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CreativeXR announce funding for four unique cultural experiences using immersive technology

Posted 7 Jul 2020

Digital Catapult and Arts Council England have announced further funding for four projects as part of the 2019 CreativeXR programme, which supports the creation of new cultural experiences using immersive technology.

The four projects will receive a total of £312,000 from CreativeXR to further develop their virtual reality and audio experiences. They are also being generously supported by Oculus and Epic Games (via Epic MegaGrants), helping to realise the programme’s ambition to grow the UK’s capability in immersive technology, an industry forecast to reach US$160 billion in worldwide spending in 2023.

The additional funding will allow the experiences, which were revealed in prototype form at the CreativeXR Showcase last October, to become market ready, making these unique cultural experiences available to the UK public over the coming year. The funded projects are:

DAZZLE by Gibson/Martelli and Peut-Porter, a performance piece combining dance with dazzling optical illusions. It recreates the optimistic, rebellious spirit of the 1919 Chelsea Arts Club ‘Dazzle Ball’ at the Royal Albert Hall featuring eye-catching costumes inspired by WW1 naval camouflage. The VR experience invites five audience members to dance with two performers as they shift between choreography and live improvisation. In the world of the virtual ball, dancing avatars meet against a backdrop of striking black and white visual environments. To enhance the experience, the audience wears bespoke dazzle costumes with their VR backpack, complimenting the dancers’ specially designed motion-capture suits. Whilst the original ‘Dazzle Ball’ reflected the popularity of futurism and Dadaism, DAZZLE captures our post-internet, post-truth society and tests the boundaries of interactive performance. DAZZLE is supported by Innovate/UKRI.

Eulogy by Darkfield, a multisensory theatre production exploring the act of conscious dreaming. Sat in total darkness, each audience member experiences the feeling of being wheeled around a hotel dreamscape in a laundry trolley. In addition to delivering binaural sound, their headphones are fitted with speech recognition technology allowing them to interact with their ‘guide’ as they transport them deeper into the hotel and their own unique dream. Unlike Darkfield’s previous productions set in shipping containers, Eulogy can be presented in indoor spaces, offering a new way for cultural venues to deliver theatrical experiences in light of coronavirus restrictions. Eulogy is supported by Realscape Productions and Sennheiser.

Goliath by Anagram, an animated VR experience based on the real-life story of Jon – a man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who found a lifeline in online multiplayer gaming following a decade in psychiatric institutions. Guided by Jon’s narration through interactive sequences, the audience navigates the different layers of his real and virtual worlds and experiences the camaraderie he found in the gaming community. VR offers the perfect medium to explore the blurred boundary between the real and the unreal of psychosis, and the relationship between an individual and their avatar. As we adjust to a new social reality post-Covid, Goliath presents an uplifting look at overcoming isolation through online connection. Goliath is supported by Oculus and other funders.

Madrid Noir by No Ghost & Atlas V is an interactive virtual reality narrative which follows Lola as she investigates the unsolved mysteries of her estranged uncle Manolo. Viewers are transported to the bustling streets of 1930’s Madrid through charming animated sequences, with interactive elements drawing them further into the story of Manolo’s cold cases. A love letter to the noir genre and the Spanish city, the episodic tale immerses the audience in the characters’ distinctive world. Madrid Noir is supported by Oculus, CNC, and is an Epic MegaGrants recipient.

Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, said: “With so many innovative prototypes developed during CreativeXR’s 2019 programme, it was a difficult task to select just four projects to receive further funding to help reach their full potential.

The sheer variety of these utterly captivating prototypes – a multisensory experience in total darkness; a performance piece capturing the heady days of the early twentieth century; a tale of one man’s struggle with his mental health and a love letter to noir storytelling – is not only a clear demonstration of the UK’s innate ability to craft rich stories, it’s an inspiring look at the future landscape of UK cultural experiences.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial we continue to support cutting edge projects in their early phases of development in order to fulfil their immense promise, benefitting both the audience and the UK’s creative sector at large.”

Francis Runacres, Executive Director of Enterprise and Innovation at Arts Council England, said: “We were delighted by the levels of quality and innovation displayed by the teams in CreativeXR 2019. These four projects demonstrate the huge breadth of cultural experiences made possible by the convergence of art and immersive technology, and we look forward to seeing how the teams develop these new forms of creativity further in the next phase of the programme.”