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Play Labs announces first class of VR/AR/playful startups and demo session

First accelerator program on the MIT campus will showcase 12 startups across a mix of gaming, virtual reality, esports, and augmented reality technologies.
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Play Labs @ MIT, a summer accelerator hosted at the MIT Game Lab, has announced the first batch of startups that have been admitted to the program. This first cohort will meet from June to August, and a demonstration session will take place on Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. at MIT in Room 10-250.

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 and games (2 startups); VR business applications (2 startups); AR/mixed reality applications and tools (2 startups); VR/VRWeb/360 development tech (3 startups); esports (2 startups); machine vision and deep learning (2 startups); and online games (2 startups).

“We are excited at the quality and breadth of startups that we have in our first batch,” says 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,” says Tuff Yen, president of Seraph Group and partner at Play Labs @ MIT. “This is history in the making.”

The startups in the first cohort include:

  • Coresights, which 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, which brings another dimension to enterprise and big data with 3-D 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: a company that aims at revolutionizing immersive storytelling. It is the first project by Empathy Box is Myth Machine, a first-person mystery-adventure set in the weird, magical world of tech startups.

  • Escape Labs, which uses innovative technology to create augmented reality and mixed reality (AR/MR) experiences for escape rooms, team-building exercises, and room-scale puzzles. The startup's goal is to transform the ordinary physical space into a high-quality 4-D experience using holographic content.

  • Esports One, 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, which 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, which offers virtual reality diversity training to companies that are looking for fresh, research-driven approaches to improving company culture. The startup's game simulations help employees build empathy and communication skills through practice and feedback from peers.

  • RidgeLine, which creates RoVR, the first realistic VR dog simulator that allows players to give tummy rubs to, dress up, and take care of a virtual best canine friend.

  • SavvyStat, specializing in deep learning and predictive tools and dashboards for managing virtual economies and virtual goods.

  • Team Future, which creates Black Hat Cooperative, an award-winning stealth game that pits a player and an ally against robot agents that seek to remove the player from the system.

  • Total Respawn, which creates real-life shooter games for action sports arenas with augmented reality. The startup's product lineup aims to feature experiences from shooting one's way out of a zombie apocalypse to a military-themed "laser tag on steroids."

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

The Play Labs @ MIT demo session will be open to investors, members of the MIT community, and the general public. In addition to the physical event, the session, beginning at 6 p.m. on Aug. 15, will be streamed live via

Play Labs is an incubator/accelerator at MIT that invests and mentors startups utilizing playful technology in a variety of industries. Play Labs is run by by Bayview Labs and its executive director, Rizwan Virk '92, a Silicon Valley angel investor, advisor, and mentor, in conjunction with the Seraph Group, a seed-stage venture capital investment firm founded by Tuff Yen.

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; the Education Arcade; the Imagination, Computation, and Expression Laboratory; the Trope Tank; the Creative Communities Initiative; and the Open Documentary Lab.

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