This month marks the launch of the third Creative Solutions initiative hosted by the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture, or Ithra for short.
The youth of Saudi Arabia make up the majority of the population, and this programme aims to empower talent and contribute to the country’s expanding creative economy. Digital content creation is Creative Solutions’ primary area of expertise, and the company’s goal is to foster an environment conducive to the growth of pioneers in the field who make use of immersive technologies like VR, AR, MR, MR/AR, haptics, and immersive audio.
On Wednesday, the second cycle’s class presented 10 working prototypes; eight of these were spearheaded by women from Saudi Arabia. The Host Unity Centre of Excellence provided the participants with a grant, and the two organisations worked together to offer an entrepreneurship course taught by The Bakery. Emmy-winning creative director Kim-Leigh Pontin and Anne McKinnon, co-founder and chief executive of metaverse platform Ristband, chose the final ten finalists.
Leaders of the various projects came from the fields of education, healthcare, the arts, tourism, and technology to create a dynamic and engaging gaming environment.
At Creative Solutions, the arts were prioritised. Through the use of virtual reality (VR) and immersive audio, Fatima Nammi demonstrated Trace, a puzzle game in which players can learn about various art techniques by tracing them, and can also explore murals and paintings alongside a playable character named Mira.
Many people enjoy works of art, but it’s truly remarkable when one is able to comprehend the work that goes into creating it, especially in the realm of virtual reality. The head of creativity and innovation at Ithra, Miznah AlZamil, says that Trace solves a problem they’ve been having.
The Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky’s theory of synesthesia served as inspiration for Jumanah Saklou’s novel Sensing Beyond the Frame. It was theorised that Kandinsky experienced chromesthesia, which allowed him to “hear” paintings, with each shape and colour having its own distinct tone.
Saklou’s project has a similar goal: to put its users in a trance that expands their perception of visual art beyond the confines of the screen. Later, she’d like to publicise the event in museums and galleries.
The Guest: Ethereal Guardian, by Mutaz Bashrahil, is another option for exploring “magical powers” in a multisensory fantasy world while protecting characters through the use of hand recognition and sequential events. The short film Whisper Down the Lane by Raghad Albarqi is a rotoscope that follows a chain of five interconnected phone calls in a linear fashion.
To better prepare its users for life in Saudi Arabia, Amal Akinani is building Hinkah, a virtual reality (VR) training library that will focus on soft skills and etiquette in an interactive setting. Akinani explains to The National why the document is available in both Arabic and English: It was important to me to compile a collection of literature that exemplifies our way of life and values.
Because of recent reforms that have made it easier for foreigners to visit Saudi Arabia, Maram Alghamdi’s Virtually There: A Saudi Tourist Experience is a timely and useful resource for those planning a trip to the country. We will develop more destinations, including Abha, Souda, Riyadh, and Jedda, but this one is specifically set in AlUla to highlight the iconic locations and beautiful landscape in our country,” says Alghamdi.
History of the Hejaz region in the twentieth century is documented in Hejaz Railway: A Witness of Time by Atheer Alharbi, Hanan Makki, and Omar Khashoggi. It uses virtual reality and narrative techniques to tell the story of the legendary train ride through multiple cultures on its way from Damascus to Madinah.
According to Makki, the sounds of the many languages spoken by the peoples who have passed through Arabia over the centuries are a testament to the rich diversity of the region’s cultures. According to Makki, “it is important for Saudis to tell and share this historically important story not only internationally, but also locally.”
MemoARable by Maryam Alfadhli aims to recreate “beautiful memories” in augmented reality, while Symphony of Life by Aminhali Uhoud creates a mixed-reality experience using scents and temperature change to replicate real life. According to Alfadhli, it can be given as a gift experience in which the recipient and his or her loved ones use virtual reality to relive an event in the exact location where it took place, complete with photos, messages, and voice notes.
According to AlZamil, “the projects are truly a global showcase of Saudi innovation.”
Author of “Understanding the Metaverse” Nick Rosa argues that no industry is safe from the onslaught of corporate-driven technology, including retail, real estate, and energy. Moreover, “Saudi Arabia is at the forefront and centre to change the world as we know it” because of its role in developing the “metaverse,” which will alter our understanding of reality.
Rosa argues that the metaverse, which she describes as having a “very deep infrastructure” and being made up of layers that interact with each other to achieve the moonshot vision, is often misunderstood as a synonym for gaming.