Ithra’s Creative Solutions: Fresh Faces and New Ideas
Creatives work with experts on developing their ideas further in the annual innovation program under the theme “Immersive Digital Content Creation.”
Ithra’s latest new program, Creative Solutions, is giving people who have rarely worked on the cutting-edge of technology the chance to engage with the latest devices and interfaces. The program brings creative talents in art and culture face-to-face with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) as well as haptics, to bring new experiences to audiences.
Creative Solutions is Ithra’s annual innovation program in which multidisciplinary art, science, and technology professionals collaborate with experts on an idea-to-prototype journey. The 2021 theme is “Immersive Digital Content Creation.” Earlier this year, Ithra invited individuals in the creative industries to submit their ideas for the digital content. Those whose ideas have been selected attend exclusive masterclasses in immersive content storytelling, user experience design, immersive technologies, design research methods and immersive audio, as well as presenting and pitching ideas.
The next stage will see just five projects selected to continue to the development phase. The selected participants will take part in an intensive international boot camp and then progress to a more advanced development stage.
Inspired by the birds
In her final semester of studying art at university, Dhahran painter Naima Karim unexpectedly became paralyzed “from head to toe” due to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s nervous system. After five months, she could barely move. “I was depressed,” she recalls, “but I got myself together. I had to walk again. I was inspired by the birds: My dream was running across a field of rain-wet grass looking up at the limitless sky. As I recovered, I focused on this.”
Karim worked long and hard to regain mobility. When she could paint again, in 2015, she painted skies with the goal of having a solo exhibition, which she did a year later with 46 pieces. Her sky paintings have since been selected for four international biennials. Grateful for another chance, Karim was inspired to create “an immersive technology experience about rain. For me, rain means relief, but it means many things to different people.”
Karim’s proposal for Ithra’s Creative Solutions program was accepted from among hundreds of applicants.
Ali Aldajani, president of the Saudi Rugby Federation, also had an idea. “As a clinical kinesiologist, I studied gait and motion analysis. Now, I want to find a way to bring people with disabilities to sports,” he explains. “I think VR has untapped potential for introducing physically challenged people to all kinds of sports experiences — like wheelchair rugby. Saudi culture is now moving toward collaborative and out-of-the-box thinking and there is a huge shift toward inclusivity in the creative economy. When I saw that the 2021 theme of Creative Solutions was “digital immersive content, it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”
With access to expert support and Ithra’s immersive technology lab, including VR, AR, mixed realities, extended realities, immersive audio and haptics, Aldajani is hoping to be one of Creative Solutions’ five finalists whose projects are funded by SAR75,000 in grants and showcased in-Kingdom and internationally.
Abdullah Maghram was accepted to the 2021 Creative Solutions cohort with his proposal for a VR project about al-Ula, one of the Arabian Peninsula’s oldest cities and home to Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Possibly the first Saudi with a master’s degree in VR, Maghram explains: “Soft power is important for all countries, so I want to use immersive technologies to tell the story of Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world — either stand-alone or combined, like VR with artificial intelligence. This is the first VR program and the first immersive technology lab in Saudi Arabia. It is an incredible opportunity to be part of that.”