The FuturePlay festival is returning to Edinburgh for another year to celebrate and explore the intersection of art and technology. Organised by Riverside Studios in association with Assembly Festival, the event will run from 3 to 26 August and feature a dedicated hub on George Street built from geodesic domes and shipping containers.
Known last year as the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, the event has rebranded as FuturePlay in order to better represent the tech-centric principles of the programme, and to embody the spirit of the Fringe.
FuturePlay Producer Josh McNorton Told DIGIT:
“The Fringe obviously has been showcasing groundbreaking and new work for seventy-odd years. Our idea was to bring in technology, and some of what artists are doing with technology and innovation in the way that they are interacting with audiences and creating work.”
“That was the impetus for starting it last year. One of the things we decided was to rebrand the festival to make it easier to express FuturePlay. The core principles are the same, and what we are trying to accomplish is the same, but the branding is a little bit snappier and more playful. I think that’s certainly indicated in our programme this year.”
The programme includes a wide range of events and exhibitions showcasing cutting-edge creative content and exploring the intersection of art and technology. It also features a number of local producers and designers, including Bright Side Studios and Dennis and Debbie Club.
One particular piece of technology making an appearance in a number of FuturePlay’s exhibitions is virtual reality.
“VR, as I’m sure you know, is very exciting right now,” Josh said. “There’s tons of amazing content being made, so we’ve curated a really fantastic programme of diverse experiences using lots of different tech.”
The VR features include the FuturePlay Immersive Gallery, where visitors can experience a “3D painting experience” with the help of Google Tilt Brush.
“We’ve worked with an Edinburgh-based group called Reality Is Only Screen Deep, and they’ve curated an art gallery that you can experience in virtual reality. They work with two different artists, and there are two different galleries where they’ve curated beautiful experiences. You’re in VR and you’re moving through a three dimensional gallery space – everywhere you look there’s beautiful artwork, and it’s all been curated as a journey.”
Hosted in an outdoor shipping container on George Street, the gallery isn’t limited to a visual experience – visitors will be given the opportunity to interact with their surroundings, and add to the art on display.
“People can either be passive as they go through the gallery, or they can actually paint in the gallery itself, and paint in the world that’s been created. Then they can get a copy of that by email afterwards so they actually get to see the work that they made digitally.”
Other features include the FuturePlay Sessions, which consist of talks given by artists, exhibitors and technologists alike to “discuss and debate the latest trends, challenges and controversies in the worlds of art and tech. “ Visits can also experience the Future Play Tech Zone, where they will be given 55 minutes to explore a variety of gadgets, participate in multiplayer games, and experience interactive installations.
FuturePlay will also be hosting an arcade-themed party in association with We Throw Switches, an Edinburgh-based organisation known for arcade-themed events.
“We’re working with them and taking over a car park in George Square. It’s normally a venue but on one of the nights that they are dark, we’re going to take it over and bring in a bunch of really fun arcade games. We’re going to have music and make a real party atmosphere on that night.
“We’re working with them to give it a slightly different spin, but also to make make it really fun and to work with their local audience.”
According to Josh, FuturePlay’s main objective is to embody the spirit of the fringe whilst doing something different with technology and appealing to a broad audience:
“We’re not appealing to strictly a business audience like a trade show or a conference would. We really want the public to come along, and a lot of people may not have engaged with this stuff before.” He said. “They may not have tried on a VR headset, and this is the right space to do it. You can try a range of experiences, some of which are really fun and lighthearted, and some of which are more serious.
“It’s really just bringing that spirit of the fringe, where you get everything in one city for one month. Whether you’re into comedy, or performance art, or circuit, you can do that all within a day. It’s an amazing thing, and we’re inspired to do this.”