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DHAHRAN: Five finalists from the third edition of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture’s immersive design residency program recently showcased their projects.

Miznah Al-Zamil, head of creativity and innovation at the center, also known as Ithra, said: “We are not just nurturing innovators, we are trying to identify and promote breakthrough creatives who will help redefine the immersive tech landscape in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

“And our quest to contribute to Saudi’s creative economy continues,” she said, adding that recruitment for the next wave of talented Saudi creatives is now underway for the fourth edition of the program.

Miznah Al-Zamil, Ithra’s head of creativity and innovation

According to Ithra, the 2023 cycle received 187 submissions. Of those, 15 ideas were selected to proceed to the three-month development phase before Wednesday, when the five successful finalists were revealed.

On Demo Day, 80 international investors and leading companies in the Kingdom’s immersive technologies sector were present to witness the five final ideas chosen. The program’s delivery partner, IN4 Group, a Manchester-based leading innovation and digital skills provider, was also present.

The winning projects — some of which responded to local and global issues such as environmental protection and historical preservation — each utilized immersive technologies, including augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, immersive audio and haptics.

Experts mentored the participants and designed a series of masterclasses, workshops and bootcamps that focused on their creative, technical, and entrepreneurial abilities. (Supplied)

During the intensive, eight-month residency, participants were mentored by experts in the field and attended a series of masterclasses, workshops and bootcamps, each custom-designed to hone their creative, technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Finalists this year earn a total fund of SR 750,000 ($200,000), double the amount of the last cycle. Applicants also receive custom tech mentorship to further develop their projects into working prototypes, with the results showcased in a private exhibition at the end of the program at Ithra’s flagship creative conference, Tanween.

We are not just nurturing innovators, we are trying to identify and promote breakthrough creatives who will help redefine the immersive tech landscape in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Miznah Al-Zamil, Ithra’s head of creativity and innovation

Myriam Achard, head of partnerships at Phi Center, a multifunctional space based in Canada that is dedicated to the arts, spoke to the attendees.

“It always starts with a good story, then the technology follows,” Achard said.

Sultan Bin Masoud presents ‘AudioAura’ App at the event. (Supplied)

The five 2023 finalists were each present to guide members of the audience through their prototypes.

Sultan Bin Masoud, who has over two decades of experience as an engineer, presented AudioAura, an application with immersive audio experiences tied to specific geo-locations.

“With the goal of entertaining and educating users about Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage and history, AudioAura takes users on a journey to explore various heritage sites and be fully immersed in the recreated soundscape of historical narratives,” he said.

A VR experience presented by Michael Bou Nacklie titled “Arabia Revealed” highlights the diversity and beauty of Saudi Arabia through various locations. (Supplied)

Fatimah Al-Dubaisi unveiled “Revive,” a VR experience set in a world where Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed.

“‘Revive’ immerses viewers in a young man’s journey to protect the only plant he has ever seen amid a vicious conflict that threatens not only his life but humanity’s fate as well,” Al-Dubaisi said. Her project is in collaboration with team members Layla Al-Dubaisi, Zainab Abuabdullah and Zainab Al-Jishi.

Fatima Al-Luwaim’s “Janamia,” an immersive animated film, is set in her hometown of Al-Ahsa, about one and a half hours away from Ithra by car.

“A seemingly ordinary bougainvillea flower named Janamia embarks on a journey to discover her true worth, as she defies nature’s whims and human indifference to find a place where she truly belongs,” Al-Luwaim said of her project.

Team leader Malak Quota, along with Pixel Hunters, showed her trip within the womb in “Surrounded Serenity,” a VR experience that journeys into a place all humans have been but none recall. “It takes the user on a virtual journey which offers calming interactions and a chance at symbolic rebirth,” Quota said.

Michael Bou Nacklie presented “Arabia Revealed,” a VR experience that takes the user across various places within the Kingdom to highlight the diversity and beauty of the country.

“(It is) designed to clarify misconceptions about Saudi Arabia, as seen through the lenses of news outlets and social media influencers who often show a fraction of what the country and its people have to offer,” he said. His project is in collaboration with Hasan Hatrash and Rauf Saadra.

Launched in 2021, the Creative Solutions program runs an annual open call to attract creatives from all over the Kingdom.

The program was initially designed to be a hybrid model — a combination of online and in-person meetings. In 2024, however, Ithra aims to focus more on the latter so that participants can enjoy organic interactions at both the Idea Lab and Immersive Lab at Ithra.

The target audience for the Creative Solutions program includes filmmakers, multimedia designers, game designers, graphic designers, animators, artists and others who are interested in discovering ways to merge immersive technology with storytelling.

For more details about the Creative Solutions Residency Program, visit


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