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Audience of the future

You will soon be able to become totally immersed in your favourite film, sport or other cultural activity, thanks to a UK government investment to support the best UK storytellers to create ground-breaking immersive experiences.


Audience of the future

The evolution of storytelling

We’ve told stories since the dawn of time.

Today's storytellers use the most exciting technology available to capture our imaginations.

The UK is home to some of the world’s leading creatives, who are using virtual, augmented and mixed reality to the turn their ideas into amazing stories.

What is the audience of the future challenge?

New immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality are changing how we experience the world around us – including entertainment, sports, museums, shops and classrooms. They will fundamentally change products and services in the next 20 years, and transform how we experience the world.  

The audience of the future challenge will bring creative businesses, researchers and technology experts together to create striking new experiences that captivate the public.

Those funded through the challenge will adopt, exploit and develop immersive technologies to create new products and services. They will capture the world’s attention and grow the UK’s leading market position in creative content.

What’s the investment?

Up to £33 million is being invested in businesses and researchers to develop new products and services that exploit immersive technologies.

What is being funded

The funding is being invested in:

  • immersive technology investment accelerator
  • demonstrator programme
  • design foundations
  • production innovation for immersive content
  • national centre of excellence for immersive storytelling

Immersive technology investment accelerator

To bridge the gap in angel and early-seed investment into immersive businesses, Innovate UK is working with 11 investor partners to offer simultaneous grant funding and venture capital investment in early-stage projects led by UK companies.

Find out more about this competition and apply for funding.

Demonstrator programme

An £18 million demonstrator programme is funding industry-led consortia in the creative industries to create new immersive experiences and test them with large audiences.

The projects will develop highly immersive technologies for people to enjoy sporting and entertainment events and performances and improve the visitor experience. This includes:

  • a consortium of ESL - the world’s largest e-sports content producer - academics and innovators, which will develop a new platform that uses gameplay data to transform how remote audiences experience sports
  • 2 new, multi-sensory, interactive worlds filled with dinosaurs and robots, in a project led by Factory 42 for London’s Natural History Museum and Science Museum
  • a Royal Shakespeare Company project with 15 specialist organisations from theatre, music, video production, gaming and research, to stream live performances to people’s mobile phones and extended reality headsets
  • a consortium of Aardman, Tiny Rebel Games, digital specialists Potato, creative agency Sugar Potato and the University of South Wales, will take the characters from Wallace & Gromit into the future of storytelling

Design foundations

£1 million in funding has been awarded to 32 projects which will use human-centred design (design focused on user requirements) to create new immersive experiences, products and services. Projects include:

  • the XR Audience Centred Design project, which will enable theatre audiences to experience a virtual reality performance without every audience member having to wear a headset
  • the ALIVE music project, which will investigate how live music performances can be enhanced using mixed reality
  • the Emotion sensing project, which will use biosensors to capture real-time emotional responses and find out what makes an engaging immersive experience

Find out more about all of the successful projects.

Production innovation for immersive content

21 projects have received a share of £12 million to create faster, more efficient immersive content. These include:

  • a project led by immersive VR studio, Maze Theory, to develop a new VR drama game based on BAFTA-award winning Peaky Blinders. The game will use artificial intelligence to enable characters to respond to players’ gestures, movement, voice, sound and body language
  • a project led by the National Theatre, which will explore the technical and production means to improve theatre experiences for a more diverse audience, including personalised sign-language displays for British Sign Language users, translation captions for non-English speakers and audio descriptions for visually impaired people
  • a research group led by Forever Holdings, which will make it possible for people to meet their heroes by improving filming techniques and boosting voice interaction

Maze Theory's Peaky Blinders game

Maze Theory are developing Peaky Blinders game powered by AI

National centre of excellence for immersive storytelling

A new £10 million centre – StoryFutures Academy – will support the development of cutting-edge creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling to develop the UK creative talent pool. It will be part-funded through the creative industries clusters challenge.

The National Film and Television School and Royal Holloway University will run the centre, which will develop skills by offering experimental labs, workshops, placements and courses. It will support and co-fund 60 immersive productions with a focus on storytelling.


Hear from the creative industry

UK industry strengths


“The first thing to be proud of is our heritage, but the world's changing so fast, the UK needs to make sure we stay ahead of the curve.”
Jay Short, Technology Strategist, INITION

The challenges organisations face

How do we make work that is as beautiful, as epic, as affecting as we have been able to do on other mediums?”
Annette Mees, Head of Audience Labs, Royal Opera House

What the programme should achieve

“What we want to see come out of this is a format that everybody looks at and goes, great! That's a must have, I need to experience that.”
Rupert Harris, Creative Director, Animal Vegetable Mineral

Further reading

CuteCircuit: clothing the wearer in immersive sound

A wearable technology firm supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is creating an immersive experience that helps the user hear and feel sound.

Wagstaffs: building a virtual world for the City of London

A project supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is building a virtual reality model that architects and planners could walk around at human scale.

5 reasons the UK is leading the immersive revolution

Andrew Chitty, Director of the ISCF’s Audience of the Future challenge, gives 5 reasons why he thinks the UK is perfectly placed to make the most of new and emerging immersive experiences.

The science of creativity

Professor David Bull, Director of the University of Bristol’s Vision Institute, explores the challenges of bringing creators and technology experts together to create new technologies and experiences.

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