The Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council have announced the funding of 32 new research projects, exploring the future of Immersive experiences. They range from using VR to recreate the benefits of outdoor group singing, to exploring new immersive Circus experiences and allowing museum goers to virtually peruse priceless ancient texts that would otherwise be off limits.

The research will be carried out by interdisciplinary teams made up of academics, businesses and creative industries practitioners to ensure the projects’ creative and commercial value. Each project has been awarded up to £75,000 of the £1.88m of total funding and will last between six and nine months, with all projects due to start before April 1 2018.

The 32 chosen projects will explore a mixture of three areas in which the UK has world leading creative assets and technology

  • Memory which looks at how immersive technology can work with our memory based institutions like museums and archives
  • Place which considers how immersive experiences can work in combination with place based service
  • Performance which explores what new immersive experiences can be offered to audiences.

The projects include:

» The hills are alive: combining the benefits of natural environments and group singing through immersive experiences led by Dr Helena Daffern at University of York

Research has shown the numerous beneficial effects of activities like group singing especially outdoors. This project will allow participants to participate in outdoor group singing through virtual reality – including those who would not otherwise be able to – while also virtually recreating a key point in the history of UK heritage.

» XR: CIIRKES / Extraordinary Circus Creative Immersive Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchanges led by Helen Wendy Kennedy at University of Brighton

Recreating and expanding on the thrill of circus performance, this project brings together circus and street arts directors and performers with researchers at the forefront of interactive and immersive technologies to discover what innovative and emotionally impactful immersive experiences are possible through new technology.

» Augmented Browsing of Books in Historic Libraries led by Professor Nicholas Pickwoad at University of the Arts London

With the potential to put thousands of historical books and documents into the hands of the public, this project will allow museum-goers to pick out and flick through historical books through phone-based augmented reality. As well as the texts, users will be able to view virtual annotations and without any risk of damage to the books themselves.

» Immersion and Inclusive Music Performance led by Dr Franziska Schroeder at Queen’s University of Belfast

This project examines how immersive technologies can be used to better understand the experiences of young musicians affected by a physical disability. It will focus on the use of Inclusive Immersive Technologies in music performance and workshops where disabled musicians will co-design technologies for use in a musical showcase.

» Virtual Holocaust Memoryscapes: Scoping the Creation of Immersive, Spatial Archives of the Bergen‐Belsen and Neuengamme Memorial Sites led by Dr Matthew Boswell at University of Leeds

The project begins the development of immersive, spatial archives which will use technology in a nuanced and reflective fashion to ensure holocaust memory remains relevant for future generations. Working with Nazi concentration camp memorial sites, Holocaust education organisations and cutting-edge creative technology companies, this project will aim to connect significant landscapes from the Holocaust with relevant films, photographs, diaries, artworks, oral testimonies and historical documents.

Professor Andrew Chitty, AHRC Creative Economy Champion, said: “The unprecedented breadth and quality of applications for this call illustrates the extraordinary dynamism and expertise of practitioners applying immersive technologies to new narratives and experiences.

“As UK creative industries continue to excel, it is vital that they are positioned to make the most of the opportunities that arise from new technology. The 32 chosen research projects will help ensure that they’re ready to do just that.”

These 32 projects will lead the way for the future of immersive experiences and form part of a wider investment strategy, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the recently announced £33m* Audiences of the Future programme and demonstrators.

For more information about the Immersive Experiences Research Call including videos, call documents and the full list of projects visit the Immersive Experiences section of the AHRC Creative Economy Programme website.

For further press information please contact:

Joe Lewis, AHRC Press and Social Media Officer
Tel: 01793 416 021 Email: [email protected]

Notes to Editors

*All wave 2 programmes are subject to final business case, when further details on funding will be made available. More information on the Audiences of the Future funding programme can be found on page 76 of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund white paper here.

A full list of projects funded through the Immersive Experiences Research Call is available here.

The call was launched following three workshops hosted by AHRC and the creative, digital and design Knowledge Transfer Network which highlighted immersive and interactive technologies as a key challenge area and a nationwide series of briefings events and webinars organised by the AHRC Creative Economy Programme.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The AHRC funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. You can find out more information via www.ahrc.ac.uk or following us on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council

For more information about AHRC, our research and our impact see: www.ahrc.ac.uk

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Immersive and interactive technologies are important areas for EPSRC, forming a major part of the Content Creation and Consumption priority area for the Digital Economy Theme as well as an extensive research portfolio as part of the Information and Communication Technologies Theme. Through the Graphics and Visualisation research area, EPSRC supports 38 grants with more than £24 million of funding. This Research Area focuses on the synthesis and manipulation of visual content, including rendering, augmented reality, virtual reality, animation and immersive technologies, as well as visual computer languages and novel ways of visualising complex data that will enable understanding and exploring of, and extraction of value from, information. Visual analytics uses visual representation to support data analysis and decision-making.  Other Research Areas such as Music and acoustic technology and Human-computer interaction also include relevant projects”.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash.

DCMS committee publishes report on Brexit's potential impact on creative sector