XR Network+ : Virtual Production in the Digital Economy

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Electronics


XR Network+ Virtual Production in the Digital Economy will provide a ten-year research agenda for content creation and consumption. XR Network+ is founded on research collaboration, co-creation and challenge-led innovation, and designed from the ground up to build a community of academic research and industry R&D at the convergence of ideas, technologies, and creative practice in Virtual Production (VP) to deliver impact and opportunity for the whole of the digital economy.

Virtual Production (VP) is an emergent area of multi-disciplinary activity encompassing the wider application of digital creativity techniques and technologies across many domains. It is changing the landscape of technology-driven storytelling, media, film and television content production workflows, live and immersive experiences, both large and small scale. The UK screen industries sector is currently investing heavily in traditional studio infrastructure, with demand for production space currently outstripping supply. However, compact, flexible and technology-driven VP facilities will help to shape the future of these and other studios, their production practices, the content they make and hence the audiences that consume this content. This change is based on how a new generation of real-time technologies (motion capture, spatial computing, data, AI, machine learning, volumetric capture, haptics, real-time rendering, immersive XR and responsive media) offer, for the first time, the promise of integrating production processes and workflows from initial concept through to final result.

XR Network+ will build on the success of the AHRC Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP) and the significant interest that has emerged from these projects in supporting R&D in XR (eXtended Reality) technologies as it converges with VP. The CICP demonstrates how leading universities can act as anchors at the centre of geographical/sectoral creative industries clusters and use their research capacity and expertise for the benefit of their SMEs, bringing opportunities for place-based growth, and economic, social and cultural impact. XR Network+ will land at a critical point, during the final year of the CICP and as a number of significant VP investments come online, offering a short window of opportunity to harness connections and capabilities. XR Network+ builds a bridge between five current CICP projects and will leverage other core UKRI, local government and industry investment. It will drive a community-led programme of complementary VP research and innovation to unlock the potential of content creation and consumption for the whole of the digital economy and related sectors.

Research challenges co-created with project partners at application include: VP Integration of virtual game worlds and physical content; sound design in VP contexts; building VP environments, characters and objects; issues of ethics and IP in the use of digital assets and data; AI and data-driven automation; translation and impact in the digital economy.
XR Network+ activities will be built across five stages corresponding to the five years of the project (1) Engage; (2) Explore; (3) Challenge; (4) Respond; (5) Report and Renew. An Annual Networking and Showcase event will provide a key point of dissemination for each stage of activity. Feasibility funding will support a potential range of research activities based on best practice from the five CICP projects: a Creative Bridge programme for early career researchers; a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Model; small grant funding; challenge funding; portfolio building; and commissioned research to evaluate the project and build a roadmap for future activity.

XR Network+ is important and timely in terms of the significant current interest and investment in VP and the need to coordinate the UK's research base alongside industry and regional investments to provide a pathway for next stage investment and growth at a national level.


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