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Firstly, there must be a critical mass of headsets (Aslam is sceptical of claims that there are already a million in use in Germany or the UK), and headset manufacturers need to promote their wares for enhanced TV viewing – not exclusively games or business meetings. Furthermore, licensing must be sorted out. “The media industry in Europe isn’t yet ready,” says Aslam. “There are licences for broadcast TV, but no extra dedicated rights packages for XR. This needs to happen during the next round of licence options.” Already in talks with major European sports organisers, Aslam hopes that they won’t be too ambitious. “For the first year, I believe you need to offer the proposition for free to get viewers used to it. You likely won’t get advertising until you have critical mass.” FROM STUDIO TO STAGE Broadcasters’ growing interest in XR is increasingly being paralleled in live theatre – which has, after all, been in the business of creating imaginary realities since the days of Sophocles. “There’s always been an interest in adapting these new technologies for the stage,” observes David Gochfeld, performance lab fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. “Since Covid-19, there’s been ample interest in extending theatre beyond the physical space.”

Audience members with the right technology – VR headsets and suitable home computers – may be invited to enter the 3D environment with the performers, and even join in the action. Some live theatre companies already offer audience participation in physical performances, often in large, warehouse settings. “What’s new with VR is that audiences and performers don’t all have to be together in the same physical space,” affirms Gochfeld. “It also allows us to work with artists who are not in the same place.” In the US, the Actors Theatre of Louisville has developed a mixed-reality version of that Yuletide staple, A Christmas Carol . It uses two live actors – one playing Dickens and Scrooge, the other all the ghosts – although everything the audience sees is virtual, including the pre-baked sets and lighting, as well as avatars of the performers, which are animated in real time using Unreal Engine.

BLINX AND YOU’LL MISS IT With a unique blend of reality and virtual content, Blinx targets the immersion other channels often lack



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