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Creative industries and 5G: New ways to create. New ways to engage.

Posted 11 Feb 2021

The need for audience interaction within the creative industries’ is increasing at scale and has grown in direct correlation with the evolution of digital technology. With the launch of 5G technology, that ability to engage will soon become greater by an order of magnitude.

To understand the potential impact of 5G on existing creative technology, cast your mind back to the introduction of home broadband. Twenty years ago, households switched from dial-up modems and speeds increased a hundred-fold to transform our experience of the internet. The switch from 4G to 5G will change our daily experiences just as dramatically – and in ways few will be able to predict.

New wireless technology will soon be capable of speeds a hundred times greater than today, able to reliably connect up to one million mobile users per square kilometre with almost no latency at all.

Unlimited creative potential

Technology like 5G will transform innovation in industries such as TV, film, music, advertising, theatre, the arts, and digital. Not just in content production, but also across existing production, distribution and consumption models.

Consider the opportunities afforded by artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) driven immersive experiences. Together, they have the potential to allow huge crowds to share and interact with an immersive environment on an individual, personal level.

While these technologies aren’t new, they have previously relied on the user’s personal device to do the heavy lifting in terms of processing power. 5G technology allows this process to happen at the server level and beams it directly to tens of thousands of headsets simultaneously. Each user can then immerse themselves in their own version of the communal, shared experience.

In the visual arts, digital characters could exhibit realistic behaviour and hold conversations. Responses would be akin to real-time and would be accurate enough to elicit unprecedented reactions and emotional engagement. This new level of AR interactivity could transform advertising campaigns by offering real-time promotions that instantly react to user responses. Especially useful for engaging passengers as vehicles become autonomous. 5G also has the potential to change how our artistic work is made, seen and circulated. It will give artists and audiences a thrilling opportunity to engage with our rapidly changing world.

Important first steps

While its true capabilities are not yet fully realised, Digital Catapult is already helping the UK’s creative industries to develop and understand ways of applying 5G to new and existing applications.

Together with Arts Council England, we created CreativeXR, a programme to help companies quickly experiment, iterate and bring immersive projects to reality, often combined with other technologies. As well as £20,000 prototype funding, the programme includes mentoring, workshops and introductions to top commissioners, immersive industry leaders and financiers.

In 2019, we partnered with Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival to create one of the first large-scale performance, arts and cultural venues equipped with 5G technology anywhere in the UK. The project focused on developing new ideas for integrating the technology into performances, such as live streaming in high quality and real time, allowing audiences in multiple locations to interact with artists.

This is also a key part of the 5G Festival. Created by Digital Catapult and Telefonica to bring live festivals and music events to remote audiences, the project took on particular significance as the world locked down in 2020. It also won funding as one of six winners of 5G Create, the UK government’s competition that explored new uses of 5G technology.

And most recently, we joined with a consortium of broadcast and telecom partners to develop a platform to broadcast events in stadiums and other venues. Through collaborative viewing and interplay between venues during sporting events, fans will be able to immerse themselves in the excitement of the game. Both from their own home and in the stadium.

Where next for the creative industries and 5G?

5G technology is already being deployed worldwide. But really, the creative industry has only scratched the surface of a very deep well of potential. At Digital Catapult we are working with creative organisations to push the boundaries of 5G further with our Testbed Accelerator Programme.

The 20 week programme offers access to tools, specialist facilities and technical expertise. We created it to help participants find a competitive advantage, break down barriers to market and develop new 5G-enabled products and services.

Cohort company Mativision, has been working in the music industry delivering 360° content and immersive applications from live and recorded events for the last 10-15 years. As part of the programme it was able to harness the power of 5G to innovate even further. Moreover, Sceenic created the first Watch Together software solution to add value to fan engagement and keep the conversation within its customers’ platform. Many companies around the world are now implementing Sceenic Watch Together solution: BT Sport, Eurovision Song Contest, LaLiga among others. Using 5G, Sceenic was able to show how connectivity would be hugely improved, removing the limitations on audience size and enhancing video quality.

With 5G testbed facilities in both London and Brighton, cohorts can test and develop solutions on a live 5G network. They can also engage in challenge-led innovation programmes and are helped to identify opportunities to access public innovation funds.

To learn more about the programme, register your interest now. And to discover further innovation opportunities, sign up to our newsletter.