Immersive Arcade

This online and in-person exhibition is the first national collection of 12 of the best examples of virtual reality (VR) and 360 – or Immersive – experiences created in the UK between 2000 and 2020.

Themed around an exploration of the human mind, the collection allows users to investigate a wide range of impactful VR experiences and aims to engage those who are new to immersive productions.

Those who visit the free Immersive Arcade, either at home via a VR headset or at the in-person showcase during its national tour in September, will emerge into a wide range of experiences in documentary, experiential and narrative genres.

Highlights include a VR trip inside Amedeo Clemente Modigliani’s final studio, produced for the Tate during its exhibition of the artist. The experiential Fly, which made waves at the Saatchi Gallery in 2019 and allowed users to experience what it was like to take to the skies, is also in the showcase.

Home: a VR Spacewalk, the BBC-backed experience created by Rewind and inspired by the NASA training programs used by British astronaut Tim Peake, gives would-be astronauts the opportunity to spacewalk, something only 217 people have ever done for real.

The showcase will also include Somnai, the 2018 VR exploration of the subconscious mind that took people through their dreams and what they really meant; and Common Ground, a VR documentary about the Aylesbury Estate that takes viewers into the personal spaces and environments of its residents to experience what life was like in the notorious South London housing area.

There has never been a better time for a deep dive retrospective into UK immersive productions. The Immersive Economy report, published in 2019, by Digital Catapult and Immerse UK, found the rapidly expanding industry would be worth up to £294 million in 2023.

A study by the government’s department of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Audience of the Future programme – a £40 million investment drive into immersive technology which commissioned Immersive Arcade – estimated there were 1,000 immersive-specialist companies in the UK at present, employing around 4,500 people and generating £660 million in sales. This is equivalent to as much as 9% of the global market share. 

The field has huge scope for potential growth, especially among women. According to the 2014 study published by the Internet Advertising Bureau, women comprise 52% of UK gamers, yet only account for roughly 14% of the UK professional immersive sector’s leadership.

Immersive Arcade will take place in September 2021. It will be covid-restriction compliant. It can also be experienced at home using a tethered VR headset; including the Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality, Valve Index and HTC Vive via the Museum of Other Realities app via Steam or Viveport. 

Immersive Arcade has been produced by Digital Catapult and commissioned by UKRI, as part of the ‘Audience of the Future’ challenge.

Andrew Chitty, Director of the Audience of the Future Challenge, said, “From innovative location-based experiences to world-class training simulators harnessing the latest XR technologies, the UK has consistently pioneered immersive content productions for the last two decades. UKRI is proud to launch Immersive Arcade, a project which will provide public access to and engagement with some of the most dynamic and influential interactive works from UK creators since 2000.”

Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult, said, “Digital Catapult is a long-standing advocate of the power of immersive technologies to create a fundamental shift in how we work and play, and we are very proud to have been so closely involved in the extraordinary growth of many immersive companies over the years. The Immersive Timeline and Immersive Showcase both aim to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the UK’s ground-breaking innovations in the area, profiling the far-sighted experiences that made an impact over the last two decades.’’

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