A multimillion-pound investment in the development of immersive technologies such as virtual reality will bring new performing arts experiences to audiences around the world.
i2 media research, based at Goldsmiths, University of London, is among cultural industry specialists pooling their expertise to shape the future of drama, music, dance and visual arts.
They are a member of a group of institutions led by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) undertaking a £6m collaborative research and development project, with £4m of funding awarded from UK Research and Innovation’s ‘Audience of the Future’ demonstrators programme.
The aim is for audiences to no longer be bound by their location. Using devices such as mobile phones and extended reality headsets to stream live performance, they will be able to enjoy performing arts in new and exciting ways, wherever they are in the world.
The group will work together over the next two years to explore what it means to perform live using emerging technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.
The first year of work will focus on research and development, with the intention of delivering an immersive live show on multiple platforms in 2020.
i2 media is recognised worldwide for its methodologies to evaluate immersive user experience and audience impact. The consultancy has worked with high-profile private and public sector clients since 2002, completing over 250 commissions in the commercial public and third space sectors.
Working with consortium partners, they will deliver insights into audience perceptions and behaviours, influencing the research and development of new technologies by other specialist organisations.
Jonathan Freeman, found of i2 media research and Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths said: “This is the most exciting collaboration i2 media research has been involved in yet. We have been researching how audiences experience immersive content since 1996, and it is fantastic to have the opportunity to share our skills, experience and methods in this demonstrator project.
“We’ll be working in a close team with some of the most amazing innovators in the creative and cultural space to bring transformative experiences of live performance to both established and new audiences.”
Led by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the consortium are: De Montfort University, Epic Games, i2 media research limited, Intel, Magic Leap, Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Nesta, Phi Centre, Philharmonia Orchestra, Punchdrunk, University of Portsmouth, The Space.
A total of £18m will fund four Audience of the Future demonstrator projects under the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation. It was announced by the government in March 2018.