6 spectacular reasons to go to the first Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival

By Kitty Knowles 4 August 2016
The Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival kicks off today. Pic: Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival.

All eyes on Edinburgh.

Home to incredible businesses, and artists who love technology, Scotland is a world-leading hub of innovation.

That’s why we’re excited to tell you that the first ever Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival kicks off today.

“Our ambition is to bring together the world of arts and entertainment with digital technology,” said William Burdett-Coutts, Festival Director EDEF, Assembly and CEO Riverside Studios.

“To show the best of what is happening right now and provoke the conversation about what comes next.”

There’s plenty to do between the virtual reality studio, street cinema, and gaming spaces.

So why not take a peek at the future now?

6 spectacular reasons to head to the inaugural Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival…

Rab's Videogame Empty. Photo: Flickr/Glasgow Film Festival/Stuart Crawford
Rab's Videogame Empty. Photo: Flickr/Glasgow Film Festival/Stuart Crawford

1) Glorious gaming

Our gaming highlight has to be Rab’s Videogame Empty. Gamers and non-gamers will love this weird and wonderful live show of videogame oddities, music, and entertainment. If you’re lucky you might even get your hands on a controller.

Hardcore fans will want to get to grips with more than 40 games from Dare ProtoPlay – the UK’s biggest indie games festival.

There’s also a games studio where newbies and experts alike can get hands-on in workshops curated by the Big Learning Company. You’ll learn about everything from building and modding in Minecraft, to constructing with LEGO WeDo 2.0, and even how to write your own coding programs with the BBC Micro:bit.

A still from Collisions.

2) Virtual Reality

VR fans will get to visit the festival’s very own Virtual Reality cinema.

You’ll be able to experience immersive documentaries, amusing animation and boundary-pushing experiences, all off a Samsung Gear VR headset.

Expect to travel everywhere from dolphin-filled oceans to a murder scene on the US-Mexico Border, and from Gaza to Pluto, but here are our top three picks:

Notes on blindness: Into darkness
The late professor John M. Hull left a record of his deteriorating vision on a series of cassette tapes. Now you can begin to feel what it might be like to go blind as light disappears and Hull slowly learns how to piece together what’s going on around him.

An inspiring journey across Africa where you’ll see a floating school rise from the slums of Makoko, Barack Obama’s historic speech in Nairobi from the press pit, and hear many moving stories. A ray of bright and beautiful hope.

This tale of atomic bombs in the fiery Australian outback, comes from Lynette Wallworth, the first artist to bring VR to MoMA. The piece features Nyarri Morgan who was living nomadically when he was suddenly awakened to a frightening symbol of Western world.

Read More: Atomic bombs & a fiery Australian outback: VR art hits MoMA for first time

Wallace & Gormit makers Aardman are experimenting with VR.

3) Titillating talks

Hundreds of talks have been lined up for the inaugural event.

NASA-funded scientist Peggy Wu will explain how VR could help astronauts live better on deep space missions.

Sol Rogers, CEO and Founder of leading VR company Rewind, will talk about the industry’s longevity.

While Sarah Ellis (of the Royal Shakespeare Company) and Tawny Schlieski (from Intel) will share their thoughts on their upcoming collaboration with The Imaginarium Studios – the guys who brought Lord of the Rings’ Gollum to life.

Other experts to speak include leaders from the National Theatre Live, the BBC, the National Videogame Arcade, Ogilvy and Mather, Nesta, PlayStation VR, Microsoft, and Aardman – the makers of Wallace and Gromit.

Between panels on art, digital broadcasting, education, 3D-printing, social networks, and AI, we’re sure you’ll find something to tickle your fancy.

Read more: Wallace and Gromit animators & BBC dive into virtual reality

Get to know artist Ai Wei Wei in an intimate film screening. Pic: EDEF.
Get to know artist Ai Wei Wei in an intimate film screening. Pic: EDEF.

4) Amazing art

The art scene will come alive on Space Day, where experts will explore the space where art and technology collide.

Prominent speakers include Nikki Bedi (of Arts Hour and the BBC World Service) and Peter Bazalgette, outgoing Chair of Arts Council England, discuss the disruption of digital, and the opportunities it creates.

A number of film screenings will about artists will also run throughout the festival profiling everyone from Henry Matisse to Edward Munch.

Don’t miss the chance to learn more about visionaries like Goya, Ai Wei Wei and Van Gogh.

Read more: VR Art: meet a new wave of mind-bending creatives

Pixar's Wall-E is just one incredible future-gazing film in the programme. Pic: CC/Pixar.
Pixar's Wall-E is just one incredible future-gazing film in the programme. Pic: CC/Pixar.

5) Future films

What better way to gaze into the future than with a sci-fi film screening.

Think cult films like Flash Gordon, The Terminator, and Brazil; modern day classics like A Scanner Darkly, Serenity, and Minority Report; and newer releases like District 9, Moon, and The Call Up.

The programme features a fab line-up of more than 60 films, but here are our top futuristic picks:

Could you fall in love with a machine? This is exactly the dilemma Joaquin Phoenix faces when he meets a Siri-like personal assistant voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Ex Machina
This cybernetic thriller will leave you scratching your head as to what it means to be human, and who (if anyone) you can trust.

A lighter, but still powerful recommendation, Pixar’s animated film WALL-E tells the is the last robot left on Earth. Try not to cry as you watch this personable droid tidying up the planet, one piece of garbage at a time.

Read more: Virtual reality will support a new wave of indie films

Our creation made using Tilt Brush by HTC. Pic: HTC.
Our creation made using Tilt Brush by HTC. Pic: Kitty Knowles

6) Cutting edge kit

Obviously at a festival of technology you’re going to want to get hands on, so head to the Tech Hub – a playground of digital exploration.

Paint in 3D worlds with Google’s Tilt brush, try out vibrating body suits from Subpac, or watch new 3D music videos.

More games include a jobs simulator, Line Wobbler which features a wobbly controller, and there will be lots of other virtual experiences including a virtual spacewalk, and pieces that can teach you about plants and history.

This cornucopia of 360° content is a dream come true. We can’t wait to get into these interactive exhibits.

The Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival will take place from Thursday 4 – Sunday 28 August 2016 at venues across the city. More info here