Hi Ben! Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hi, I’m Ben and I run Bright Immersive. Since I was five years old, I’ve loved telling stories, creating art and playing with technology. As an adult, I’ve been lucky to work in roles that have let me continue doing this and get paid for it. Before setting up my company, I managed marketing and communications at a number of big well-known companies, including DNEG, an Oscar-winning visual effects (VFX) and animation company.
In 2016, almost 30 years after I originally saw Virtual Reality (VR) demonstrated on TV, I had my first VR experience and I was hooked; the future had arrived! While a lot of people see immersive technologies as new gaming platforms, I’m fascinated by their potential as powerful tools to transform the arts and revolutionise the way we all communicate.
I set out to learn as much as I could about these technologies. With the experience and knowledge I gained, I launched Bright Immersive in the summer to help artists discover these new tools and unleash their creativity.
What happens at your organisation?
Bright Immersive enables creative people and organisations to unleash the power of new immersive technologies to help them achieve their goals and fulfill their ambitions. Immersive technologies is the name given to a family of evolving digital tools that includes Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality as well as the next generation of immersive websites.
These technologies are really exciting because they enable us to let our imaginations run wild and create complete 3D realities that feel almost real by surrounding ourselves and interacting with 3D digital objects, characters and sounds, which combine to give users unique experiences.
We’re one of the first organisations in the UK dedicated to offering mobile immersive tech workshops to schools, colleges, organisations and businesses. We work with creative people of all ages – many of whom are new to digital arts – to give them opportunities to learn about and discover the many possibilities immersive has to offer.
Through our workshops, we help students see that immersive tech is for so much more than just video games and Instagram or Snapchat filters. We can guide students, at all levels, from their first steps in VR through to designing a fully immersive experience or app. We’ll also demonstrate how immersive tech can be used to bring many traditional arts disciplines, like theatre design, into the 21st Century.
What do you offer to young people?
We’re the first company to create and offer opportunities for young people to discover more about the latest immersive technologies as tools to supercharge creativity and communicate ideas. From education to entertainment, engineering to manufacturing, design and technology to marketing hospitality and healthcare – immersive digital technologies are set to change lives, especially those of young people growing up today.
Bright Immersive workshops offer an accessible and fun way to gain skills important to success now and in the future. Our workshops are especially helpful for any aspiring directors, writers, filmmakers, actors, animators, artists, games designers, theatre, film or TV practitioners, or anyone working in therapy and healthcare, as these areas are leading the way with immersive tech. The workshops are also a great way to learn how to create digital art for your portfolio.
What activities are most popular for young people and why?
It’s really basic, but the most popular activities for artists of all ages, is the opportunity to draw a 3D shape in a virtual space then actually walk around it or sit inside it. It’s at this point the excitement usually hits as students suddenly see the full potential of immersive art.
Also, young people who’ve been to a Bright Immersive workshop, who want to get into VFX or video game design, all loved the chance to take a sketch of a creature they’ve made, quickly model it in VR, animate it and then see it dance around their classroom using augmented reality.
Could you give an example of a recent project you have run, and the impact it had?
It’s hard to pick one workshop, but the impact they make can best be summed up by students repeatedly telling me that their “minds have been blown” by the power of these technologies and what it enables them to do – create art that they never thought was possible.
Why do you think it’s especially important to equip young people with digital and creative skills?
Young people who can offer an employer both digital and creative skills are much more likely to get the jobs they want. Last year, a study by LinkedIn revealed that ‘creativity’ is the top soft skill employers are looking for, which is great news for artists. Employers also want to see hard digital skills – the top two hard skills were ‘cloud computing’ and ‘artificial intelligence (AI)’.
Traditionally, UK schools treat art separately from science and maths subjects and this has led to a nationwide shortage of people who can offer a blend of skills. That’s what’s so good about immersive technologies and Bright Immersive workshops - creating immersive digital art is a new activity that can help students who have hard skills to unleash their creativity, while helping those who are more arts-focused to develop an interest in IT topics, such cloud computing and AI, which are both technologies linked to immersive tech.
Also, there will be lots of exciting opportunities created over the next few years for people with digital and arts skills. Experts are predicting that immersive tech will become the next lifestyle technology and most of the big tech companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are all investing in immersive tech. This will increase the demand for original and creative content and artists with great ideas who understand the technologies.
You said, “We want to inspire and enable more young artists – especially those without a natural aptitude for STEM subjects – to engage with these technologies to create in fun and new ways.” Tell us more about your workshops.
Before immersive technologies, IT lessons meant sitting alone at a computer using a keyboard and mouse to complete exercises – for many artists that’s dull, lonely and completely the wrong learning style.
Virtual reality makes creating on a computer feel more natural. You use hand controllers, physically move around in the space and pick things up and move them, just like we do in the real world. Our workshops, usually for 12 students, are focused on creativity and,our students don’t need any previous IT experience.
We encourage collaboration (number three of top five soft skills employers look for). We don’t use IT jargon and there’s no coding, but lots of creating. Learning is through play, both in and outside of VR, depending on the topic. Wearing a VR headset for the first time is a strange experience – especially in a room with other people – so every workshop starts with ensuring everyone is comfortable and has a great first immersive experience. Before the end, we share information about free online tools students can use to create immersive environments and stories, without needing to invest in VR headsets or expensive tech.
Have you seen any change in the industry over the last few years? Is it positive or negative?
The immersive industry is still evolving. Smartphone-based VR has died off and been replaced by wireless headsets like the Oculus Quest VR headsets, which are selling out faster than they can be made! The price of hardware is falling and it’s getting more powerful and comfortable. Unfortunately, the education system is not keeping up with the technology.
Plus, the speed of tech development means investing in immersive technology kit is not an option for many schools and colleges. If this continues, young people will miss out because without any previous experience, many organisations offering further training opportunities could overlook them. This is something Bright Immersive is working to change.
Are you an Arts Award Supporter? If so, what do you offer to young people doing Arts Award?
Bright Immersive is the first Arts Award Supporter dedicated to digital and immersive art. We offer unique opportunities for young artists to discover, use and create immersive art, and develop important digital skills. We’re eager to partner with Arts Centres across London and the South East to run bespoke workshops that will complement students’ work towards an Explore, Bronze, Silver or Gold Arts Award. Check out our website for full details of how we support each award level. We also run public workshops, some of which offer discounted rates for students completing their Arts Award.
Do you publish any online resources that young people doing Arts Award or Trinity College qualifications could use?
We are working on creating an online resource centre that will be accessible to workshop participants and include an immersive showcase of students’ work.
Is there anything you particularly want to promote to young people at the moment?
Immersive technologies are transforming the arts so I would urge young artists considering a creative career path to start early and experiment with digital arts. Better still, if they would like Bright Immersive to run a workshop, they should share this article with their teacher or Arts Award Advisers and ask them to get in touch with me via [email protected] or via our website.
Where can people find out more about the work you do?
For more information check out www.brightimmersive.com or follow Bright Immersive on Twitter, Insta, Facebook and LinkedIn for details of public workshops, digital arts tips and the chance to see other students’ work.