The Innovation Consultancy awarded InnovateUK R&D Grant

New Virtual Reality Rehearse & Perform system secures prestigious government funding to create new opportunities for the UK’s performers hit hard by Covid-19

From live broadcasts in living rooms to concerts for the neighbours, throughout lockdown professional musicians have continued to rehearse and perform in very challenging circumstances. Now, thanks to investment from InnovateUK, Musicians in the UK will have the opportunity to virtually rehearse and perform in iconic venues across the UK with a new Virtual Reality (VR) tool that combines high-quality visual 3D models and accurate acoustic rendering of real performance spaces.

The Innovation Consultancy in collaboration with the Royal College of Music and Imperial College has secured funding from InnovateUK to develop a new VR environment which allows performers to virtually experience what it would be like to perform in any real-life venue while still working from home. These real performances in virtual venues can be recorded and experienced by audiences in virtual reality or used to enhance real performances when venues reopen, offering a novel future way of working that responds to the needs of venues as well as performers.

Musicians across the UK have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 — Dr Vali Lalioti, Director of The Innovation Consultancy says: “ Musicians and performing artists are now training in home spaces, visually and acoustically poor in comparison to real venues and with their livelihoods in peril as live performance venues remain closed, with losses so far totalling £13.9m. The investment of this highly competitive Innovate UK Covid-19 funding will fast-track our research and design of the VR Rehearse and Perform platform.” 

The Innovation Consultancy ltd is a global innovation design studio with a track record of award-winning innovations. Their work with FTSE100 companies and global NGOs won the Johnson & Johnson Innovation award 2013 and also secured InnovateUK funding in 2015. They are passionate about collaboration and creativity, determined to bring together a community of people to explore and design new and innovative uses of technology — not just to create tools for the current crisis, but instead securing the creative world we have now in ways that will inspire and train the next generation of artists and reach new audiences. 

Conducting high-resolution 3D and audio scans with Royal College of Music and Imperial College London

Project partner Dr Terry Clark is a Research Fellow in Performance Science, he says “Learning to manage and adapt to the unique visual and auditory features within performance spaces is a key skill for musicians. Yes, it is one that is very difficult to develop in student musicians given the limited access they have to those performance spaces. This can cause considerable stress and anxiety in students. We are very excited about the chance to develop this tool as it will provide musicians with the opportunity to practice coping with and responding to the visual and auditory features of performance spaces while still in an environment that is safe. As such, this project stands to make a significant contribution to how we teach and train musicians, in the future as well as in the current Covid-19 response.”

This  project will enrich live events when they return, not simply replace it in a return to normal. As project partner Lorenzo Picinali says “Imagine practising with your instrument, whether it is a piano or your own voice, and being able to choose the acoustic environment around you, and hear how your music sounds in different rooms and concert halls, all within an immersive audio-visual experience. This must be the future!”

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