On the back of record venture capital investment into the space where UK creative and tech industries overlap, CreaTech at CogX 2021 provided a deep dive into this fast-growing and evolving category. The programme, co-curated with the Creative Industries Council (CIC), brought together decision-makers, entrepreneurs and leading organisations at the forefront of CreaTech.
Introducing CreaTech - where creativity meets technology
Digital Catapult’s CEO Dr Jeremy Silver - who is also the CIC's lead on R&D and Innovation - talked about CreaTech and the role of innovation, which is about taking one-off creative ideas and turning them into scalable, repeatable solutions or approaches. Tech is a massive enabler of innovation, so CreaTech is critical to the development of the creative sector as a whole. There’s a pressing need for structured R&D within creative companies, so that the solutions and tools they develop can be shared by the wider sector. Digital Catapult is leading this work with programmes such as Creative XR and the world’s first 5G powered, digital immersive hybrid festival experience.
DCMS minister Caroline Dinenage said both tech and creative were high growth sectors that will play a leading role in rebuilding our economies, generating business growth and employment. The government is committed to investing in these areas to ensure we remain world leaders in innovation and R&D, she said. Projects such as the RSC’s livestream Dream - which immersed online audiences in a virtual world populated by live actors - enhance our social wellbeing too, bringing us much-needed joy and connection in difficult times.
Tech Nation’s Chair Stephen Kelly said new technologies such as virtual reality and machine learning will bring about radical change in every industry, from design to culture, fashion to architecture.
The CreaTech Report 2021
The CreaTech Report 2021 is a two part analysis of CreaTech investment and employment in the UK, commissioned by the CIC and conducted by Tech Nation. CIC CreaTech Lead Janet Hull discussed the report’s findings, including the fact Venture Capital (VC) investment in UK CreaTech is expected to top £1.2bn in 2022, with Tech Nation's George Windsor, Head of Insights, and Diana Akanho, Senior Insights Manager.
George Windsor said CreaTech should be seen as a strategically important area of the UK tech ecosystem, alongside more well-known areas such as HealthTech and FinTech. He added that UK has all the ingredients to accelerate the growth of CreaTech further.
Creative industries on 5G
Sam Field, Director of Creative Technology, RYOT Studio, Verizon Media, said 5G will allow creatives to unlock the full potential of existing technology such as virtual reality and live streaming. He gave the example of an augmented reality music concert outside New York Public Library which was only available in full to those with 5G smartphones.
The panel discussed the 5G Festival, part of the government-funded 5G testbeds and trials programme, which will harness 5G’s low latency and ultra-high bandwidth to allow artists in different venues to perform live together.
Jamie Gosney, Creative Director, Sonosphere, said trials of the technology had ‘sent shivers down my spine’. Enabling musicians in different locations around the world to play together seamlessly online opened a whole world of possibilities for collaboration.
How is fast fashion becoming slow fashion?
The panel comprised Arizona Muse, Sustainability Consultant, Model & Activist; Jane Harris - Director of Research & Innovation (Stratford), Professor of Digital Design & Innovation, University of the Arts London; Sojin Lee, Founder & CEO, TOSHI; and Frankie Phillips, Founder, Creative and Sustainability Director, TOBEFRANK
Arizona Muse said rental websites could help to lessen the industry’s carbon footprint but called for a focus on peer-to-peer lending, rather than falling back on a traditional retail model which relied on regular drops of new clothing and high production to satiate consumer demand.
Professor Harris said there was an opportunity for brands to rethink the fashion marketplace and use technology to develop new fashion experiences for consumers and her organisation is funding a variety of projects/aiming to increase sustainability through innovation (https://bftt.org.uk/).
Bridgerton: Innovating beyond TV
Adrian Wootton CEO Film London & British Film Commission, explained how production of Netflix’s smash hit period drama 'Bridgerton' was brought to the UK. The BFC helped the show’s producers source talent, secure dozens of outside locations and studio space, as well as helping showrunner Chris Van Dusen with research.
RIBA’s CEO Alan Vallance discussed the show’s Regency setting, explaining how it was an era of innovation in the UK, particularly in the country’s transport infrastructure: stagecoaches got twice as fast, turnpike roads opened and new canals allowed materials to be transported across the country.
TikTok’s General Manager, EU/UK Rich Waterworth explained how two composers, Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear, became an overnight sensation on TikTok after sharing songs inspired by the show’s storylines, which in turn inspired other creators to share choreographed dances and singalongs.
AI Poetry and Performative Architecture
Panellists discussed the UK Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai which will use AI-generated poetry to produce a ‘Collective Message’ projected on the façade of the UK Pavilion. The AI will turn words from thousands of visitors from across the globe into couplets using an algorithm trained on 15,000 poems from more than 100 British poets to refine its output.
Judith Palmer, Director of the Poetry Society, said that while machine learning could be used in schools to help teach the rules of poetic form, the AI-generated poetry was often universal and “not reaching in to the specific which makes us connect with a poem” and would benefit from engagement with human poets.
Steve Austen-Brown, Creative Director, Avantgarde, said the resulting poem would reflect the different topics discussed at the Expo, and would therefore learn about humans talk and communicate about ‘some very big topics’.
The session moderator, Guy Gadney, CEO of Charisma.ai, argued that it was vital that as new technology was being developed, creative people were involved in the design process, rather than taking something and trying to retrofit the technology to be creative.
From Here to The Metaverse
In May 2021, games studio Midwinter Entertainment successfully hosted a peak of 4,144 players in a single, dense virtual world during a community event for fans of the studio’s game, Scavengers. The experimental live event, represented a major step for large-scale shared virtual worlds, and was made possible by technology from Midwinter’s parent company, Improbable.
In this CogX session, Herman Narula, Co-Founder and CEO of Improbable, was interviewed by Ben Vickers, CTO of Serpentine Galleries, on the implications of the initiative for further demonstrations of the ‘metaverse’ – a term typically used to describe a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.
Narula sketched out the infrastructure challenges in delivering such experiences at scale – from the computational power and visual rendering processes needed to the skills required to manage virtual crowds and avatars. Music, he said, was likely to be one of the first categories that could benefit from such mass audience virtual environments.
However, he emphasised that the priority was to ensure a fulfilling experience for audiences: "When things become more fulfilling, it will be easier to monetise them.”
Watch these and all the sessions from CreaTech at CogX 2021.