Expert View: Immersive Technology Investment Boosting Creativity

How the UK government’s multi-million-pound investment will help the storytellers of tomorrow.

By Damian Collier, CEO and Founder of Blend Media

The UK attracts some of the best global talent and has a strong culture of entrepreneurship leading it to be viewed as one of Europe’s technology hubs. One area which is evolving rapidly in the country is the immersive technologies industry, with virtual reality (VR) in particular, forecast to grow at a faster rate than any other entertainment and media industry from 2016–2021 in the UK, making it the fastest growing, and largest, virtual reality industry in EMEA.

This growth is only set to increase following a new deal between the UK Government and the Creative Industries Council (CIC) to invest £33m in immersive technologies. The initiative is part of a wider £150m investment to help cultural and creative businesses in the UK flourish. Such investment will be very much welcomed by the augmented reality (AR) and VR industry, because it is a vote of confidence in the businesses working hard to create more immersive experiences.

The investment is good news for the VR industry and proof that the government and CIC recognise the potential that the immersive tech space offers. The investment will primarily focus on virtual reality video games, interactive art shows and augmented reality experiences in tourism. We believe that CIC should invest in user-controlled content because it adds value to consumers and brands alike. It would be a great next step to see more investment around content and technology that’s working to give consumers more control over what they see so that brands can build more value.

360° video has quickly emerged as a unique medium that allows audiences to take control, look around and discover more when compared to standard video or still imagery. It’s already being used successfully by brands and agencies. Research from Google found that 360° video contributes to a 5X higher click-through rate, as well as more repeat views compared to standard video when used in advertising campaigns. As 360° content can be viewed easily on mobile devices and uploaded and shared on social media sites, it is more accessible for consumers. As testament to the medium’s popularity, since it started supporting 360° on its site, there has been over 25m 360° photos and 1m 360° videos posted on Facebook to date.

One way the UK Government and the CIC could ensure 360˚ video continues to benefit brands and consumers is by providing education and training on how to create with the medium. Fortunately, equipping young people with the tools and knowledge to succeed in cultural and creative businesses appears to be high on the agenda. CIC has already pledged £2m to kick-start industry-led skills packages, including a creative careers programme which will reach at least 2,000 schools and 600,000 pupils in two years.

We’re hopeful that within this investment will also acknowledge the importance of growing the number of creatives with the tools, skills and knowledge to produce immersive content for the media industry. Filmmaking is already taught at universities in the UK — teaching students how to create content for new mediums should be seen as a natural extension of this. 360° video is evolving constantly, which means there is already a number of 360° cameras to choose from in a variety of shapes and sizes. While there are 360° cameras that can be strapped onto smartphones, in order to create the truly compelling content, the industry also needs creatives that can capture footage on professional cameras.

Blend Media has been working closely with Facebook to nurture a global community of immersive content creators by helping them create and license their content, so they can earn a living from their craft. Along with supporting these creators with unique insight about what content sells, providing training and workshops across the world, we also introduced a camera loaner scheme which the creators we work with can use for personal or commercial projects. This helps overcome the investment required to experiment with the medium, as the cost of buying these cameras can be large. Through its work with creators, Blend Media has been able to provide compelling 360° video content for brands such as UNILAD, AOL, Google, Greenpeace, Lonely Planet, Universal Music Group and McCann.

Overall, the immersive technologies industry should be optimistic about the UK Government taking significant steps towards solving some of the financial and training issues that are barriers to content creation. This is a nascent market and one of its strengths lies in helping brands offer deeper and more meaningful connections with consumers. The Government and CIC will play an instrumental role in safeguarding its long-term future and development.

For companies looking to get into VR/AR/MR our Virtual Reality Consultancy services offer guidance on how these technologies can enhance and support your brand strategy.

Originally published at Tech Trends.