Exploring the FuturePlay Festival

The hubbub of Edinburgh's George Street may not seem like a place to escape the crowds at this time of the year, but those with an adventurous spirit will be rewarded for exploring the area and finding a relative oasis of calm with a tech twist. Within minutes of arriving, we had teleported around the White House, been surrounded by circus acts, drifted through a hand-painted dreamlike landscape, and ended up in the warm, fragrant surrounds of the Amazon rainforest. We had found the FuturePlay Virtual Reality Studio.

FuturePlay - VR Studio

The FuturePlay Festival (3 - 26 August) is a celebration and showcase of cutting-edge creative content, offering a Virtual Reality studio, a gaming and interactive tech zone, an immersive art gallery and a black box theatre. Visitors can lose themselves in virtual worlds, get hands on with innovative and playful technology, try a host of unique video games, and attend a range of fascinating talks and panels where artists, performers, experts and academics discuss and debate the latest trends, challenges and controversies in the world of art and tech.

FuturePlay - VR Headset

FuturePlay - Intern

We were pleased to be joined by festival producer Josh McNorton, who began by showing us Abstraction, a unique VR experience created by Bright Side Studios and Janis Claxton Dance taking audiences on an immersive and visceral journey. We featured the project recently and it was great to see the public experiencing and reacting to the piece.

FuturePlay - Abstraction

We took some time to watch the moving Dear Angelica, a journey through the magical and dreamlike ways we remember our loved ones. Entirely painted by hand inside of VR, the piece plays out in a series of memories that unfold around you. We must admit it brought a lump to our throats!

FuturePlay - Oculus

Next up was Munduruku, developed by Greenpeace to explore the lives and struggles of the Munduruku Indigenous People in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The experience combined complex storytelling with multi-sensory effects, with everything from the temperature to the smells around the player changing as the story progresses.

FuturePlay - Amazon

First Impressions, developed using the latest research in neural development and colour vision in infants, offers users the chance to see life through the eyes of a baby. It engages with development, emotion and sensory surroundings in a unique, and highly personal way.

We then spent some time in the Tech Zone, an interactive playground where arts meets tech, offering everything from maraca-shaking to button-bashing.

FuturePlay - Tech Zone

FuturePlay - Arcades

FuturePlay - Connect 1

Josh challenged us to a simple and colourful arcade game, Dead Pixels, which can support up to nine players at once. After 90 furious seconds of racing around the screen gobbling up pixels, we're pleased to report that we won.

FuturePlay - Game

We then moved on to the Immersive Gallery, a converted shipping container offering visitors the chance to try Tilt Brush - exploring immersive artworks and even creating their own with a wide range of virtual creative tools and a blank, 3D virtual canvas. 

FuturePlay - Immersive Gallery

FuturePlay - Immersive Gallery demo

More about FuturePlay

FuturePlay celebrates, explores and showcases cutting-edge creative content and ideas at the intersection of art and technology. The festival launched in 2016 as the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival and returns this year as FuturePlay.

In addition to the above experiences, visitors can enjoy everything from a special Arcade Party on Monday 14 August, a variety of talks and panel discussions running until 20 August, and FuturePlay Exchange on Monday 21 August - a day of connection, debate and idea exchange for creative entrepreneurs, artists, designers, gamemakers, producers, and arts industry professionals.

FuturePlay is produced by Riverside Studios in association with Assembly Festival and supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland's Open Project Fund.

This article was published on 11 Aug 2017