The world’s first metaverse live streaming studio, a more sustainable but equally spectacular alternative to fireworks, and a pioneering technique set to transform sensory products and experiences are among six technology trailblazers to be awarded a share of £1million MyWorld funding.

These startups from across the West of England will be the first to benefit from MyWorld funding, delivered in partnership with Digital Catapult. MyWorld is a visionary initiative led by the University of Bristol, which aims to drive innovation in creative technology tools and processes, empowering audiences and fuelling creative business growth.

“The West of England is an exciting, vibrant and globally recognised source of creative technology innovation”

Following a rigorous Innovate UK-led selection process, the successful bidders are: drone show performance innovators Celestial Labs, sensory pioneers Zero Point Motion, immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast, virtual event virtuosos Condense Reality, soft robot studio Air Giants, and metaverse ground breakers Awarri.

The projects, focusing on screen-based, immersive technologies and robotics, will address current challenges within creative sector industries. The funding will enable them to further develop their products and services, and deliver innovative research and development-led solutions, whilst working in collaboration with academics from the University of West of England, Bath Spa University and the University of Bristol. 

Celebrating world firsts

One of the projects led by award-winning Bristol-based startup Condense is the first-ever metaverse live streaming studio. This will allow music industry clients to stream live performances into any virtual space. It was built using a game engine and the events can be monetised through ticketing and sponsorship. The live 3D content can be experienced via gaming consoles and mobile phone games, as well as in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

Another, Celestial Labs, which has roots in Somerset and Bath, is already delivering spellbinding drone shows across the globe. Drone displays are increasingly popular, as they offer a more eco-friendly alternative to fireworks. The funding will allow Celestial Labs to develop outstanding new drone light shows by responding to performers in real time, expressing their music and dance through an immersive fusion of colour and movement.

Zero Point Motion is the brainchild of award-winning physicist and inventor Dr Ying Lia Li, who grew up in Bristol and is now on a mission to revolutionise the world of sensors. The unique sensing technology deploys photonics – the science of light waves – to achieve ultra-low noise tracking of motion. These pioneering inertial sensors can be more than 100 times more sensitive than those currently used in smartphones, cars, and games consoles. The funding will allow Zero Point Motion to undertake first-of-its-kind study that could generate new methods for the creative industry to measure immersion or reactions to visual stimulus.

Marshmallow Laser Feast will be working with South West-based creatives All Seeing Eye to produce a range of tools designed to support the delivery of immersive location-based experiences for mass audiences. These services will present enhanced opportunities for the entertainment, visitor experience, and arts and culture sectors.

“This funding will stimulate the local creative technology industry and strengthen partnerships between universities and business”

Awarri, founded by Silas Adekunle, means ‘seek and find’ in the commonly spoken African language Yoruba. It is helping lay the foundations for an inclusive and fair Metaverse by developing a cross-world avatar system that relies on 3D artists and uses Non-Fungible Token (NFT) technology to give users control over their identity, representation and personal data in virtual worlds. Awarri will be working with the University of the West of England to ensure that users’ rights as well as an open, creator and user-driven framework are central to the Metaverse, a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.

Air Giants, creators of giant robotic soft creatures, will explore new territory for large-scale tactile interaction between robots and people, working with the Bristol Interaction Group from the University of Bristol. The work will advance the gaming and leisure industries and create innovative sensory environments, for example, supporting children with special needs. 

Richard Sewell, a Director at Air Giants, tells us, “Our project, Giant Tactile Robots, will allow us to extend our unique work with giant joyful robots. We’ll build new kinds of body-scale touch-based interactions in a way that’s never been seen before, offering audiences wonderful and emotionally effective experiences. This funding has enabled collaboration, which will bring an academic perspective and deepen understanding of human-computer interaction.”

Those who attended Get Up, Startup at the Engine Shed during Bristol Technology Festival 2022 were lucky enough to interact with Luna – and we can confirm the robots bring a lot of joy and amazement! 

A white woman interacts with a giant inflatable multicoloured snail

Funding great innovation

MyWorld is supported by £30m of funding from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund and is connecting regional and national partners with global tech giants, including Netflix, Google, and Microsoft. Made up of a unique cross-sector consortium, its partners include the BBC, Aardman Animations, BT, Digital Catapult, and Bristol Old Vic.

The hub is projected to generate more than 700 new jobs and boost the regional economy by £223m. It aims to forge dynamic collaborations between world-leading academic institutions and creative industries to develop technological innovation, creative excellence, inclusive cultures, and knowledge sharing.

Excited for what’s next in the MyWorld project, Professor David Bull, MyWorld Director from the University of Bristol, says, “The West of England is an exciting, vibrant and globally recognised source of creative technology innovation and MyWorld is delighted to fund this first cohort of collaborative research and development projects. We can’t wait to see the results and see what further opportunities they will generate for the partners and the region.”

“I am delighted to see the MyWorld project award R&D grants to six innovative projects in the South-West of England. This funding will stimulate the local creative technology industry and strengthen partnerships between universities and business,” adds Rachel Tyrrell, Programme Director of the UKRI Strength in Places Fund.

The Collaborative Research and Development (R&D) Open Call is led by MyWorld partner Digital Catapult and the competition is delivered by Innovate UK. Other creative enterprises from across the region will have the chance to bid for funding in the next R&D call, scheduled for January 2023.

[Main image credit – Air Giants]