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DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia: The white walls of Ithra’s Innovation Lab were once again lit up as they served as the physical backdrop for the digital blank canvas that will bring some of the most ambitious projects to date to life.

Creative Solutions’ new cohort kicked off on June 2, where selected cohorts came together to team up and learn about the program. Creative Solutions is an annual thematic innovation program that invites professionals in art, science and technology to develop viable solutions using extended reality technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality , immersive audio and haptics.

Upon arrival, the chosen cohorts unboxed their starter kits, which included Ithra memorabilia and the popular Oculus Quest 2, an expensive VR headset developed by Facebook Reality Labs. The group of Saudis were selected from a pool of competitive applicants and got straight to work, with 14 masterclasses, guest speakers and lots of face-to-face with each other, the cohort gave it their all.

Simon Benson, the principal technology consultant at Ithra, who has more than 25 years of commercial immersive experience and previously founded the PlayStation VR project, said he was looking at what’s possible with immersive technology while bringing this cohort together. current.

“They’ll already come into the program with an idea of ​​something they want to use immersive technology for, and what we’re here to do now is take them on a journey to refine the idea of ​​making the best possible use of the immersive,” Benson told Arab News.

This means that Creative Solutions staff will guide cohort members to ensure they are using the “right technology for the right purpose”. The goal is to create an ecosystem where members of the past and present can collaborate and support each other.

Simon Benson (supplied)

Abdullah Alosaimi, a graduate nurse from Jeddah, is creating an immersive virtual reality game that promises to use humor and realistic storytelling to inspire teens to join him and his healthcare colleagues. Benson singled out this project by expressing how vital this area is and how this immersive experience could change lives, as well as save them. “Many healthcare organizations around the world are suffering from the shortage of healthcare personnel. The idea of ​​the program is therefore immersive virtual reality. The idea was: how can we meet this challenge in this healthcare setting, especially post-COVID-19? said Alosaimi.

Abdullah Alosaimi, Registered Nurse from Jeddah (Supplied)

Mutaz Basharahil had a revelation in 2017 after earning a degree in computer engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. He realized that while he enjoyed the thrill and challenge of being completely immersed in a narrative unfolding on his screen, he wanted to go further and create his own fantasy world.

After having been a developer of immersive experiences and game applications, he decided to take the plunge and take us with him. For Creative Solutions, he intends to produce an interactive virtual reality narrative experience that takes place in a fantasy setting.

“I remember during the years in college and even before – when I was playing different games – and how I was inches away from the screen. So I was close to the screen. I was so immersed in it and with the story, environment, audio, and sound – to the point that even when I hear a beep, I look at myself like I’m moving the mouse. Then I noticed, I like that feeling of being immersed in it,” he told Arab News.

Mutaz Basharahil (Provided)

Fatima Alnammi was also swallowed up in a realm of which she is now a part. Over the decades, the Dhahran art educator has gained extensive experience in architecture and interior design and intends to use color and the principles and elements she has learned throughout her practice. to develop an immersive narrative universe that provides insight into artistic and creative processes. .

For Creative Solutions, its VR experience was inspired by artists who have temporarily lost their mojo, perhaps during the pandemic, and hopes this experience will help rekindle the spark they once had in the field of art. .

The story she created begins with a 10-year-old boy named Ahmed who takes us on an unexpected journey to learn from the great masters of art, reconnect with our own identity and heritage, and use art to find our way. to art.

Fatima Alnammi (Provided)

The other core cohort members are: Abdulkarim Alanazi, Abdullah Alqahtani, Ahmad Morsy, Ali Al-Eid, Ali Altattan, Amal Alkinani, Atheer Alharbi, Fahmi Farahat, Fatima bin Dawood, Maryam Aloudah, Jumanah Saklou and Huriyyah Alqahtani. This cohort is made up of eight men and seven women, with representation from the central region and the two coasts of the Kingdom. Ten of the projects are in virtual reality, three in augmented reality and one in MR and artificial intelligence. The nine industries represented are education, art, health, tourism, gaming, cinema, museums, energy and the environment.