These Are the Latest Startups From MIT Play Labs

Last week saw the debut of the Play Labs demo event, which marked the inauguration of a new summer accelerator from MIT Game Lab. The Play Labs accelerator is dedicated to “playful” technology, and it’s cohort of 13 startups. The coolest tech of the day, in my opinion? AR paintball.

Here’s a look at what the startups do, and why MIT is taking the time to promote playing in an environment that so often promotes nothing but work.

Virtual Pets and Nausea-Reducing VR

Startups entered the accelerator in June, receiving an initial investment of $20,000 along with weekly mentorship. Post-graduation, they’re eligible for another $80,000.

“VR-focused startups presented prototypes for virtual pets, nausea-reducing games, novel social and strategy games, and even advanced corporate and fitness training applications. Other startups incorporated AR features into popular activities, such as escape games and paintballing. Still others brought new social features, advanced computer vision, and real-time data analysis to eSports, which is competitive online gaming complete with spectators and betting,” the MIT News Office reports.

The Full List

VRemedy Labs‘s VR nausea treatment helps users by allowing them to raise or lower settings for light, movement, speed, and acceleration.

Escape Labs develops holographic AR — think portals or creatures — that players can interact with in physical escape rooms.

Total Respawn “creates real-life AR first-person shooter games for action sports arenas.”

Coresights “combines virtual and AR technologies with biometric wearables to improve corporate and wellness training.”

Minda Labs has a VR simulated scenarios designed to build empathy and communication skills in diversity training.

Datavized creates immersive “VR 3-D visualizations of data” to improve decision-making ability.

RidgeLine Labs is behind RoVR, a VR dog simulator.

Hidden Switch is an MIT Media Lab spinout “developing a feature that lets eSports community members connect with some of the biggest eSports stars”

Empathy Box is creating a “first-person, mystery-adventure game set in a magical world of tech startups”

Team Future is the company behind Black Hat Cooperative, “an award-winning stealth game that pits a player and an ally against robot agents trying to remove players from the game.”

Wonda VR: “developing intuitive tools to turn 360-degree videos into engaging VR experiences with a drag-and-drop interface and one-click publishing.”

Esports One: developing “advanced computer vision and real-time data analysis platform for eSports to help players get immediate information for betting.”

SavvyStat: “developing deep learning and predictive tools for managing virtual economies and virtual goods in games.”

Why So Serious?

Video game entrepreneur Rizwan Virk, executive director and cofounder of Play Labs, took the stage at the demo day to present a few opening remarks in which he noted the importance of video game technologies in computer science. He also tied early AI development to playing chess, mentioned chatbots’ roots in text-based adventure games, and highlighted VR’s history with first-person shooter video games.

“Most technologies we use have some root in games,” Virk says.

If the promising cohort from the first Play Labs class can make good in their innovations, we’ll see plenty more technologies with gaming roots in the future.

Read more about startups emerging out of Massachusetts at TechCo

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Adam is a writer at and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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