Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival: a new world of virtual technology
This article is from 2016
A new kid on the August block is coming, with a focus on virtual reality
Considering the importance of technology in our lives, it is somewhat surprising that Edinburgh, with its vast multitude of films, books, theater, comedy, music, food and other festivals, is gone so far without a dedicated open-ended. technical counterpart. Yes, the Turing and TV festivals cover digital issues, but they are both much more geared towards professionals in the industry.
Enter the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, a brand new 3.5 week program exploring the impact of technology on the arts and beyond. The emphasis is on interactivity and accessibility, with a selection of free events, hands-on demonstrations, workshops and lectures from digital entertainment leaders, not to mention a healthy program of screenings of digital events such as the National Theater’s Frankenstein (directed by Danny Boyle and starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch) and Monty Python Live (Principally).
Perhaps the most exciting for tech enthusiasts among us is the festival’s emphasis on virtual reality (which for the remainder of the article we’ll call “VR”: we’re all too aware of how which it is painfully embarrassing to reread features of the dawn of the Internet praising the “World Wide Web” in full and in all caps).
“2016 is the year of VR,” says EDEF director William Burdett-Coutts, citing the long-awaited release of the Oculus Rift headset in April and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation VR launch in October. “Virtual reality is becoming widely available to consumers, from the Google Cardboard which works on iPhones and Android (all you need for that is a cardboard frame) to the HTC Vive which provides an immersive full-body experience. “
The creators of the HTC Vive are smartphone company HTC and game developer Valve, makers of the much revered Half-life series launched in 1998.
“The main focus for consumers to date has been games, but there’s more to technology than that,” says Burdett-Coutts. “People are eagerly waiting to see what Facebook, which bought Oculus in 2014, will do with virtual reality in a social context. No announcements were made but it is easy to imagine the social possibilities offered by the linked headsets and the shared experience. Apple has yet to launch its offering but, as you might expect, there is speculation about what it will be and when it will happen.
So we’ve covered games and online interactions, but what does virtual reality mean for music and cinema, art forms that aren’t traditionally digital at their core? “We’ve seen leading artists like Björk and Paul McCartney take to VR and 360 to provide immersive experiences for their fans,” says Burdett-Coutts. IglooVision is also included in the festival, which will bring us a six-meter diameter cylinder to display 360-degree shared content in the EDEF tech hub.
But the festival is not just a question of access to content. “Virtual reality has been referred to in various places as an ’empathy machine’ and really interesting content has been created to address social and human issues,” says Burdett-Coutts. “A film like The Easter Rising: the voice of a rebel, an original BBC commission launched at Sheffield Doc / Fest earlier this year, and The Guardian‘s 6×9, a virtual solitary confinement experience, gives viewers a glimpse into the experiences of often marginalized people.’
Apart from the arts, there are also exciting applications for virtual reality in science. “At EDEF, we are delighted to present discussions on the future of virtual reality, including its use by NASA in preparation for March 2020,” says Burdett-Coutts. “Virtual reality is a huge subject and we barely scratch the surface of it. But our intention with EDEF is to open people’s eyes to much wider possibilities of the medium than just playing games. Although it is also a lot of fun, and not to be overlooked! ‘
Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, Assembly Rooms, George Street, August 4-28.