DURHAM – A partnership between Dell and the Durham-based tech startups Lucid Dream, and Momentum Learning that created a virtual and augmented reality laboratory in American Underground’s original space in Durham, came about by lucky chance.

Gary Radburn, director of VR and AR for Dell, was giving a keynote speech at a VR conference in the United Kingdom that executives from Lucid Dream attended. Lucid Dream iis a software company building VR and AR solutions for enterprise clients. Following the talk, Radburn said, the Lucid Dream crew approached him with the idea of doing something so people in their community could learn VR, and asked if he’d ever heard of Durham, NC.

“It’s right down the road from where I am in North Raleigh,” Radburn told them.

                                                                                                                  Gary Radburn

That serendipitous meeting led to Dell partnering with Lucid Dream to set up eight precision VR workstations in a Durham lab across from the Momentum Learning and Lucid Dream offices in the American Underground Strickland Building site at the American Tobacco Campus. Momentum formally announced its launch Thursday night.

“The stars aligned,” Radburn said. “Everything came together and we were able to make it happen.”

“I think the Dell partnership is important,” said Adam Klein, director of strategy for Capitol Broadcasting, which recently invested in Momentum and founded the American Underground campuses. Capitol Broadcasting owns WRAL and WRAL Techwire. “Think about where the future is going,” he said. “VR technology is next.”

He added that it can be difficult to get access to the high end version of VR and AR the sophisticated Dell workstations provide. “It’s about getting people access to tools and technology so they can create actual software for these VR headsets and develop a career path.”

A woman tries out one of Dells VR workstations at American Underground during the Momentum Learning Launch party.

The program is part of Dell’s “VR for Good,” campaign. So far, that has includes sponsoring explorer Mike Libecki’s series on the plight of polar bears, and using Dell VR-ready PCs to revolutionize rehabilitation practices for soldiers suffering from PTSD, patients that are post stroke or recovering from traumatic brain injury, and for prosthetic use training. It is also involved in other VR learning programs.

“VR isn’t all about shooting aliens or killing zombies,” Radburn said. “We’re trying to make a difference in communities.