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The Knight Foundation, with support from Microsoft, is offering a share of $750,000 for innovative ideas to engage arts audiences through immersive technology.

It's a subject close to our hearts.

We started out in the world of creative arts - one of our breakthrough assignments was at the Venice Biennale (and subsequently made its way to the Guggenheim), and we continue to be a strong supporter and advocate of all things creative and cultural (for example, we're a sponsor of Sheffield DocFest, and have a fledgeling partnership with BFI).

We worked with the Venice Biennale's UAE Pavilion to create a unique high-resolution, 15-channel projection.

We are therefore thrilled to see this initiative from Knight/Microsoft and urge our followers in the world of the arts to apply (and maybe even factor Igloo into their plans). And, for what it's worth, here's our thoughts on the criteria set out by Knight/Microsoft:

Engaging New Audiences: How might cultural institutions use immersive experiences to better welcome and engage new and diverse audiences?

The key thing to remember is this: the VR headset is NOT the only way to engage with immersive content. Yes, headsets are great at putting the viewer in the middle of the action and enabling them to experience something they never could otherwise. But headsets can also be isolating and aren’t right for every kind of audience, or every type of content.

Also, remember, many creative and cultural happenings rest on a shared experience - like going to an orchestral concert, for example, or a cinema, or a play. And, we’d argue, it can be the same for immersive technology.

Building New Service Models: How can we design pleasant and efficient audience experiences that avoid clunky interactions with technology?

Again, we’d argue, it’s important to look beyond the headset.

As we all know, the size and weight of a headset don’t always make for the most comfortable viewing experience and can exclude certain members of an audience. Here in the UK, The Science Museum took this into account with its Space Descent VR initiative. By using Shared VR, it was able to bring in a wider audience of younger children to enjoy the experience too.

Expanding Beyond Walls: In what new ways can arts institutions achieve their mission and goals through the use of immersive tech to reach people beyond their physical space?

This is where headsets win, hands-down. They are such a great way to transport audiences not just outside of their physical space, but also outside of time. Institutions could transport a visitor to the time and location of a finding of an artefact, for example, or to a reconstruction of a historical event. It is also possible to recreate exhibitions that cannot be transported themselves, whether due to their own fragility, or sheer cost of doing so.

Distribution to Multiple Institutions: How can immersive experiences become more portable and be presented easily at multiple institutions?

Immersive installations can be fearsomely expensive to transport from one venue to another. That needn’t be the case.

Indeed, part of the thinking behind Igloo was to create a portable, productised, pop-up space, to build it with standard off-the-shelf components, and to make it compatible with any content, in any format, from any source. This way, installations can be taken on the road. They can also be duplicated in multiple locations. And, crucially, they can be re-used and re-purposed for future initiatives.

By following this type of approach, artists and institutions alike can be sure that funds stretch further, and new installations can be created faster and more easily.

The deadline for the call for ideas is 12th August, so we'd most certainly encourage anyone with ideas to get involved.

We work with Sheffield Documentary Festival to provide spaces to show VR films in a shared environment. Here is The Curse of Palm Oil by Contrast VR.


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