When was the last time you saw an exhibition that teleported you right into the heart of the artist’s imaginary world? Or you felt like you were live on stage with your favourite band? In our new tech-enabled world, artists are harnessing the power of virtual reality (VR) to place us right at the centre of the artistic experience, challenging our relationship with their work and enriching the connection between artist and audience beyond our wildest imagination.
VR is invigorating sectors in need of a boost everywhere – with head-mounted displays, 3D tools and reality capture. It’s creating a surprising hotbed of innovation and embodies everything we love about disruptive technology: how it can mean creating new concepts from scratch and altering and upgrading existing ones. Here’s three reasons why VR is set to disrupt the most unlikely of industries. From fostering inclusivity to sparking unexplored forms of creativity, art and VR are the couple to be looking out for at the moment.
1. The VR landscape is blooming
To understand the actual impact of VR on the creative industries, it’s important to get an idea of the broader picture (pun intended). 2017 has marked a VR rebound after slow growth following the infatuation with (and acquisition of) wearable VR in 2014. The pace of innovation in VR has regained momentum, as has investors’ interest in the technology. As a Tech.eu report on the VR European landscape reveals, 2017’s €490.5 million total in VR investment marked a 128.6% rise in comparison to 2016. Sweden is Europe’s top 2017 VR innovator, with 18 deals completed. France comes second with 15, closely followed by the UK, who completed 14 deals. The exit figures also reveal a regained interest in the field, with 5 exits completed in H1 2017, an increase of 66.6% with regard to the previous year.
The European VR landscape is impressive in its diversity, with dozens of start-ups putting VR to the service of sectors as diverse as healthcare, education, advertising, sports and… art. Tech.eu, along with LucidWeb, concisely mapped out the VR landscape here.
2. VR = richer art for everyone
With VR, artists can bring their creative world to life more than ever before. Digital artists are exploiting tech innovations to explore new ways of expression and representation. Characterised by its unique ability to create immersive and mesmerizing environments, VR technology offers countless new opportunities for artistic creation. The work of the Icelandic artist Björk reveals the strong connections that music and video can have with cutting-edge technology. The artist’s latest exhibition Vulnicura was a project created almost entirely with VR. Thanks to the use of headsets, spectators were able to actively engage with the work as they were transported to incredible places, be it a deserted Icelandic beach or an imaginary world conceived by the artist herself.
One problem with art is the reputation that it’s the reserve of the few, rather than the many. This is something technology is changing. Artistic creation is becoming less expensive and time-consuming with the emergence of numeric art. And VR is taking that a step further, with start-ups working on software that can transform anybody’s creation into virtual reality. One example is Yulio, a software that transforms 3D designs in VR experiences.
Online platforms where artists can share their 3D work are another example of how the art community is expanding and becoming more inclusive thanks to tech. Indeed, online communities are emerging at the rate of these innovations, to host and present tech-savvy artists. Platforms such as Sketchfab allow artists to share their 3D content for mobile, web and VR.
On the consumer side as well, VR is making art more accessible. It is mostly in the consumption of art that VR is being most disruptive and where start-ups are consequently focusing their activity. Entrepreneurs are devising new, exciting ways of rendering art accessible to a greater number of people. VR is offering the opportunity for museums, singers and galleries to make their content more attractive and targeted. One example is Opuscope, a software that enables museums to create customized VR scenography for their exhibitions.
In the music department, Noys VR has devised a system for people to attend a live concert without moving from their couch. Offered as a solution for both the artists and the listeners, Noys VR responds to the problems of cost of the venue and of travel by recreating a virtual concert hall in your own studio or living room. All you need is a VR headset.
3. The future will be tech-enabled creativity
Art and technology are therefore very much involved with one another already. Technology is instigating the change that the art world needed: a new form of expression as well as a new way of reaching out to people. And we believe that this link between art and tech will only get stronger. The thinking behind this? The fact that with the rise of robots and automated jobs, the two sectors that will develop most are those where AI can’t replace humans. That’s to say the creative sector, where the most cutting-edge machinery cannot yet equate human sensibility. The promise that entrepreneurs will exploit this opportunity to create great things is incredibly likely.
The blurred line between art and technology is also teaching us the true value of creativity beyond the art world. Robots are replacing us in jobs that require cognitive skills such as repetition and pattern discerning tasks. But if we can infuse more creative skills such as curiosity and ingenuity into sectors that don’t seem to require them, like banking or manufacturing, the human added value can be huge.