• Tuesday , 1 December 2020

We wait years for a new reality, and then three come along at once!

Vicki Dobbs Beck. Executive in Charge of ILMxLAB, and keynote speaker at Creative XR. It is her mission is to pioneer in the area of immersive storytelling. ILMxLAB wants to make it possible for people to, ‘Step Inside Our Stories.’ The division combines the storytelling and innovation talents of Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound and builds on a foundation of pioneering R&D in real-time computer graphics and virtual production

In case you were in any about the developing market fir augmented, virtual and missed realities, the proliferation of conferences and showcases on the technologies should soon put you right. In the last month, AV News has attended Digital Catapult’s CreativeXR showcase and next month its VR Days in Amsterdam.

With so much XR activity underway, a series of events are underway to provide developers with showcases to seek partnerships, venues and investors for XR experiences. The event host by Digital Catapult, CreativeXR, in London featured the next generation of immersive storytelling techniques, enabled by state-of-the-art digital technologies in art and entertainment.

Visitors to the showcase had the opportunity to preview prototypes from the most promising creative teams in the UK, all experimenting with immersive technologies to develop new theatrical, gaming and educational experiences. These were identified and developed through the CreativeXR programme, run by UK innovation centre Digital Catapult and Arts Council England.

Projects on show included:

• Flood by Megaverse – which uses VR to place participants into a city destroyed by a flood. As they explore the damage and hear from ghosts who endured the disaster, the rain pours down, and they’re brought back to the reality of a world on the knife edge of extreme conditions. Already a part of the National Youth Theatre, the interactive experience uses amazing imagery to tell a cautionary tale for our times.

• Under Attack by Also Known As – Under Attack invites audiences to step into the role of a journalist covering a street protest. The room-scale VR installation uses spatialised sound, smells and haptic feedback to enhance the sense of immersion and inspire participants to invest in protecting media freedoms.

• What is Normal? By Call & Response – an experience enabling audiences to ask and answer important questions by talking to people with learning disabilities and autism. Using life size screens, AI and natural language processing, this conversational experience creates new connections between diverse people.

• Now Was The Time by Imitating the Dog – is a mixed reality production that explores new, alternative versions of European history. The theatre show uses real time engines to project actors on a screen, overlaying them with a series of beautifully rendered environments as they enact the past, present and future.

• UnDust by Satore Tech – is made in conjunction with the English National Ballet and based on Akram Khan’s Dust. Audiences wear a Magic Leap headset to watch avatars made from traces of movement and light (Dust) perform scenes from Khan’s piece. The intention is to bring ballet to a different audience and to explore new ways of producing dance for those familiar with ballet.

Investment

Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme 2019 is aimed at the next generation of companies developing innovative, commercially focused applications for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Bringing together investors, commercial partners and early-stage companies, Augmentor is helping to accelerate UK investment in immersive technologies, boosting their development and adoption in multiple industries, and showcasing their potential to some of the UK’s leading investors.

The 10 cohort teams were selected from a shortlist of 20 teams following an extensive online application process and a pitch day that determined which 10 companies would join Augmentor.
Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult commented: “Augmented and virtual reality continue to offer exciting opportunities across a whole range of applications from high end automotive product design, to enhanced sports training visualisation, to new efficiencies in planning processes, to the quite remarkable precision remote control of flying robots.”

“There are companies developing all these applications in this year’s Augmentor cohort. The market is still developing more slowly than investors would like and for this reason, we are excited to continue to bring together a talented cohort of companies and an extraordinary group of mentors in this programme. It’s great to see previous alumni of the programme returning as mentors too.”

Now in its third year, this 12-week programme provides the successful teams with expert mentorship from partners and previous members of the programme who have gone on to secure funding and commercial partnerships, including masterclasses delivered by Digital Catapult and partners such as HoloMe, Realities Centre and Seed Legals. Alongside previous investor partners, this year Edge Investments, Remagine Ventures, MMC Ventures and ADV join Augmentor, bringing their expertise in creative industries as well as years of investing in tech.

In addition, the Augmentor cohort teams will have access to state-of-the-art immersive facilities including Digital Catapult’s UK-wide network of Immersive Labs and at University College London. The teams will also have the opportunity to work with Digital Catapult’s network of supporters, research groups and academic institutions, which includes University of Bristol, University of Edinburgh and more.

Selected teams

The ten teams selected this year are:

• Agile Datum – A data science company focused on improving the planning and housebuilding market.

• Also Known As – An immersive storytelling, research and design studio creating immersive training tools for people who work in high-risk jobs.

• Artificial Artists – A team of interactive and VFX specialists. It has developed a 3D animation platform that empowers artists to create quality 3D content for digital and immersive media.

• Extend Robotics – A robotic technology company. It is developing a drone flying platform with two robotic arms, which is guided by virtual reality technology over 5G to perform manipulation tasks remotely.

• Darf Design – An award-winning interactive design studio located in London. In 2018 it launched a mobile platform which allows users to share 3D content in the real-world using AR.

• Imaged Reality – A VR and AR startup which believes immersive technologies will transform training, knowledge and skill development across the Oil & Gas, mining, construction, engineering industries and universities.

• IN Reality – A software technology company, specialising in VR training systems for blue chip companies. It has a background in aerospace and now seek to enter the emerging sports VR market.

• Neuro Create – A start-up specialising in immersive interactive digital platforms including developing personalised immersive collaborators that spark creativity, enhance cognitive agility and lead to ‘Augmented Intelligence’ for users.

• M-XR – A start-up developing 3D capture technology which uses a custom engineered system and machine learning to measure and extract previously unattainable 3D information.

• Resus VR – A medical training start-up, which improves the decision making of healthcare professionals through exposure to VR simulations. It’s goal is to create the first ‘flight simulator for healthcare’.

From training for doctors and sportspeople, to ‘Augmented Intelligence’, and quick and easy ways to configure 3D content, the latest Augmentor cohort runs the gamut of exciting and innovative possibilities for immersive technologies, pushing at the boundaries of what is possible. Previous Augmentor participants include Gravity Sketch which created a tool that allows designers to collaborate and develop 3D models in VR, and has since raised £1.25 million, and Reality Zero One which developed an end-to-end solution for 3D capture and raised £285,000 of initial funding following its Augmentor experience. Over the course of the previous two cohorts, the majority of companies having never previously raised investment, have raised a total of over £3 million.

Commercial perspective

While the scale of UK developments might come as a surprise, our first involvement with this embryonic market was last year’s VR Days event in Amsterdam. Taking place from the 13th – 15th November 2019 and co-organized with Laval Virtual

One of the missions of VR Days is to show and educate corporations, governments and business owners the solutions XR technology has available to increase their output. The Training and Simulation Summit for example is a way to discover how VR is helping improve the training of employees. Many studies have proven that VR is more effective than videos by stimulating long term memory through mimicking.

Today, many industries are using immersive technologies in their training program like healthcare This year. a range of experts from various fields of activity (automotive, defence, aviation, etc.) will share use cases and results of VR training during a 3-hour conference: Michael Kaldenbach, Digital Realities Leader at Shell, Jack J. McCauley from Oculus, Miriam Reiner from the Israel Institute of Technology, Henri Jaspers, Senior Training Development ASM and ,Martin Liboska from Deutsche Telekom. Roundtables will also be on hand to discuss the future of technology and what it can bring more to the industry. Brain computer interfaces, virtual worlds and digital twins. In another session it is shown how developments in the area of brain-computer interfaces and VR support each other and how the development of a parallel virtual world helps companies to work more effectively.

Other sessions relate to business services – for example, a job interview with a virtual person could simply banish sexual and racial preferences, but what are the technical developments and the ethical implications of this trend? These and other questions will be addressed in a session with, among others, Albert “Skip” Rizzo, University of Southern California, Remmelt Blessinga, Talespin and ethicist Dorothea Baur.

Investors

Startups and small-scale companies will have the opportunity to present their project to VR experts and attract investors’ attention. In order to connect people and create new partnerships, VR Days organises several matchmaking events throughout the 3 days of the trade show. A networking event will be hosted by the Europe Enterprise Network.

“Access to capital is crucial in growing the XR ecosystem. With the investor event we are giving XR startups and scaleups a high-quality podium to pitch and connect to investors from around the globe.” sad Daniel ‘Kip’ Doornink, founder of VR Days Europe and XRBASE.

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