Extended reality festival returns to Belfast

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An innovative arts festival is set to once again merge technology and art to create a unique virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experience for attendees.

Belfast XR, now in its third year, specialises in curating worldclass immersive technology content that takes the art of storytelling to a new level.

Extended Reality or ‘XR’ is the collective name for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR is a computer-generated artificial environment with scenes that appear to be real, while AR is a digital overlay onto the real world, which is viewed through your phone or an iPad.

Deepa Mann-Kler, director and curator for Belfast XR Festival which is an annual gathering for the XR arts - storytelling, visual arts, music, drama, dance, literature and theatre, said bringing virtual and augmented reality content to new audiences locally is something the team at Belfast XR are passionate about.

Have fun at Belfast XR Festival.Have fun at Belfast XR Festival.
Have fun at Belfast XR Festival.

She said: “I have been working with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) since 2016 with my company Neon. During that time I have been fortunate to visit XR Festivals across the USA and Europe.

“I realised that there are so many incredible stories being told in this medium that audiences in Northern Ireland never get the opportunity to experience. This was my key motivation.

“Luckily I secured funding from Future Screens NI and Film Hub NI and we were able to deliver the first Festival in 2022. For the last two years BXRF sat within the Belfast Film Festival and their support has been pivotal in selling out our shows to local audiences.

“Our ambition is to create an unmissable annual gathering for XR that inspires storytelling and our passion is to bring the best global virtual and augmented reality content to new local audiences. You don’t need to have used a virtual reality headset before, as our team will guide you through the whole process.”

Running on Wednesday, February 28 and Thursday 29, this year’s festival theme is Legacy which will offer attendees the chance to experience world history in captivating ways allowing audiences to step into the past, interact with historical figures, and explore significant events firsthand.

Belfast XR Festival is both for XR enthusiasts and those who haven’t experienced any form of XR in the past.

Deepa explained: “The Festival is aimed at 16+ years of age and is open to everyone. You don’t need to have experienced AR, VR or any of these types of experiences before. We have an amazing team who will guide you through the whole process from the minute you step into The Black Box.

“I want people to have memorable experiences. I want them to be altered, in a good way. I want them to talk about how it made them feel. I want to increase their appetite to experience more.

The Belfast XR Festival is supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. It is also supported by Digital Catapult NI, Future Screens NI, Ulster Screen Academy and NI Screen.

For more information follow Belfast XR Festival on social media or go to belfastxrfestival.com