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Ground-breaking virtual reality ‘StoryFutures Xperience’ launches to bring immersive experiences to UK cinemas and arts venues

Ground-breaking virtual reality ‘StoryFutures Xperience’ launches to bring immersive experiences to UK cinemas and arts venues

  • Date20 July 2023

Royal Holloway’s StoryFutures has launched its ‘StoryFutures Xperience’, which will showcase Virtual Reality (VR) experiences in leading independent cinemas and arts centres across the UK from Summer 2023 to Spring 2024.

StoryFutures Xperience

Venues, including Chapter, Cardiff; Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, Dundee; Queens Film Theatre, Belfast; Showroom, Sheffield and Depot, Lewes will receive specialist equipment and training from the StoryFutures team for audiences to enjoy a range of VR experiences, thanks to the support of the British Film Institute (BFI), awarding National Lottery funding. 

This pilot programme will see audiences across the UK enjoy 20+ engaging VR experiences, which StoryFutures has worked with a range of partners to reversion and reimagine.

The StoryFutures Xperiences cover diverse themes including music, sport and climate change and range from beautifully animated 360 films to full interactive immersive experiences.

As a part of the programme, the five partner venues will pioneer innovative types of distribution models for VR location-based entertainment that connects with new audiences. The independent cinema and multi-arts centres are encouraged to utilise the StoryFutures library of VR experiences, as well as those sourced from the local community.

StoryFutures, with support from the BFI, hopes to continue to build a sustainable cultural network for VR exhibition by providing unprecedented infrastructure and support which will increase accessibility and engagement with audiences across the UK. It will also allow companies and freelancers to increase the visibility and exposure of their VR projects to new and emerging audiences and locations.

StoryFutures are also delighted to be the recipients of Meta’s Immersive Learning VR headset donation. Hundreds of Meta Quest 2 headsets will be made available to help bring new forms of screen culture to life and develop a wider audience for Virtual Reality across the UK. Each arts and cultural venue will have access to 25 VR headsets and each library partner to at least four as part of the StoryTrails legacy project. Wider UK distribution will help to continue to increase awareness and engagement with VR and immersive experiences for all age groups and demographics.

Professor James Bennett, Director, StoryFutures at Royal Holloway, said: “We’re looking forward to building relationships with arts and cultural venues across the UK, starting with this pilot phase in five venues.

“Thanks to the kind donation from Meta and working in collaboration with our partners, the BFI and The Reading Agency, we hope that the distribution and support plans we are developing can make VR a sustainable and creative opportunity for industry and audiences alike.”

Matthew Sanders, Education and VR Director, Global Affairs at Meta added: “Immersive technologies are already being used to teach and learn in exciting new ways, and they have a tremendous potential to transform cultural and creative experiences for a multitude of audiences. We are delighted to support StoryFutures and look forward to seeing people join the programmes they offer.” 

The StoryFutures Xperience programme builds on the success of the UK-wide storytelling project, StoryTrails, which ran in the summer of 2022, where 50 emerging creatives helped develop ground-breaking immersive experiences using BBC and BFI archive, in conjunction with ISODesign, Nexus Studios, Niantic, The Reading Agency, Produce UK, David Olusoga, Uplands TV and UnBoxed 2022.

The StoryTrails Legacy activity continues to run in 17 libraries across the UK, with over 200 library staff given hands-on training for new audiences to experience augmented reality trails and the latest 3D scanning, alongside over 10 VR experiences, with more coming in Summer 2023. StoryTrails was focussed on making digital culture more inclusive, improving access to digital skills and improving digital literacy.

Sarah-Jane Meredith, Manager, UK Wide Audiences at the BFI, said: “We are delighted to support StoryFutures Xperience and help bring together the technology, the venues and a collection of innovative VR experiences to create a compelling offer for audiences across the UK. Time and again we’ve seen there is a demand for this work and audiences respond really positively, so we are excited to fund a project to help build an engaged audience. And what better place to start, than in independent venues across the UK which already have a committed audience with a passion for screen culture.”

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