Irish people have a long and proud history of storytelling. From the ancient seanchaí to poets, musicians and novelists, the Irish ability to tell a story in an unforgettable and imaginative way is famous across the world.
With storytelling at the core of today’s artificial reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and immersive experiences, combined with Ireland’s reputation for excellence in technological innovation, it should come as no surprise that several Irish companies are making waves in this sector.
Overview of the immersive entertainment sector
“The immersive entertainment sector actually grew during the Covid-19 pandemic,” notes Bartosz Siepracki, Senior ICT Market Advisor, Poland and Baltics, and Global Digital Entertainment Sector Lead at Enterprise Ireland.
“Cinema restrictions resulted in more people looking for immersive entertainment experiences at home. As a result, consumers worldwide spent $9.9 billion on AR and VR during 2020.”
“During the same period, just $7 billion was spent on cinema attendance. Investors are recognising this growth and responding accordingly. This means there are plenty of opportunities for Irish companies looking to enter the sector.”
These opportunities become even more significant when the impressive long-term predictions are taken into account.
“A report on Statistica predicts that the global immersive market will grow to almost $300 billion by 2024. This means that immersive media will be as significant to us as mobile apps are today.”
“There is another piece to this fast growth,” notes Bartosz. “With this being such a rapidly growing and developing industry, companies entering the sector today will play a valuable role in shaping the world of immersive entertainment over the coming decades.”
Opportunities for Irish companies in immersive entertainment
Recognising the massive potential of this growing sector, Enterprise Ireland is supporting Irish companies that wish to enter or increase their presence in the industry.
As part of this, a new guide, ‘Opportunities in Immersive Media Entertainment’, has been developed by the UK-based Limina Immersive consultancy in partnership with Enterprise Ireland to help Irish entertainment companies recognise, prepare for and take advantage of these opportunities globally.
Headed by globally recognised expert Catherine Allen, Limina is also currently working with several Irish SMEs branching out into the sector.
“The guide looks at the current immersive entertainment market and the areas of growth over the coming years, along with the digital technology trends, investment opportunities and advice on getting your immersive entertainment projects off the ground.”
Irish businesses that found success in the sector
“Many Irish companies are already finding success in the area,” says Bartosz. “For example, Engage XR (previously known as Immersive VR Education) launched a VR documentary in April 2016, ‘Apollo 11’, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. It’s based on NASA’s original material from the first lunar expedition in 1969. It allows the user to fly the command module, operate the lunar lander and carry out experiments on the moon.”
“Since then, the company has developed its ENGAGE platform, which enables VR education, collaboration and events. This is now used by over 130 commercial customers including Fortune 500 companies Meta and 3M.”
Another area of growth is in volumetric filmmaking, most notably how to make it easy and affordable for both professional headsets and mobile experiences. “Volograms has developed state-of-the-art deep learning algorithms powering 3D reconstruction, multi-view texture mapping and many more important features,” says Bartosz. “Its mobile app allows anyone to capture volumetric video of someone, resize it and place it in a different context.”
Pink Kong Studio
Ireland’s animation industry has long been admired for its carefully crafted stories for both adults and children. Naturally, this sector is playing a big role in advancing the world of immersive entertainment too. “Most famous of all is Aurora, developed by Pink Kong Studio in 2018,” says Bartosz. “Aurora is an emotional story about a family of three living in a forest and has received multiple accolades around the world. These include the 2018 Monolith Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Immersive VR’ from Infinity Film Festival Beverly Hills.”
Irish companies are taking the technology to the outdoors too, for everyone to enjoy. “Living Canvas was developed by Algorithm and is noted for bringing technology into the cultural sphere,” explains Bartosz. “It’s one of the world’s first outdoor digital screens used exclusively for artistic and cultural content. It’s currently located in Wilton Park where it operates as an exciting open-air gallery. Anyone living in or visiting Dublin can experience this wonderful new technology for themselves.”
“People don’t need a complicated entertainment system or even a top-of-the-range phone to experience this new world.”