LONDON, ENGLAND, MARCH 22, 2022  The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is presenting five projects created under the mentorship of UK-based tech experts in its inaugural Creative Solutions initiative at London’s County Hall on March 22, 2022. The groundbreaking program is designed to boost Saudi’s creative economy by empowering digital content creation in immersive technologies, and draws on the world-leading quality of British tech talent. Creative Solutions also shows how the UK’s established tech industry can be harnessed to support the IT sector development in emerging markets.

According to Ithra’s recently commissioned Cultural and Creative Index research report, the industry contributed 1.5% to Saudi GDP in 2018, growing at a healthy 13% annually. Ithra’s Creative Solutions program empowers this sector through its focus on bolstering professional skills development, while promoting knowledge sharing and the development of original creative content and marketable solutions. The first year featured 27 young creatives mentored by UK tech experts including Maddalena Crosti, program lead at Digital Catapult (the team behind CreativeXR, the UK’s largest immersive content accelerator), and Simon Benson, a leading technology consultant and former director of immersive technology at Sony, where he was part of the team that founded the PlayStation VR project. Anthony Geffen, one of the world’s leading documentary filmmakers and a pioneer in immersive storytelling, is the keynote speaker at the demo day[EM1] , which will also be attended by some of the biggest personalities and entities in UK innovation. 

The event will highlight five of Saudi Arabia’s most promising young innovators, the majority of whom are women, who will demonstrate their prototypes that explore interactive gaming, virtual reality, augmented reality, location-based experiences and more in fields such as art, health and wellbeing, training, entertainment, education and culture. 

The projects are the result of a year-long program launched under the theme “Digital Immersive Content Creation”. From a total of 30 ideas by 59 creatives selected to attend masterclasses with top international innovators, five projects were chosen for the international bootcamp. Each received a grant to support the process of bringing their ideas to life. 

“The UK is a global hub of innovation, and our young creatives have benefitted from collaborating with industry leaders who shared their keen insights and helped to develop these prototypes,” said Miznah Alzamil, Head of Creativity and Innovation at Ithra. “Ithra is at the center of the Kingdom’s cultural and creative ecosystem, and Creative Solutions is testament to our commitment to building a sustainable creative industry in Saudi Arabia. The 2021 cohort demonstrated truly innovative thinking and we are excited to see how they perform in front of our industry experts and investors at the Demo Day.”

The 2021 finalist projects are: 

  • Alqatt XR, a gamified immersive experience for digital heritage based on the iconic traditional Al-Qatt art form from southern Saudi Arabia. Created by Layla A. and team, the project started as academic research exploring ways to present craft to the world in new ways using technology. It brings tech and gamification into the heritage space, and builds on the Beat Saber VR rhythm game. 
  • Jawaab, an interactive gamified museum tour application using augmented reality and location-based services by Nouf AlSughier and team. The project looks at how entities such as museums, galleries, airports etc. can improve on the user experience through gamification. It enables institutions to share content the user can engage with and add to.
  • Anticipation of Rain, an environmental reflection inspired by the expectation of rain by Naima Karim. The formerly 2D artist has developed a 3D location-based experience exploring people and the environment’s relationship to rain as experienced in Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, incorporating the smell of rain from Switzerland. 
  • History of Science, a view of the world through the eyes of the greatest storytellers and scientists in history by Abdullah Al-Arfaj. The creative combines his passion for teaching science and educating children to develop new ways of teaching young learners about the history of science through holograms, virtual reality and multi-speaker immersive sound. It builds on his coding knowledge and understanding of game engine design. 
  • Wamdah, an interactive film about a man who embarks on a journey to find his lost brother by Abdullah Ba Mashmos. A startup of Jeddah-based app developers take users on an experience through time from the Saudi desert in the 1950s to Neom in 2040. The film presents their vision of a futuristic desert location.

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