Creative professionals from music, movies, television, theatre, gaming, and other disciplines are coming together in Adelaide this week to explore how their once separate worlds are also converging, thanks to the exponential rate of technological innovation.
The Electric Dreams conference at Lot Fourteen, part of the 2020 Adelaide Fringe, will feature some of the world’s most influential leaders in creative technology including New Zealand’s Weta Workshop, known primarily for Lord of the Rings; the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and motion-capture pioneers Imaginarium Studios.
The South Australian government is a major supporter of Electric Dreams in 2020 and is working to boost the capacity, value, efficacy and scale of the creative industries in South Australia, which is one of four deep tech focus sectors at Lot Fourteen.
In addition to the conference, Electric Dreams will enable the public to experience the magic of immersive technology through VR cinema, an associated program of seven eclectic productions.
Both the conference and VR cinema have been curated by Mark Atkin and Tom Millen, of UK-based immersive media specialist Crossover.
“We are seeing a seismic shift in the way that arts and entertainment are made and experienced,” Mark explains.
“Different disciplines, which were previously all separate, such as online games, visual arts, television, movies, theatre, music and exhibitions are merging because they are using the same immersive techniques.
“Another exciting aspect of emerging immersive storytelling technology is how it can be applied to other sectors, such as education, aged care, health care and space exploration.
“We want to start spreading the word, which is why we have chosen to hold the Electric Dreams conference at Lot Fourteen, because it will expose these technologies to other sectors,” Mark says.
“These are early days, it takes entrepreneurs and researchers to make the connections between creative technologies and their applications to other sectors,” Mark says.
It starts by coming to places like Lot Fourteen, making connections and the ripples spread outwards from there.
An example of technological convergence which will be explored at the conference is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s partnership with creative technology company Magic Leap. One of Magic Leap’s products is an augmented reality device developed primarily for gaming that uses spatial computing to detect and respond to the physical environment, creating a seamless blend of the real and the digital.
“Games that use Magic Leap can bring life-sized characters into your loungeroom, where they interact with the physical environment,” Mark says.
“For the RSC, it means live actors on stage can realistically interact with the Bard’s fantastical characters, such as Ariel from The Tempest.”
One of the world’s best-known creative technology companies, Industrial Light and Magic is developing VR games for multiple players. The players wear headsets, that enable them to see each other as characters from the game, such as the storm troopers in Star Wars.
“What Industrial Light and Magic have learnt from gaming will change the way that movie are made,” Mark says. “For example, until now, actors have had to perform in front of a 'green scene' and just imagine the animated characters they are interacting with. Now they will be able to see them and interact with them convincingly.
“Everything can be captured in one take – live actors, animated characters, objects and scenery – and that technology can be used across many disciplines. Everything is converging.”
Mark says there are many examples of how immersive storytelling is being used in health care, such as by providing a visual experience to help minimize pain or by enabling sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to virtually revisit traumatic experiences while being guided and assisted by therapists.
“The opportunities for the application of these technologies are endless,” Mark says.
“Virtual-reality systems are under development to train astronauts, maneuver the Mars rover and support explorers on their long journey to Mars.”
Another company featured at Electric Dreams is Ubisoft, creator of the game series Assassin’s Creed, which is available in many different historical eras, such as ancient Greece and medieval France.
“The company had the only authentic 3D rendition of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was created based on scans by drones,” Mark says. “This is now being used to rebuild the famous cathedral after the devastating fire in April 2019.”
Immersive techniques can be used to create a plausible, complete world and that just opens up so many possibilities.