As people started to arrive for Maryland Day on Saturday morning, state and university officials held a ceremony to virtually break ground on a new computer science building aimed at enhancing innovation and research.
The Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, which will be located at Route 1 and Campus Drive, will support research in topics including: virtual and augmented reality, robotics, artificial intelligence and computer vision.
“When historians in the future look back and say ‘when was the start of College Park and the University of Maryland as the Silicon Valley of the state of Maryland?’, they will point to Maryland Day 2016,” university President Wallace Loh said at the ceremony. “This is utterly transformative for this university.”
Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR, a virtual reality company, donated $31 million to build the center and create a scholarship in his name. Iribe also led the “virtual” groundbreaking as some people in attendance wore Oculus VR glasses and saw as Iribe, with a virtual shovel, broke ground at the site of the virtual Iribe center.
After Iribe’s donation began an there was an 18-month process to design the center, said Peter Weiler, vice president of university relations.
“It was almost two years ago today that Brendan Iribe exited the A.V. Williams Building and suggested ‘you people need a new building [for computer science],'” Weiler said during the ceremony.
The 215,600 square foot center is expected to open in 2018 and will have 13 computer labs, eight collaborative classrooms, five seminar rooms and 785 seats of instructional space. There will also be 20,000 square feet of community space for students to study, talk and hang out. There will also be 5,300 square feet of makerspace, where students can gather to create new technologies. Other features include virtual and augmented reality labs as well as a motion capture lab where athletes can record and perfect their movements.
The building will also have a 300-seat ground-level auditorium named after Michael Antonov, an Oculus co-founder who donated $4 million in addition to Iribe’s $31 million for the project. The auditorium will host conferences and lectures.
The state has also given $104 million to this project.
“With the addition of the Brendan Iribe Center, the University of Maryland will continue to push boundaries, continue to develop fearless ideas and continue to achieve significant breakthroughs … finally, the things we thought we’d only see in movies are becoming a reality right here in College Park,” Gov. Larry Hogan said during the meeting.
Iribe also announced the building’s rooftop garden will be named Reisse Park, in honor of Andrew Reisse, another co-founder of Oculus, who died in 2013; the garden will include natural water features, Iribe said during the ceremony.
Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. Iribe, Antonov and Reisse met in Denton Hall as freshmen at this university and worked on various projects together; they later created the virtual reality program.
“When I look back, I think about College Park as really the beginning of this career in computer science,” Iribe said. “These two buildings — not just the Iribe Center but also the Antonov Auditorium – symbolize this partnership and friendship that we formed at College Park.”