Creative industry pioneers come together to shape how audiences experience live performance

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are part of a unique team of international creative industry specialists who will pool their expertise to discover the next stage of immersive performance experiences for audiences around the world.

Woman wearing virtual reality headset standing against a wall.

The project will help shape how audiences experience live performance in the future.

The £16 million investment, which was launched today (10 January) is a key element of Innovate UK’s Audience of the Future programme. This is part of the government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is delivered by UK Research and Innovation and that was announced by government in March 2018 in the Creative Industries Sector Deal.

The project, led by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), involves 15 specialist organisations and pioneers in immersive technology including leading British arts companies, global technology giants, research institutions and top British universities. Together they will use their knowledge and expertise in theatre and performance, the music industry, video production, gaming and the research sector to shape how audiences will experience live performance in the future.  The first year of Audience of the Future will focus on collaborative research and development with the intention of delivering an immersive live performance on multiple platforms in 2020.

Over two years the group will work together to explore what it means to perform live using emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). They will uncover the future opportunities of real-time immersive performance that are connected across multiple platforms, creating opportunities for the UK cultural sector to change the way audiences experience live performance by making it more immersive.

Audiences will no longer be bound by their location. Using devices such as mobile phones, Extended reality (XR) headsets and streaming into live performance environments, or even in the home, wherever they are, audiences will experience live performance like never before.

Margot James, the Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, (right) who made the announcement.

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries will investigate the future of performance and the role of technology within this. Pushing boundaries and innovating new groundbreaking technologies, the team will create an Immersive XR Digital Toolkit in order to enable and inform others. This will make the use of XR technology within performance more accessible. The team will also author and publish a transdisciplinary report: Performance: Beyond 2021.

Professor Trevor Keeble, Dean of the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, said: “This fantastic project showcases the excellence and innovation of creative technologies and performing arts at Portsmouth and offers the opportunity for our staff and students to work in partnership with internationally renowned leaders in these fields. It is particularly exciting that it comes as the University of Portsmouth launches the first ever BSc course in Virtual and Augmented Reality.”

The consortium includes the University of Portsmouth, De Montfort University, Epic Games, i2 Media Research Limited, Intel, Magic Leap, Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Nesta, Phi Centre, Philharmonia Orchestra, Punchdrunk and The Space.

6 CCI researchers standing in a line at the project launch

CCI researchers at the project launch

This significant new collaboration will uncover the potential of real-time immersive performance connected across multiple platforms, creating opportunities for the UK cultural sector to change the way audiences experience live performance in thrilling new ways.

Talking about the collaboration, RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran said: “Some of the best brains in the creative industries and research sector will work together in this unique collaboration looking at the future potential of live performance and what that means for the industry, the creative sector and audiences around the world.

“Every partner has something different to offer through their work with immersive technologies and live performance, and the potential to deliver an experience for audiences that has never seen before is hugely exciting.”

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