerators in over 100 cities and over 5,000 accelerator alumni around the world. 

GAN provides resources to startups in accelerators.  This means Play Labs founders will now also get access to:

  • Resources. Play Labs founders are now eligible for over $1m in perks ranging from AWS and IBM, to co-working and HR., partnerships, and an amazing community of alumni. 
  • Investor Network. Startups in PlayLabs will be eligible for investment from the GAN Ventures, which invests in startups coming out of GAN programs, as well as providing connections to a global network of investors. 
  • Post Accelerator assistance.  GAN members can help our startups with their post-accelerator plans, particularly if you're relocating to a city where there are other GAN members.

"GAN accelerators are passionate about giving startups the power to create and grow wherever they are, and Play Labs @ MIT is no exception," said Patrick Riley, CEO of GAN.  "Their Executive Director, Rizwan Virk, has built an incredibly strong mentor network that's providing strong support to their founders alongside global connections to corporations and investors. Needless to say, GAN couldn't be more excited to work with Play Labs and their founders!" 

Play Labs Application Deadline extended until Feb 28!

New Application Deadline: Feb 28

Want to build your playful tech startup (VR/AR/AI, etc) this summer?

Let us help you with funding, facilities, and mentorship from industry leading entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and MIT faculty.

Apply before February 28 to become a part of the first batch of Play Labs and build your startup on the MIT Campus this summer!  

Get more info and apply online at www.playlabs.tv

Still looking for an idea?
See our Request for Startups

Curious why we started Play Labs?
Read the post by our Executive Director, Riz Virk, Why We Started Play Labs

Questions about Play Labs and whether your startup/idea qualifies?
Read our updated FAQ or email us at info@playlabs.tv

Special Note: Want to apply but you're not from MIT?
We've received quite a few inquiries from non-MIT teams. As a result, we are opening up one slot in the program for "visiting scholar" teams (teams that are affiliated with another university in the Boston area). See our FAQ for specifics, or email us at  info@playlabs.tv

Request for Startups

Sometimes, you want to apply to an incubator like Play Labs but haven't yet decided on the idea you want to work on.  

This Request for Startups is basically a list of areas that we are interested in, and we'd love to have talented founders take a look at these areas.

NOTE: If you already have an idea you are excited about, you should definitely apply with your idea.  On the other hand, if you are say, a great technical founder, but haven't yet decided waht you want to work on, then take a look at these areas and see if one calls out to you.

Feel free to email us at info@playlabs.tv if you have questions about any of these or are a technical or business co founder looking for a team or an idea.

  • Social VR/AR applications - both physical & virtual interaction (what could a VR theme park, how do families engage in VR experiences, thinking beyond one person in a headset and beyond play as novelty)
     
  • eSports.   We are big believers in eSports.  The younger generation doesn't want to watch professionals playing football or basketball nearly as much as watching the best CS:GO or LOL  players compete.  There are many possibilities in this field.   
    • tools for creating, analytics, new games made for esports experiences (both for existing esport audiences & new), new modes of spectation, tools for broadcasting & commentators
       
  • 360 videos.  360 Videos have taken the world by storm.  Not only are they supported by Youtube, Facebook, and others, but Hollywood and entertainment types are jumping on the bandwagon.  Moreover, for VR headsets, one of the most popular activities to date is to watch 360 videos.  We believe the emergence of VR/AR headsets may require a rethinking of how video is stored, edited and streamed.
    • tools for creating, editing, storing, streaming, viewing, compressing for both live action and for virtual gameplay and virtual worlds. 
  • Playful civic engagement - apps/platforms engaging communities with politics, news, governance in positive and beneficial ways, helping people understand the world around them and how they are a part of it

  • VR/AR games for understanding & solving problems -  learning games that go beyond training & skills assessment.

  • 3D Modeling, Rendering - for the most part, existing 3D models and tools have been built for rendering scenes, characters in 2D formats - games on a computer screen, special effects on a movie or TV screen. 

  • AR/VR with the real world - tools for modeling actual physical places and bring them into virtual worlds.
     
  • VR/AR games - we'd like to see games which provide a different perspective, not simply a VR version of a first person shooter.
     
  • Analytics and tools for VR/AR environments - how does analytics change in a virtual environment? Tools to make building VR/AR projects easier.
     
  • AI / machine vision - as the real world and the virtual worlds are more integrated, there need to be better algorithms and tools for incorporating machine vision into applications.
     
  • Entertainment - VR/AR is not just another platform but a different type of entertainment platform.  How would you design movies, shows, or other experiences that are VR from the ground up, rather than adapting existing entertainment experiences into VR?
     
  • Business application for VR/AR - Some people think that the killer apps for VR (and particularly AR headsets) are business applications.  Places where VR/AR headsets can reside for specific business purposes - we'd like to see startups tackle these problems.

 

Why We Started Play Labs, Part I

 (Part I: The Structure of the Accelerator, by Riz Virk)

I co-founded my first startup barely a year after graduating from MIT and it was definitely like “being thrown into the deep end” without any training or a life raft.  I told the story of some of our struggles in my first book, Zen Entrepreneurship.  It was a case of blindly finding our way through the wilderness without a map.

With Play Labs I wanted to create an accelerator that was a half-way point between being a student (or employee for recent alums) and being “cut loose” in the wild jungle of entrepreneurship.

More specifically, we designed Play Labs for both MIT students and alumni so that they could have what we didn’t have in those days: Funding, Facilities, Mentorship and Peer Support.

Funding.

We literally had no funding when we launched my very first startup, Brainstorm.  We barely had enough money to buy our first few computers.  In those days we did what was called the “Lechmere” shuffle, which later became the “’Best Buy” shuffle –we would buy computers and return them within 30 days, then buy new computers.

Not only were we not paying ourselves in those early days, but we borrowed $5,000 from my co-founder Mitch’s parents just so we could afford to buy plane tickets and tickets for a conference in Florida where we wanted to launch our product!

Luckily, our first product launch went well enough (we sold copies right on the trade show floor) that we were able to pay back the loan, and still had enough money left over to finally buy our first few computers outright!  We were then able, based on the success of our product launch, to raise a little more money from family and friends to get an office space and get the company properly set up.

The initial funding we’re at offering at Play Labs to our participants ($20k) is just enough to get a startup going, with basic technology needs (no more doing the Best Buy shuffle!), expenses for any travel (no need to borrow from your parents for that trip to visit a customer or attend a conference!), and provide each member of the team some basic living stipend during the summer.  The amount is also not so much that the startup is in danger of spending money on anything that is non-essential.    If the startup is able to meet certain milestones, we will put in more funding (as part of a seed round) to help it get to the next level.

Facilities. 

In my first startup, we were literally two guys in a garage (without the garage - we started our first company in the living room of our apartment in Framingham – I have always contended that garages in New England are too cold in the winter for startups!). While this had the added benefit of being able to work late into the night and then roll into bed,  it wasn’t an ideal situation and could only last so long.

After we had raised some seed money from family and friends, we found an office space in Cambridge, but had to sign a lease, which was another novel experience for someone who’d never done it before.  Would we have enough cash to pay rent for the whole year? We weren’t sure, but went ahead anyways and then had to buy furniture, too.

The Play Labs incubator was designed to give startup teams workspace on the MIT campus, with other like-minded teams of students and alumni. No having to sign leases or buy furniture or worry about conference rooms.

Moreover, being in the same space with other entrepreneurs is part of how the program is designed.  I believe that having exposure to other scan be inspirational and supportive, which is why we’ll be housing the various teams together so they can get ideas and help each other.

Mentorship and Peer Support.

My first startup, like most startups (first or second or third!), was very stressful.

During those days, I attended a CEO group in Cambridge of other entrepreneurs and mentors that was very helpful in keeping my sanity.  Although I wasn’t doing video games at the time, some of the other members of the group were, including Shawn Broderick of Genetic Anomalies and Alex Rigopolous of Harmonix.  Seeing the struggles that the other entrepreneurs in my group were going through was strangely therapeutic – not only did it make me feel less alone as a CEO, it helped to know that others were going through similar battles and surviving, if not thriving!

I had many mentors during my first startup, most of who I met along the way and rather randomly.   These advisors ranged from seasoned managers to insightful investors (including MIT alums like Brad Feld, and Joe Hadzima, who teaches the Nuts and Bolts course at MIT) and many others.  They did everything from invest themselves to providing intros to VCs to help me in the hiring process.

The Play Labs program was meant to provide a more formal way to get mentorship.  In addition to Peer Support Groups,  the MIT Game Lab faculty & staff are here to help with product development and design; the business mentors will help with various aspects of the startup, including providing introductions and advice on launching the startup.  We will also provide support for how to structure the company, founder equity and other legal issues.   We will also have many speakers who are relevant to the industries that our startups will be in – and I know in my own experience hearing about a successful (or even unsuccessful) startup in my industry is always a thought-provoking experience that can motivate an entrepreneur in many ways.

 

In summary, I designed Play Labs so that the next generation of MIT entrepreneurs will have many of the things that I didn’t when I did my first startup as a fresh faced recent grad, and many of the things I had to discover along the way on my own!   Onward together!

 

Bayview Labs and MIT Game Lab Announce “Play Labs” VR/AR/AI Playful Tech Accelerator for MIT Students and Alumni

ACCELERATOR WILL OFFER FUNDING, FACILITIES AND MENTORSHIP RESOURCES FOR SELECTED STARTUPS; APPLICATIONS OPEN NOW FOR THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM LAUNCH IN SUMMER 2017

Cambridge, MA and Mountain View, CA -- January 18, 2017 -- Bayview Labs, LLC and Seraph Group announced Play Labs for MIT students and alumni to launch startups that utilize playful technologies. The first batch of companies will be selected from MIT students and alumni, and will run from June - August, 2017 on campus at MIT in Cambridge, MA.