The Meaning and Promise of CoMotion Labs

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Last night UW’s CoMotion Labs threw open its doors and invited the public to see what we’re all working on in this VR/AR startup incubator, or, as I like to think of it, mad scientists’ clubhouse. The joint was packed to the gills with immersive tech folks, potential investors, and folks curious about the potential of virtual reality. I had illuminating conversations with Greg Howes, Eugene Capon, Rachel Umorren, Simon Manning, Caitlin Esworthy, Jean-Pierre Chery, and others that affirmed my belief that this industry is full of brilliant adventurers. Ryan Smith and Victor Brodin of Invrse demoed The Nest in one corner, while on the other side of the floor Scobot treated attendees to his immersive artscapes. The mixed reality station had a line of guests eager to slip on the Vive. All in all, a successful party.

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These fellows are sniping at each other in The Nest

CoMotion Labs is an experiment, a leap of faith, and a dream saturated in brand-new technology. What’s happening here is new and special, and a big standing ovation is in order for Elizabeth Scallon, the tireless visionary who has brought this place to life. It’s thanks to Elizabeth’s tenacity that we have the mixed reality lab and connections to bigger industry players. How this lady gets it all done is beyond me.

Places like CoMotion Labs are important because we need spaces for immersive tech that are neither cloistered academic labs nor NDA-fortified tech startups. CoMotion Labs is already serving as a third kind of place where people and their ideas can mix and influence each other. The most innovative companies in the world understand that mixing and allowing people to bump into each other is vital for fostering innovation. Some companies, like Bell Labs and Pixar, deliberately designed their work spaces to force employees to serendipitously run into one another. CoMotion Labs, by creating a space where startups can become interdependent, then offering the community at large a venue to mingle with them, is already proving its worth.

As a member of Generation X, I have a cynicism muscle in my brain that starts twitching when I start gushing, so let me temper this blanket praise by saying that the cell reception really does suck in this building.