VR/AR Will Grow Up in New York
Why NYC is the Best Place to Build an Immersive Reality Company (Written By Matthew Busel)
In the current startup atmosphere it is very common to hear that tech companies should be started in Silicon Valley. The accepted thinking is that the talent ecosystem already in place creates a particular advantage for new startups. At The Glimpse Group, we understand that San Francisco is a special city, and for many, the right place to start a business, but when it comes to virtual and augmented reality, there are unique characteristics that shift the balance of power outward to cities like New York.
This statement would not be true for all new technologies, but VR/AR possess certain traits that make this unlike any previous technological advancement. First of all, virtual and augmented reality are unique in that they can be applied to literally any industry. Each technology is still in its infancy and yet we’ve already seen companies ranging from AR for restaurants to VR for therapy to AR for greeting cards. You can even check out lists like Sarah Downey’s “Gigantic List of Augmented Reality Use Cases” which has over 100 examples of ways to use AR. The diversity of potential use cases for VR/AR is what makes these new developments so incredibly powerful.
Second of all, unlike the personal computer or the smartphone, virtual and augmented reality are immersive. These technologies bring you into entirely new worlds eliciting legitimate physical reactions in your body. For example, at The Glimpse Group we’ve created a VR demo where users are tasked with walking across a bridge suspended 200 feet in the air. When people try the demo, many are physically too afraid to take a single step despite knowing mentally that they are actually in our office. The immersive nature of VR/AR is incredibly unique to the medium.
This combination of wide ranging use and immersive experience results in an interesting dynamic. Across a number of industries, people will be donning headsets in order to enter entirely new worlds. Ultimately, it will be the companies that can create the most enticing new worlds for users that will succeed. But who will be the ones that create the best of these immersive experiences? Because VR/AR content is so inextricably linked to experience, the creation of relatable content will require not only technological aptitude, but industry knowledge and expertise.
No it won’t be the lone computer programmer that creates the fashion runway of the future, but the combination of fashion experts, artists, and technologists that understand what the best experience entails. Fashion is just one example, but no matter the industry, New York has a level of knowledge unlike any other city. Think about real estate, retail, marketing, finance, entertainment, architecture… the list goes on and on. We cannot predict exactly how, but we can guarantee that every single one of these industries will be impacted by immersive computing. If you are building virtual or augmented reality, it only makes sense to build where you are surrounded by experts in any number of fields.
Undoubtedly we are in the very early stages and with these pioneering days comes a high degree of uncertainty. In this uncertain environment where pivots will be common, a startup needs to do everything it can to increase its likelihood of success. For VR/AR startups, that means surrounding yourself with both a diverse set of ideas and a group of experts in specific domains. New York has a foothold in almost every industry (events, medical, design, etc.) and a population 10x the size of San Francisco. It’s the only place in the world with such diversity of ideas and perspective.
As we’ve invested in our own New York grown VR/AR companies, we’ve been amazed by how quickly the community has grown with us. According to meetup.com, 2 of the top 3 VR meetups take place in New York and recently the local government agreed to invest $6 million in a new VR/AR lab for the city. We’ve even seen VR arcades like VR World and Jump Into the Light pop up around town. Just like so many other industries, there’s now a burgeoning scene in New York that’s excited about immersive reality.
It is an exciting time in our field and we are all just beginning to discover the immense capability that these technologies hold. As we move forward, we see New York and it’s entrepreneurs leading the way for the industry. It is the confluence of creators, designers, investors, developers, and industry experts that makes New York so unique. This fusion of talent is at the heart of Glimpse Group, and a specific advantage we believe we share with the city. Ultimately many of the headset makers like Apple and Facebook may be in San Francisco, but the winners in retail, entertainment, fashion, finance… will be here in New York.