Hyper Luminal Games and Sugar Creative Awarded £35k To Be Part of Inclusive Design Accelerator Programme

  • StoryFutures
  • May 11th 2022

The Inclusive Design for Immersive Experiences Challenge offers SMEs the opportunity to work directly with InGAME and StoryFutures Academy, Open Inclusion and XR Access, to pilot an experimental Inclusive Innovation Process. To learn to apply innovative approaches and toolkits to design, test and deliver immersive content that provides better experiences for all. To create immersive content that is more accessible and delightful to those with permanent lived experiences of disability. And to all of us who temporarily or situationally move, sense, think or feel differently. Inclusive design improves the reach, user experience and consistency of immersive experiences.

With access to cutting-edge expertise in inclusive design, immersive production, commercialisation support, audience insights and user testing, this opportunity includes focused workshops to help you upskill in and embed innovative user-centred design practises into your productions. The Inclusive Design for Immersive Experiences Challenge is a competitive process consisting of two stages:

  • The Inclusive Innovation Lab – a four-day highly interactive programme designed to rapidly upskilled SMEs in the practice of inclusive innovation and design (held online in April 2022)
  • The Inclusive Design Accelerator – two teams are selected for a remote eight-week programme to test and embed inclusive innovation concepts and user-centred features within existing, near-to-market IP (during May & June 2022).

“We created the Inclusive Design Challenge to help develop confidence, understanding and capabilities in the practice of inclusive innovation for immersive content. Embedding inclusive design practices improves UX quality, consistency and durability. A growing number of UK immersive content creators want to create more open and accessible experiences. But many find it hard to connect with the right communities, experience and know how to do this. This programme has helped companies overcome barriers and fears when engaging with more diverse users to identify opportunities and improve solutions. And it will ultimately empower companies to do better business by creating better things as well as creating immersive experiences that are enjoyable and accessible to everyone.” Fiona Kilkelly, Acting Head of Immersive, StoryFutures Academy

“A growing number of UK game and immersive content creators want to widen their audience and market by creating more open and accessible experiences. But most lack the specific competencies to do so. This competition will empower participating SMEs to develop the required inclusive design and innovation knowledge, skills and networks. Many people living with disabilities are excluded from fully enjoying immersive experiences. We want this competition to raise awareness of the importance of inclusive design and innovation, ultimately delivering more accessible immersive experiences that are fun and engaging for everyone.” Dr Chris Lowthorpe, Head of Collaborative R&D at InGAME

Hyper Luminal is an indie games studio based in Dundee, Scotland. Hyper Luminal’s ambition can be summed up as creating ‘games for good’; a statement that drives decision making in all aspects of the Studio. It is formed from a belief that games as a medium can be used to have a positive impact on the world, providing meaningful, lasting experiences that enrich the lives of their Players. The Studio aims to continue its growth in this field, both in its flourishing work-for-hire pipeline and its fresh Original IP projects.

In their seven year history Hyper Luminal Games have grown from four former Hons graduate students from the world class games institution Abertay University, to over forty full time staff working across programming, art, design, quality assurance, and management. The studio puts staff growth and support at the heart of their business which has led to them becoming one of the fastest growing development studios in Scotland, with a keen focus on establishing robust processes to ‘make games better’ - a core value in the quality of the work that they produce and in how they produce it.

"Our aspiration is to create a Hyper Luminal 'Standard of Excellence' for inclusive and accessible games for all. With this fantastic opportunity, from InGame, we will be able to focus efforts on improving our internal communication and guidelines around inclusive design. Allowing us to build better pipelines and processes, which include vital user testing and feedback with inclusive communities. We will also invest time in including more diverse characters, stories and customisation options into Pine Hearts, so players of all backgrounds can feel represented in the story. All of this will be supported with an innovative inhouse accessibility toolkit which we hope to improve sustainably from project to project." - Searra Dodds, Senior UX/UI Designer

Sugar Creative are an award-winning multi-skilled innovation studio based in the UK who specialise in delivering projects for global clients that focus on emerging, advanced, and immersive technologies.

With partners including Ubisoft, Toyota, Allianz, Kingspan, BBC and OSMO they have created projects ranging from entertainment, learning, research, diagnostic tools, and marketing, they are regarded as one of the UKs leading creative innovators. They recently launched the cutting edge AR experience 'Dr.Seuss' ABC: An amazing AR alphabet' in collaboration with Dr.Seuss Enterprises and ‘Wallace and Gromit: The Big Fix Up’ in collaboration with Aardman both to critical acclaim and app store success.

As part of a multi million UK government backed partnership with national Theatre Wales Sugar Creative are currently in the process of developing GALWAD, an transmedia cultural experience rooted in STEM and designed to inspire a generation of creatives. Alongside this Sugar have recently partnered with Ubisoft and HCT in the creation of a global first of kind immersive experience that will bring the world of Assassin's Creed Valhalla to life in a UK city.

In the past year Sugar have received a number of accolades including being awarded a BIMA10, being shortlisted for two Cannes Lions, and being selected as one of the Createch 100 Ones to Watch.

Sugar Creative are developing a visual language integration toolkit and BSL content for XR which will be demonstrated in their soon to be released VR story experience.

Through many years of working and innovating within the immersive industry we have seen a vital need for more inclusive practices to be upheld in order to produce experiences of value for all. Through this fund we will be creating an effective XR visual language based tool for the realisation of content that we hope will have a tangible impact on the signing community and beyond.

This toolkit will enable BSL content capture and implementation into our latest project, the storytelling engine Project V, set to launch this summer with its first immersive story; ‘Monsters Brawl VR’. We will be using the latest in motion capture technology to achieve this with and be working closely with co-designers from the visual language communities at the heart of our project. We hope this tool will become both a catalyst and gateway for other organisations to apply our learning to their work and take further steps in making the immersive world equitable for all.

“It has been an absolute privilege to work with the very strong cohort of immersive game and storytelling design and development studios brought together by InGame and the StoryFutures Academy for the Immersive Inclusion Lab Open Inclusion delivered in April. The quality of engagement through the 4 days was exceptional and provided a very rich and interactive learning space for us all. Congratulations to Hyper Luminal (immersive gaming) and Sugar Creative (immersive storytelling) Studios for winning the opportunity to progress their ideas into action in a very competitive environment. We are enjoying supporting each of you as you work to raise the bar in inclusive game design and storytelling that better supports the needs of the 1 in 5 people who live with disability or 1 in 3 who have a specific access need at any moment in time.” Christine Hemphill, Managing Director, Open Inclusion

Another 8 companies were also part of a 4 day ‘Inclusive Innovation Lab’ which was a highly interactive programme designed to rapidly upskilled SMEs in the practice of inclusive innovation and design. This took place in April 2022:

3Finery 3DNovations The VR Hive Yaldi Games Echobubbles Copper Candle Forest Tribe Trial & Error

StoryFutures Academy is the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, run by the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway, University of London. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, the Academy develops cutting-edge creative training and research programmes, to ensure the UK creative workforce is the most skilled in the world in the use of virtual, augmented and real-time production technology for immersive storytelling.

Alumni of StoryFutures Academy labs have so far included Oscar and BAFTA winning Director Asif Kapadia, Oscar winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin and Turner Prize winning conceptual artist Gillian Wearing OBE.

With our partners, over £1m has been invested in UK immersive production, across co-productions with BBC3, and Production Booster and Kickstart development funding. The award-winning VR Documentary Common Ground was the first-ever funded co-production, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in early 2019. Violence, an artistic collaboration between film director Shola Amoo (The Last Tree) and producer Eleanor Whitley (Marshmallow Laser Feast), had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, as part of the Cannes XR Virtual at the Marché du film de Cannes, in June 2020. Laika, commissioned by StoryFutures Academy and directed by BAFTA and Academy Award winning Asif Kapadia, made its world premiere in VR at BFI London Film Festival 2021 as part of their Expanded programme.

InGAME is the AHRC centre for research and innovation in games and immersive technologies. Its purpose is to drive growth and innovation within the Dundee videogames cluster through experimental research and innovative models of collaborative R&D between industry and academia.

InGAME believes applying game design techniques, tools and technologies to real-world problems and challenges has amazing potential to drive positive change. Game design techniques, tools and technologies are transforming the world. Games are the sandbox for our near future. Game experiences and technologies are powering Web3 and its Metaverses. Game technologies provide synthetic environments for improving health and wellbeing, reducing environmental impact, boosting productivity, de-risking policy interventions and empowering radical innovation. And game design techniques can not only entertain us but motivate us to be happier, healthier and more productive by playfully designing meaningful incentives into non-game experiences.

Funded by the AHRC’s Creative Industries Clusters Programme as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and the Scottish Funding Council, InGAME is embedded in Dundee’s vibrant and thriving videogames cluster. Led by Abertay University, in collaboration with the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews, InGAME’s industry partnership network includes Sony Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Roblox, Outplay Entertainment, 4J Studios, the BBC, Innovate UK, Creative Dundee, Creative Scotland, Dundee City Council Scottish Enterprise, V&A Dundee, Ukie and Women in Games.

Open Inclusion is an inclusive insight, design and innovation agency based in London and operating globally. It was founded in 2015 to infuse design with more inclusively human insights. We help organisations identify opportunities to design better experiences. Experiences that work more consistently for all, through pan disability and age-inclusive community engagement and research.

We all think, feel, move and sense differently. Open helps design and innovate for these differences, to create valuable and sustainable solutions. Working with our diverse community of +650 people in the UK (our direct community) and +250K people globally (through collaborative partnerships) we illuminate opportunities, build broader data and capture specific stories and use cases. These insights, fuelling Open’s practical and market leading inclusive design and innovation process, provide a richer understanding of a solution space, support evidence-based prioritisation, and help design more consistently delightful solutions that we can all access, use and enjoy. Our clients include industry leaders such as Google, Microsoft, John Lewis, Aēsop, Merlin Entertainment, Colgate Palmolive and NatWest Innovation.

We are often engaged in the development and use of emerging technologies such as immersive experiences. These provide new opportunities to solve currently unmet needs, which are particularly prevalent in communities with diverse characteristics. By doing this work we also ensure we don’t create new barriers in new formats, instead identifying solutions that will work more consistently, equitably and valuably for all. We empower organisations to identify and deliver better solutions whether digital or physical products, built environments, communications or customer services, through inclusive, participatory engagement. Listen more broadly. Create more valuably.

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