DART 17: a test laboratory for interactive experiences, objects, and tools in San Francisco

Interactive technologies are leading the growth of the creative economy. But the best ideas don’t always have a clear path to bring those ideas to market. While universities and art colleges encourage creative projects, few teach the entrepreneurial skills that help brilliant ideas become sustainable.

Now, projects in design, art, research and technology with an entrepreneurial spirit can bring their interactive projects to DART 17, a new incubation program taking place at swissnex San Francisco with support from Swisscom, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, and the Engagement Migros development fund.

Seeking creative projects across disciplines

In a tailormade program, participants test and develop prototypes in areas ranging from virtual and augmented reality to games, smart objects, and more. DART 17 (the acronym stands for Design, Art, Research, Technology) is seeking creative projects that push the boundaries of interaction and connects them to the right resources in Silicon Valley.

Startup funding may be thought to come only from tech companies with an appetite for fast commercialization. That may not feel like the right environment for everyone with a radical idea. That’s why DART 17 is specifically looking for creative minds who push the boundaries of a new medium: because even the best technologies are empty without the ideas that bring them to life.

DART 17 offers the opportunity for participants to explore new ideas during one-to-three month periods in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

A tailormade program

Birdly NightLife

Birdly uses virtual reality and other immersive technology to simulate the experience of bird-like flight. 

Each project will enter into a customized program, said Arijana Walcott of Swisscom, a co-founder of DART 17. That program includes training, mentoring, coaching, workshops, and a grant of $5,000 (USD).

“In addition, matchmaking and profile-enhancing events are also organized in the US,” she said. “DART 17 offers participants the ideal conditions in which to successfully develop their projects.”

Artists will work in the heart of the international market. They will be given time and space to develop their prototypes as they receive direct feedback and expand their network with representatives from technology companies, fellow creatives, and investors.

“When designers, artists, researchers and technology specialists come together in an open setting, new ideas and innovations are born,” said Sophie Lamparter of swissnex San Francisco, a Co-founder of DART 17. “Switzerland in particular has enormous creative potential.”

Lamparter pointed to the success of projects and startups such as the virtual reality bird simulator, Birdly, by Somniacs. Other successes include the facial recognition technology ‘Faceshift’ that was acquired by Apple, and MindMaze, a medical tech start-up that combined EEG and virtual reality. MindMaze recently became Switzerland’s first “unicorn” startup, valued at over $1 billion USD.

The heart of Silicon Valley

Pier 17

Pier 17 in San Francisco.

The experience of working in San Francisco was essential to the project, according to interaction designer and Somniacs founder Max Rheiner.

“To show the first prototype of Birdly in San Francisco two years ago had a huge impact. The media attention and positive feedback from VR industry leaders like Google, Oculus and HTC Vive motivated us to create our start-up, Somniacs around it. Such a rapid testing would not have been possible in Switzerland.’’

That’s the kind of feedback that inspires Sylvain Gardel, the head of Impulse Programmes at the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia.

“Thanks to the San Francisco location, the projects not only gained visibility, most also only realized their enormous potential here on the US west coast,” he said. DART 17 and the partnerships supporting it, he says, “are continuing to pursue the same strategy that has helped write some of the greatest success stories of young Swiss creatives looking to make their mark on the future of digital technologies and immersive media.”

DART 17 is located on Pier 17 in the brand new swissnex building on the San Francisco waterfront. It shares space with Swiss tech startups, companies such as Nestle, Swisscom, SwissRe and Logitech, and university representatives from ECAL, the University of Geneva, and Lausanne’s Ecole hôtelière.

Creatives with ideas and proposals can find an application form at the DART 17 website, dart17.com. It is open to anyone, regardless of their location or nationality. For more information, e-mail info@nulldart17.com

More information