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Today I am pleased to announce the XR Education Prize Challenge (“XR Edu”), an innovation competition funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the most promising companies innovating at the intersection of postsecondary education and virtual, augmented, or mixed reality (collectively, “XR”). XR Edu is part of the broader $1.5 million “Algorithm for Change: AI/ML & XR Access to Education” competition hosted by the NYU School of Entrepreneurship and Techstars, in partnership with University Ventures, Two Bit Circus and Women in XR.

Click here to apply to the XR Education Prize Challenge.

Teams participating in the XR Edu Challenge will compete for the following cash prizes:

1st Place: $250,000

2nd Place: $100,000

3rd Place: $30,000

Submissions will be judged by a panel of prominent leaders in XR, venture capital and higher education. The Top 8 Finalists will be invited to compete at the XR Education Summit live pitch event, hosted by Two Bit Circus in Los Angeles. Prize winners will also be considered for additional convertible note funding up to $150,000* from University Ventures, the leading venture capital firm focused on higher education. The purpose of the XR Education Summit is to facilitate engagement and collaboration among industry leaders in XR, higher education, and venture capital. Attendance is mandatory for finalists, and travel expenses will be covered by the program.

Applications will be open through June 1, 2018. For information on application instructions, eligibility and scoring criteria, please visit the XR Education Challenge webpage.

My ultimate objective in leading this Challenge is to catalyze innovative solutions to address unmet needs in higher education. Affordability, quality, accessibility, and graduate employability are some of the most significant challenges facing higher education today. These issues are magnified for students pursuing post-secondary education from low income, inner city and remote communities. I believe that XR technologies have the potential to address these challenges through cost reduction, digital delivery, and the experiential nature of XR.

I have spent the last year developing an investment thesis around human-machine interaction and the future of work. As automation, robotics and artificial intelligence have the potential to displace hundreds of millions of jobs over the next decade, now more than ever we need adaptive training methods to help people prepare for the new economy. XR offers compelling opportunity for last-mile training models that connect education to employment, and enable real-time skill development.

Examples of XR education solutions include VR learning simulations for medical, industrial and emergency responder applications. VR training for surgeons and first responders allow trainees to practice new skills outside of a high-risk, high-stakes real-world environment. AR and MR data visualizations and digital overlays provide pre-professional training tools across diverse industries including civil engineering and construction, manufacturing, automotive, and defense. Experiential learning such as VR foreign language immersion has the potential to accelerate conversational fluency. The examples described above are just a sampling of potential applications for XR education; I am eager to see what additional novel applications will emerge during the Challenge.

For more information on the XR Education Prize Challenge, please contact Lara Jeremko at lara.jeremko@techstars.com.

*Funding from University Ventures is not guaranteed and subject to mutually agreed-upon investment terms between University Ventures and Finalist company management.


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Lara Jeremko Lara Jeremko
Lara Jeremko is an Los Angeles-based investor and advisor for startups and venture capital funds. Lara is the Founder and Managing Partner of Beyond Ventures. She is also a Strategic Advisor at Techstars.