Looking to boost AR and VR technology, University of Washington establishes center in Seattle


The University of Washington, hoping to get ahead in the burgeoning field of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), has launched the UW Reality Lab, a center for research, education and innovation in AR and VR.

Tech companies Facebook, Google and Huawei each contributed $2 million to the UW Reality Lab, located in the university’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

One of the first research centers in the world built for AR and VR projects, the UW Reality Lab is also located in Seattle — a hotspot for technology companies, from behemoths like Amazon and Microsoft to startups still trying to get off the ground.

The ultimate goal of the lab is to be the place where innovative students and professors come to develop the next big thing — specifically, the next big thing in augmented or virtual reality.

“Through our partnership with Facebook, Google, and Huawei, the Allen School and UW will be at the forefront of the next great wave of AR and VR innovation — pursuing breakthrough research and educating the next generation of innovators in this exciting and rapidly expanding field,” said Hank Levy, director of the Allen School, in a statement.

Allen School faculty members and UW Reality Lab advisers hope the new center will push AR and VR applications beyond games and entertainment. They hope it can be used to facilitate more sophisticated experiences, such as learning another language or improving remote communications.

“We’re seeing some really compelling and high-quality AR and VR experiences being built today,” Steve Seitz, center co-lead and Allen School professor, said in the university’s statement. “But, there are still many core research advances needed to move the industry forward — tools for easily creating content, infrastructure solutions for streaming 3D video, and privacy and security safeguards — that university researchers are uniquely positioned to tackle.”

The lab will primarily serve faculty, graduate students and undergraduates who work in computer science, graphics, privacy and security and other related fields.