It was a privilege to host and showcase a number of the UK’s top content creators as part of the UKRI US Immersive Mission 2019 (6 – 13th March 2019). The mission aimed to explore the challenges and opportunities of the US immersive landscape, build connections with top US businesses and raise the profile of the UK immersive expertise.

This year’s delegation included research organisations and companies supported by over £110m of UK government funding including the Creative Clusters and Audience of the Future programmes.

One of those companies was ground-breaking immersive content and solutions company REWIND. Amongst the abundance of VR, AR, film screenings, showcases, exhibitions, live music and much more (not to mention the tacos), REWIND has managed to cherry pick their top five SXSW take-outs in a recent post on the REWIND blog:

SXSW 2019 was a whirlwind of enlightening talks, networking, tech innovations, and Texas BBQ! While we are still on a SXSW high, we wanted to share the five things that stood out for us at this year’s event…

1. Teslasuit

Accenture Interactive was showcasing the art of the possible with VR, AR, and AI at SXSW. One demo was the Teslasuit, which is being hailed as the world’s first fully integrated smart clothing apparel with Haptic Feedback, Motion Capture, Climate Control, and Biometric Feedback systems.

Teslasuit aims to make the VR experience deeper and more realistic by allowing the transmission of touch, which Accenture says “increases immersion, stimulates neural activity, fosters muscle memory, thus improving learning”.

Apart from obviously improving VR gaming experiences, the Teslasuit is being looked at as a tool for training those in dangerous professions such as emergency first-responders, using the haptic feedback and the temperature control systems to simulate being shot or being close to a fire.

2. Magic Leap Tabletop Theatre Productions

“The Seven Ages of Man” and “The Grinning Man” where two experiences Magic Leap showcased to demonstrate its intentions to merge with traditional art forms. 

Andy Lanning, executive creative producer at Magic Leap, who led both projects sees these experiences as just the very beginning of what Magic Leap is capable of. The goal was to create a sense of performance, and that was definitely achieved. 

What’s next? Real-time Tabletop Theater. Imagine a West End production that can be seen in your living room as it takes place on stage, or perhaps theatre-goers donning a headset to fuse the real-life production with virtual elements to heighten their experience. 

Whilst we saw re-makes of traditional theatre at SXSW, it’s going to get really exciting when technology can create a brand new form of theatre. 

3. Digital Ghost Hunt

Digital Ghost Hunt is a project that seeks to restore coding and digital technology as a tool of the imagination. It’s a ground-breaking fusion of coding education, AR, and live performance.

We spent a lot of time hanging out with the founder, Elliott Hall, at SXSW. We are fans! 

Elliott describes the start of the performance in a blog post: “It begins with the most boring coding class in history. Students spend about 15 minutes programming a meaningless square to turn pointlessly blue.  After about 10 minutes, just as students are about to lose the will to live, their screens go blank. After a few seconds of nothing, the face of a woman appears on every screen.  She looks down the camera and says: “I need your help…The GHOSTS need your help.” Then there is a knock on the classroom window from outside. It’s the woman, and she wants to be let in!”

The most exciting thing about this project is the fact that students have to learn to code their own paranormal devices through a Ghost Hunter apprenticeship – a series of four coding challenges given to them by ‘Professor Bray’. Students have to think like a programmer – learn to read and debug code, think about the steps of an algorithm, and basic logic structures – through coding their ghost detector in MakeCode. 

No current program combines coding and drama in this way. It’s a brilliant learning tool.

4. Traverse and Audio AR

Jessica Brillhart and her company Vrai Pictures unveiled Traverse, a spatial audio platform that allows users to map their surroundings with the help of mobile AR technology, and then explore immersive audio experiences. It changes the way we experience audio. 

“From Elvis in Memphis” allows users to experience the music of Elvis Presley by walking through a physical space, with Traverse’s app making it spatially sound like they’re in the studio with the King of Rock and Roll himself. 

Vrai also debuted a second audio experience called “The Arm of InSight” that has been produced as an audible narration of NASA’s Insight Mars mission. 

Traverse replies on Bose’s custom AR platform, so only owners of Bose’s QC35 Headphones II or Frames audio shades can use it.

5. UK Immersive Pitch & Demo

We took part in the UK Immersive Pitch & Demo event where we got to showcase our work on the Three Mobile 5G Mixed Reality Fashion Show with Magic Leap alongside Digital Ghost Hunt (King’s College London), Digital Laocoön (Glasgow School of Art), Space, Place, Sound, And Memory(Edinburgh College of Art), Virtual Avebury(Bournemouth University) and more. 

It’s fantastic to have this sort of support from the UK government and be given a platform to showcase the best of British immersive to US and international commissioners, distributors, investors, and other potential collaborators.

About UKRI US Immersive Mission 2019

The mission ran from 6-13th March, with visits to world leading immersive businesses in San Francisco including Facebook, ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm and HTC Vive. A bespoke programme of XR showcases and networking events also ran the during technology, film and music conference SXSW in Austin, Texas. The mission was delivered by the AHRC Creative Economy Programme for UK Research & Innovation.

About SXSW

The South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference & Festivals celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW® is the premier destination for discovery. You can read more at https://www.sxsw.com/about/.

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