UK government backs immersive technology with £18 million investment

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The UK government has awarded a total of £18 million in public and private funding to projects developing the next generation of immersive experiences and content.

The projects will use virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) to create cutting-edge immersive experiences that will be tested at scale on real audiences.

The projects are part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Audience of the Future programme, delivered through UK Research and Innovation, which is backed by a UK government commitment to increase funding in research and development by £4.7 billion over four years to strengthen science and business within the country.

Through this programme, the UK government is helping storytellers across the UK create engaging immersive experiences.

The demonstrator projects will develop immersive experiences in three areas: sports entertainment, performance and visitor experience.

Performance: The Royal Shakespeare Company will lead a consortium of 15 specialist organisations from the theatre, music, video production, gaming and research industries to create a live performance unbound by location. Audiences will use mobile phones, extended reality headsets and live streams to experience live performance like never before.

Visitor experience: Factory 42’s consortium will create two multi-sensory, interactive worlds in London’s Natural History Museum and Science Museum. At the Science Museum, visitors will take part in a (MR) detective experience featuring high-resolution three-dimensional scans of robots. The Natural History Museum will bring dinosaurs to life through the story of a palaeontologist’s discoveries. Shorter versions of both experiences will tour shopping centres across the UK.

Sport entertainment: This project will create new esports platform called WEAVR that uses gameplay data to transform how remote audiences experience first esports, and further down the line, physical sports. WEAVR will be developed by a consortium that includes ESL, the largest esports content producer in the world, as well as academics and innovators across immersive technologies, data-driven content production and broadcast.

UK minister for digital and the creative industries Margot James said: ““The growth of immersive technology has the power to transform the way in which we watch theatre, play games or go to the cinema, and these new projects will demonstrate how we can take people closer than ever before to the live action.”

Chris Skidmore, the UK science and innovation minister, added: “We are now in a new era of how we consume entertainment, and these projects announced today could see us walking with dinosaurs and experiencing being in the stands of major football matches from our own living rooms.”

Professor Andrew Chitty, UK Research and Innovation’s challenge director for Audience of the Future, pinpointed immersive content as a global opportunity that the UK cannot ignore. He said: “The presence of international partners in these ground-breaking projects is a massive vote of confidence not only in UK research and innovation but in our creative companies who will ensure that the UK becomes a world-leading destination for immersive content production bringing the new jobs and investment that is central to the Industrial Strategy and the Creative Industries Sector Deal.”