Breaking the boundaries of immersive tech experiences

oman wearing VR gear while enjoying experience at modern art gallery exhibition.

AHRC is working with the UK’s four Arts Councils to support the adoption and implementation of creative immersive technologies in the arts and culture sector

Immersive technologies have the potential to change the way we work, live and communicate. They are transforming the arts and creative industries and have applications across many other sectors from healthcare to manufacturing.

For the UK’s world-class cultural organisations and creatives, these technologies are an opportunity to educate, engage and inspire audiences through innovative new immersive experiences, and new methods of storytelling and interaction. For these organisations to fully capitalise on this opportunity they’ll need the skills and support to turn their ideas into viable immersive experiences.

In a ground-breaking new collaboration, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Creative Scotland and Arts Council of Wales are working together to support the adoption and implementation of creative immersive technologies within the arts and culture sector.

This three-year, £6 million XRtists programme will support the UK’s arts and culture sector to develop skills and knowledge in immersive content production through a pipeline of funding opportunities to support the development of projects from organisations and individuals at different stages of their immersive journey.

Our joint experience with programmes like CreativeXR and the creative industries clusters has demonstrated that knowledge exchange and mentoring between the academic, creative industries and arts and culture sectors is a proven route to positive impact in this space. We’re inviting applications from consortia made up of independent research organisations, universities, cultural organisations and creative businesses who together can deliver the activities and outcomes to ensure that the XRtists programme has the very best chance of success.

To champion and celebrate the projects which emerge from the programme, the consortium will deliver an annual industry showcase, helping to support the onward development and distribution of the work produced. The successful XRtists consortium will also have the opportunity to carry out research to maximise the potential of the projects they fund, whether exploring new models of business and distribution or providing projects and the wider sector with useful audience insights.

Our cultural organisations, as well as the audiences they cater for, are spread throughout England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and our programme reflects the incredible work they do across the UK. The benefits of immersive technology should be an opportunity for everyone, which is why the successful consortium will have partners and a presence in each UK nation. A key objective of XRtists is to ensure the programme enables diversity and equality of opportunities to participate in the making and enjoyment of creative immersive productions by people of all backgrounds and across all areas of the UK.

AHRC Executive Chair, Professor Christopher Smith, said:

Creative technology is a vital ingredient in the UK’s flourishing creative industries sector and is changing all the time

AHRC is committed to ensuring that this technology can reach widely and deeply across the UK and we are thrilled to partner with the Arts Councils of all four nations to support a creative United Kingdom.

XRtists will build on previous investments to unlock further innovation and economic growth and will bring the power of immersive technology to new audiences and partners.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council of England, said:

We know that great things can happen when we bring together artists and creatives with technologists and researchers.

We are excited to launch XRtists, which will draw on the wealth of creative talent across our performing arts, galleries, museums and other cultural organisations to unlock new ideas and applications for immersive technology, while developing skills in these powerful emerging technologies across the cultural sector.

Dafydd Rhys, Chief Executive of Arts Council of Wales, said:

It’s important that we as funders support artists and creatives to explore what ‘state of the art’ can mean and how it connects with audiences now and in the future.

Doing this in partnership with colleagues in the other UK nations creates unique, inclusive opportunities to share learning, collaborate and amplify the possibilities of creative technology to share experiences and tell stories with impact.

Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development and Partnerships, Arts Council of NI, said:

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to be part of this UK-wide arts and creative industries initiative.

Supported by our National Lottery funding in year one, this important 3-year programme will be such a boost for creatives hoping to develop ideas, training, and skills. The fact that those who benefit from this funding get to share their project learning and development with others via a showcase platform, is exactly the ethos that the Arts Council supports.

Morgan Petrie, Creative Scotland’s Creative Industries Manager said:

We’re delighted to be working with our UK partners to support the adoption and implementation of immersive technologies within the creative industries in Scotland.

We anticipate the XRtists programme will provide creative businesses and performing arts organisations an opportunity to experiment, to develop new ways to reach audiences, and potentially generate additional revenue.

To find out more about the XRtists programme.

Top image:  Credit: South_agency, E+ via Getty Images

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