Pixel Perfect: A Photo Essay of What Working Is Like at IMDA’s Innovation Hub
By Jonathan Chew/ Tech in Asia
On top of cutting-edge facilities, Pixel provides other advantages such as business connections and consultations to help firms scale.
For a place called Pixel, it definitely doesn’t have a tiny vibe to it.
Black’s great for giving that “too cool for you” energy. / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
Located in the heart of the One-north district in Singapore, Pixel is an innovation hub developed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to encourage corporate innovation and help startups scale. It’s got everything that corporates dabbling in digital innovation and tech startups could want: a community event space, co-working facilities, AR and VR labs, UI and UX labs, recreational areas, and more.
Of course, facilities are but one part of the equation. If office areas were all startups wanted, any co-working space would do. Based on what I’ve heard, however, Pixel seems to be attractive to businesses for reasons beyond the physical.
As one of the leading launchpads for innovation in Southeast Asia, Pixel has a team to support the digital innovation efforts of large and small businesses through tailored consultations and networking opportunities, connecting startups’ solutions to corporates’ innovation needs.
To get a better picture of what Pixel does for the local tech community, I spent a full work day there.
Just need a recreation room and we’re all set. / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
Arriving early in the morning, I sneak a quick look into the main working area to see what it’s like. Everything from the color scheme to the chairs and desks are a far cry from the dull and dreary designs that are all too common in office setups.
It also reminds me of my university days, with different ideas being shared between people who are eager to learn from each other and have a high drive to succeed.
A shared love for tech
A shared love for tech
Today, I’m attending several sessions hosted by IMDA and Amazon Web Services (AWS) that provide insights on scaling in the software-as-a-service industry. Participants stream in early, and it’s not long before the room is filled with conversation.
Some seem like old friends, while I can tell that others have just met for the first time, judging from their boisterous introductions. Lots of handshakes go around, and everyone seems to have that glint in their eye from being part of something they’re passionate about.
Free workshops and classes? Sign me up. / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
“We hold regular events like this with big names such as AWS, Huawei, Meta, and Nvidia to create opportunities for our startups and corporates to exchange ideas and explore collaborations,” says Tang Kang Min, who manages startup programs with IMDA’s innovation team.
“By having mentors involved, together with Pixel’s programs, we also help our startups with things like market entry and product validation,” she adds.
Giving startups eVRything they need
After the sessions, Tang brings me around the Pixel facility, and one of the coolest places is a room that looks like it could’ve come out of some huge, multinational company’s innovation lab.
This is Pixel’s AR VR Lab.
Takes me back to my younger days playing around with the latest tech gadgets - and this employee from Visre is like a kid in a candy store / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
The main attraction is the corner filled with equipment related to augmented and virtual reality, and it definitely brings out the inner kid in me. Every corner had something different to try out.
I feel like John Wick choosing his weapons. / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
Of course, all these gadgets aren’t for fun and games. The equipment provides startups with the resources they need for research and development.
“For instance, they can try something like a Microsoft HoloLens or a Meta Quest Pro to see which ones would work best with their solutions,” Tang explains. “It helps defray the initial development expenses as it costs a lot to keep up with rapid product cycles. This also means they can divert their limited funds to more important areas.”
Stepping into a whole new world
We then move on to the prototyping lab, which reminds me of a workshop for rugged mechanics, although its gear and equipment consist of more than just simple tools.
It houses a contraption that is slightly bewildering at first. That said, once I understand what it’s for, I let out an audible: “Oh my god, that’s so cool.”
What an absolute beaut. / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
This is mGate Beta. It allows users to simulate an immersive metaverse experience with multi-sensory input, and the “floor” you see is actually an omnidirectional treadmill that allows users to “walk” freely - a full 360 degrees - in the virtual world. Testing it out made me feel like a Ready Player One future might not be too far away.
The company behind mGate Beta, StepVR, has been incubating at Pixel since earlier this year. Jim Jin, a partner at the firm, says that he’s happy with how the launchpad has provided much in the way of tools and technical support.
He’s also quick to point out that being able to work with Pixel itself has been one of the biggest boons for the company as it introduced StepVR to several business contacts.
“From a strategic point of view, having that Pixel branding and being backed by a government agency makes it easier to get the right connections and PR,” says Jin. “It reduces the need for us to put lots of extra effort into outreach, allowing us to focus on our product.”
Beyond the Tangible
As Jin highlighted, there’s much more to Pixel than just facilities and equipment, and StepVR isn’t the only startup that’s benefited from the launchpad’s resources and support.
One of the startups I have a quick chat with is InteractAI (previously known as MediVR), a local AI firm that’s developing solutions to help train doctors and nurses through AI-generated conversations.
When the InteractAI team first joined Pixel a year ago, the company was still at the pre-seed stage, recalls Tang. Since then, the resources and support provided by the launchpad and its team have paved the way for business opportunities that contributed to InteractAI’s growth.
“Pixel is very active in bringing in startups like us - as well as government bodies and corporates - together for sharing and networking,” says Jeremy Ong, COO of InteractAI. “For instance, we’ve connected with Meta and other corporates that are interested in our solutions. Pixel’s help is also one of the reasons why we’re currently partnered with Nvidia.”
According to Ong, InteractAI has been growing at a rapid pace since its tech was first deployed in local medical institutions and hospitals, and the company has since established itself as a trusted partner to train healthcare professionals.
Is 2D better than 3D? Why not both? / Photo credit: Tech in Asia
He adds that the workshops organized by Pixel and its consultants give startups valuable insights. For instance, tech firms can get advice in areas like UI and UX design or learn about legal considerations for businesses. These workshops are all free for everyone - and we all know Singaporeans love free stuff.
Additionally, programs like the Open Innovation Platform - which acts as a marketplace to match corporates’ innovation needs with startups - give firms such as InteractAI opportunities to work with established companies, which lets them validate existing solutions and further develop or expand existing ones.
“It gives us a chance to look out for potential use cases for large companies that align with our current lineup of products,” Ong points out.
As the work day comes to a close, instead of feeling worn out, I feel the opposite. It’s refreshing to have been part of a vibrant experience and environment, and I’m left feeling hopeful for all the startups that I met.
“We’re here to help corporates and startups accelerate their innovation journeys,” says Tang. “That is always going to be what our Pixel innovation team is for.”
And who knows, maybe Pixel could help a well-loved corporate brand take itself to the next level or, better yet, have a hand in developing the next great B2B unicorn.
IMDA Pixel is a place where both startups and corporates can come together to build the next generation of cutting-edge products. It provides facilities as well as support and resources for firms. If you’re a startup that’s looking for a place to call home, click here to get in touch with Pixel.