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draws on rich technology and professional resources to meet its ambitious goals. Since its inception in 2013, one of the MAGIC Center’s key goals has been to create an environment that promotes digital media innovation. With the only rule being that you are not allowed to keep others from using any of the MAGIC Center’s resources, developers are encouraged to push boundaries and experiment freely with the amazing array of technology at the center. To characterize the availability of ample high-end resources and the opportunity to collaborate with other talented developers, center staff and students coined the term “geek heaven.” As Egert put it, “Each day, I am working at the intersection of technical challenges in games and digital media and exploring new ways that we work and communicate with each other.”
The MAGIC Center’s technology resources are plentiful and the most current available. Andrew Phelps, founder and director of the MAGIC Center and MAGIC Spell Studios, said, “We try to get everything that we can — everything cutting-edge — and put it all in the same place to create density and encourage collaboration.” Besides the scores of equipment and software resources, MAGIC Center spaces include a sound stage, a movie theater, a VR lab, games labs, animation classrooms, incubation space, collaborative partner spaces and more. Phelps describes the spaces as “overlapping” — deliberately designed, both in physical and technology attributes, for the mingling and
“The studio serves as a way to help ... move ideas from prototype through commercial production, while at the same time working to support the educational goals, creativity and entrepreneurial potential of each student.” — Christopher Egert, RIT
converging of developers and projects. Phelps likes to “step back and see what happens”: The entire facility is built on the concept of “engineering the happy accident.”
The MAGIC Center’s success is reflected in its rapid growth, particularly the groundbreaking in 2016 for a new building that, after its opening in 2018, will house MAGIC Spell Studios along with the wealth of the MAGIC Center’s expanding technology and development resources. Another sign of success is the increasing support that has come from the university, industry and the State of New York. Major industry partners include Dell, Cisco and the VR First initiative. In addition, the center has long-standing relationships with Adobe, Autodesk, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Valve. Substantial funding has come from the State of New York, an investment intended to boost regional economic development and encourage entrepreneurs to keep their startup ventures in the state.
An important feature of MAGIC Spell Studios is that it models the digital publishing world, helping students and faculty to get their innovations into circulation — something
that doesn’t come easily to most developers, especially with their first product.
Egert articulated the ongoing plan behind MAGIC: “My vision for MAGIC Spell Studios is that it serves to provide a connection between startup culture, commercial publishing and academic research — to help foster economic growth locally in the Rochester, NY region and New York State, and to serve as an international research center of best practice in the field.”
Meg Lloyd is a freelance writer based in Northern California.
For more on the MAGIC Spell Studios, check out “MAGIC at RIT: Engineering the ‘Happy Accident,’” an in-depth interview with RIT’s Andy Phelps, and the follow-up story “Doing the New: A Student Experience That’s More than Just Hands-On.”
CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | January/February 2018

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