Today saw the Digital Minister Margot James MP announce funding for the ‘Audience of the Future’ programme which sees millions of pounds to fund immersive tech demonstrators. Immersive technology (virtual, augmented and mixed reality) perfectly embodies the ‘Culture is Digital’ initiative and sits right in the sweet spot of stuff the UK leads the world at – tech, media, creative and culture. This is great news for the UK and we are naturally delighted the Government is funding these demonstrators and keeping the UK at the forefront of these key sectors.
The funding, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, aims to help storytellers, creatives and cultural institutions develop new immersive experiences across three areas; performance, sports entertainment (think e-sports), and visitor experience. Combining the tens of billions the creative industries are worth to the UK with the rapidly increasing immersive tech sector is vital if the UK wants to lead the world in entertainment and media. Immersive tech is forecasted to be worth over $100 billion dollars globally by 2023 and in the UK we have over 1000 firms working in this area, turning over £660 million in the process.
We’ve extolled the virtues of immersive tech in all sectors, and whilst the most compelling, transformative and valuable user cases will probably be in the enterprise and public sectors, the potential to change how we are entertained is massive. VR experiences can create new out-of-home paid for experiences which can reinvigorate the high street, they can inspire young people, engage people in their cultural heritage and more, as well as generate serious revenues in a challenging media landscape.
The Royal Shakespeare Company has been awarded funds to create new ‘performances’ not tied to a specific location and accessed via live-streams, mobiles and VR headsets. The RSC has done more than most to bring their performances to wider audiences, working with producers to bring Shakespeare on to TV and live performances into cinemas across the UK. Therefore, they are the right fit to bring Shakespeare to life in new ways.
In sports entertainment the funding will go on a new e-sports platform called WEAVR to transform how audiences watch and enjoy e-sports. E-sports (competitive computer gaming in front of an audience) enjoy an audience of hundreds of millions. This will soon be a billion-dollar industry, so it is great to see the UK funding a demonstrator to radically transform how viewers interact with this new entertainment platform.
Finally, cultural institutions and museums have a great track record of using tech to engage audiences, so developing VR and AR based experiences are a natural progression, which is why the Science and Natural History Museums got some money too. The Natural History Museum will bring dinosaurs to life and the Science Museum visitors will enjoy a mixed-reality detective experience with 3D scans of robots. These will then be packaged and sent to towns and cities across the UK so you don’t have be just in London to enjoy them. The developers Factory42 will lead the consortia to make this happen and we know from our VR conference last year they have a fantastic track record of working in this medium.
It is worth noting that these are all demonstrators and all will have had to show scalability to get funded. The user cases are all solid and the real benefits will be when the demonstrators can scale up and be rolled out nationwide and to as many people as possible. We’re excited to see what comes out of this and maybe will have to try some out when they are done!