European VR-AR coalition to form as Kaleidoscope releases new handbook

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A virtual and augmented reality coalition in Europe will explore new content and distribution platforms for immersive experiences, after Kaleidoscope and others shone a light on the impact of Covid-19 on creators

Quick read

➨ The European Commission has signed off on a plan to launch a virtual and augmented reality coalition
➨ The coalition will present a strategic paper by the end of this year
➨ Separately, Kaleidoscope is supporting its members with the launch of a new handbook that explores immersive production in the US and how French studios in particular might access that market

The story

When Covid-19 struck early last year, many of the virtual and augmented reality creators that Kaleidoscope works with were hit particularly hard. Without events and location-based entertainment, important income streams dried up, leaving them without a viable alternative.

In response, the European Commission has signed off on a plan to launch a virtual and augmented reality coalition to explore alternatives and meet an increasing demand for content, particularly among certain enterprise customers.

It is hoped the coalition will overcome what is currently a fragmented European virtual and augmented reality industry by bringing together technology providers and creatives in a bid to set up new content and distribution platforms for immersive experiences, and supply enterprise customers whose interest is fuelling demand.

The coalition’s creation forms part of the European Commission’s action plan to support recovery and transformation within the EU’s media sector over the next decade.

Kaleidoscope, an immersive production studio headquartered in the US with a base in France, wrote to the European Commission last year in support of creating financing programmes and schemes that would stimulate a cross-sectoral collaboration between virtual and augmented reality and other industries and sectors.

Kaleidoscope, which also supports independent virtual reality studios and creators through fundraising, curation, programming and other activities, saw its network of members lose valuable sources of income following the outbreak of Covid-19, most notably due to event closures, budget cuts and suspension of all location-based entertainment.

“Demand for XR content is growing,” according to Kaleidoscope, but it “is not always followed by systemic financial investments or expanded content commissions”. This situation requires work to understand and long-term solutions to address the needs of creators.

Kaleidoscope also pointed out that it’s not just “creative sectors that are in need of new types of content and distribution platforms”. Education, professional training, fashion and tourism are also “looking for ways to creatively respond to the challenges of the so-called new normal”.

The European Commission plans to set up a coalition this year that reflects a diversity of skills and consists of prominent players of various sectors, ranging from content production and distribution, to the availability of technology, as well as innovation and business development.

The coalition will present a strategic paper by the end of this year setting out the extent to which virtual and augmented reality are deployed in the media sector, objectives for optimum deployment by 2026, and concrete commitments on how the industry will contribute to meet these objectives.

A virtual reality media lab will also be launched to support creative cooperation on funded projects for new ways of storytelling and interacting, through virtual and augmented reality.

Release of FR//XR: A Handbook For Immersive Producers

Kaleidoscope, meanwhile, is continuing to support its members with the launch of a new handbook tomorrow that explores immersive content production in the US and how French studios in particular might access that market.

French Immersion, an organisation made up of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the USA, the FACE Foundation, the CNC, UniFrance, and the Institut Français, tasked Kaleidoscope with conducting a 10-month study on how to fund and distribute immersive works. 

The results of that study are contained in the handbook. They include:

‣ An overview of the virtual reality market in the US, and some of the changes brought by Covid-19.

‣ An analysis of business models for immersive media with a focus on funding and other forms of support provided by platforms, technology and telecommunications companies, as well as online and location-based distribution possibilities.

‣ Practical recommendations for how to expand to the US market.

‣ Interviews with 12 industry leaders representing Tribeca Film Festival, Epic Games, Hewlett-Packard, HTC Vive, Microsoft, Unity, French immersive studios, and many more.

‣ A useful map of key actors in the North American XR industry.

The free-to-attend event will introduce the handbook to attendees and provide an opportunity to network with prominent French studios.

Speakers and presenters include René Pinnell, chief executive officer of Kaleidoscope, as well as Gaëtan Bruel, cultural counselor and permanent representative of French universities in the US, and Ana Brzezińska, curator and producer at Kaleidoscope.

René Pinnell, chief executive officer of Kaleidoscope
Ana Brzezińska, curator and producer at Kaleidoscope

Industry experts who were interviewed for the handbook will also be present, including Jimmy Cheng, director of content at Digital Domain; Chloé Jarry, chief executive officer of Lucid Realities; and Amy Zimmerman, the lead and co-founder of the Unity for Humanity Program at Unity Technologies.

Visit the event page to find out more. It starts at 12.30pm ET and will be held online.

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