Hi Anna, thanks for joining us, can you tell us a little about yourself and your business?
My background is in theatre but my creative practice has shifted in recent years and I have started to work with the XR (extended realities) medium. My journey with VR (virtual reality) has started with an art project as part of which I have developed a VR experience with the elements of theatre.
I joined STEAMhouse because I saw an opportunity to learn about business development and how I can diversify and develop XR products/services that could generate profits. Since joining, I’ve been providing services such as XR related consultancy and teaching Unity.
Can you tell us about the have challenges you have needed to overcome? And how did you conquer them?
I hadn’t worked with the VR technology before and upskilling was one of the main challenges I had to face. Firstly, to understand the different components of what would be required to deliver this project I consulted with a creative technologist. That creative technologist helped me understand the different elements of technology and provided me with advice on what areas I should research and learn more about.
Subsequently, I experimented with technology focusing on what was accessible on a budget such as: mocap using Kinect, 3D asset creation using VR sculpting tools, avatar creation using free software, and free online animation samples. Through the experimentation I learned which elements I would need to outsource and pay for and what I could create and develop myself. For example, one of the key outsourced elements was the mocap technology. An access to mocap technology on a budget which produced good results was problematic. However, through networking, I found an animation specialist who owned a Rokoko suit. We used the suit to capture my performance and then we created the workflow which enabled us to bring the animation into the VR environment.
Throughout my first project it was important for me to develop my technical skills to the level where I could make my own creative decisions without depending on the outside help. To upskill myself, I used the resources available online such as YouTube videos and Unity forums. I also developed my skills through working on the project itself, experimenting with technology, and resolving incoming and inevitable numerous technical issues on my own.
When the product was being finalised, I had to resolve the implementation of the aesthetics. To that end, I sought advice of another STEAMhouse member, Taran3D, who helped me with improvement of VR environment. Thus, a help of the network members such as Taran3D proved essential to the success of the project.
Harry adds: Anna is a fantastic example of a STEAMhouse member that has gone from having little to no knowledge in a particular area, in this case XR technologies, to producing a fantastic project outcome in a relatively short period of time.
Anna has been proactive and adaptable in her approach by quickly identifying her skill gaps and learning new technologies to progress her project. She is a shining example of an individual that is willing to learn and adapt in a new environment that can seem overwhelming at times. She has benefited from tailored support and guidance from STEAMhouse and the wider BCU ecosystem, she has also presented her project at the VR Birmingham event alongside The National Theatre.
What difference did the support you have gained make to you?
I’m a sole trader working in the media and entertainment industry. When I joined STEAMhouse I was working on my first VR project and I was looking for advice and guidance how I could develop my product so it could generate some profit. I attended numerous talks organised by STEAMhouse which helped me to develop knowledge about business development, art commissioning, and the current landscape of XR industry. By attending workshops as well as mentoring and talking to other STEAMhouse members, I realised that I could develop the aspects of my business concerned with consulting and teaching.
In addition, with the aid of STEAMhouse, I could extend my network and I meet other artists and businesses working in the same field. As a result, I formed collaborations and also managed to outsource some of work on the project to other STEAMhouse members. And, as a consequence of building a robust professional network, for example, was gained new opportunities to teach as part of my own business.
Fantastic, so what was the new product that you have developed?
I’ve developed a VR experience with live actor’s performance which is available here.
The product is available for free and it serves as a showcase of my skills and my portfolio hence it brings me new opportunities for teaching & consultancy.
I have never developed my own VR product before, so by creating a VR experience I was able to diversify and broaden my service providing. It’s been essential for developing new skill set which I’ll be using in the next project where I’m looking to use VR in educational setting.
Harry adds: This project is a great example of what can happen when a STEAMhouse member is given the correct technical support and access to top specification hardware to support their project progress.
We have also learnt a great deal from Anna during this project journey. One of the key takeaways is is that supporting members with access to top spec hardware is such an important barrier to remove for people when entering the world of XR. This project has inspired our new XR rental service we are currently developing. This platform is designed to support STEAMhouse members to innovate using industry leading technologies and will allow projects to flourish without the limitations.
Thank you Anna and good luck on your journey!
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