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£4m fund to help performing arts organisations create innovative digital projects

Mark Quartley rehearsing as Ariel. Photo: Gramafilm Mark Quartley rehearsing in Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Tempest in 2016, which used performance-capture technology. Photo: Gramafilm
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Performing arts organisations have been invited to bid for a £4 million fund to create “game-changing” new experiences using immersive technologies.

Public body Innovate UK is awarding a total of £16 million in government funding as part of its Audiences of the Future programme.

This will be split between four projects, each in a different industry which has been identified as having “maximum opportunity” for innovation. The four chosen industries are performance, moving image, sport entertainment and visitor experience.

The programme aims to ensure the UK becomes a world leader in immersive technologies such as virtual reality, which is when an entire image or environment is created digitally, and augmented reality, where a computer-generated image is superimposed on to a user’s real view of the world.

At a press briefing for the programme at BAFTA in London, interim director for Audiences of the Future, Andrew Chitty, described immersive technologies as the “most significant and potentially disruptive technologies to impact the creative industries since the web in the mid-1990s”.

He added: “Each one of these demonstrators would be the biggest creative VR project in the world.”

Audiences of the Future is looking for ambitious projects which can “significantly advance creative, technological and commercial state of the art in its chosen field” and reach a total audience of 100,000.

Total project is expected to cost between £5 million and £10 million, with the additional funding to come from other sources.

As well as virtual and augmented reality, other immersive technologies which could potentially be used in the projects include haptics, which is technology that interacts with the user through their sense of touch.

The deadline for applications, which can be made on Gov.uk, is August 1 at 12pm.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview on September 1, with work on the projects to start from November 1, 2018. The projects must be completed by December 31, 2020.

Total funding for the Audiences of the Future programme is £33 million, with further strands to be announced.

The funding comes from the government’s £1 billion Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which aims to support the growth of sectors including robotics and artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles and space technology.

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