RIYADH: Saudi technology experts are putting the latest developments in artificial intelligence into the hands of gamers attending a major international festival in the Kingdom.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Itra) has partnered with the Saudi eSports Federation for the Gamers8 event held in Riyadh to showcase the latest advances in augmented and virtual reality technology.
And Ahmed Abdulrahman, Ithra’s Creative Solutions program immersion lab manager, believes the futuristic AI seen in many current sci-fi films could become publicly available within five to 10 years.
Technologies presented at the festival focus not only on gaming, but also on interactive and immersive experiences, entertainment and learning.
Abdulrahman pointed out that the kind of VR gadgets seen in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 adventure film Ready Player One are already readily available. Itra even had a haptic Teslasuit and glove (technology that can create a sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations and movements to the user) that members of the public could try out.
“We can put people in some games that use all the technology together, where they can walk around and feel every stroke in the game. It’s full immersion. It’s not 2045, it’s 2022,” he told Arab News.
In Riyadh Boulevard City, where Gamers8 is in full flow, Creative Solutions’ GameDev Zone features prototype games developed in 72 hours or less, as well as the five previous winning design cohorts of the program, plus internationally developed video games.
Although the VR experiences available are not fully equipped, they still allow visitors to get the general idea behind the compelling stories.
One of the Ithra winners’ projects, “The Anticipation of Rain,” allows people to feel the rain by wearing a VR headset. Its developer, Naima Karim, recounts how she became paralyzed at a young age, but discovered a love for drawing in the rain. “There were so many people who were moved by it, they just took off their headphones to cry,” Abdulrahman said.
Other AR projects take users on a journey through the history of the universe or on a quest to find hidden objects, similar to the mobile game “Pokemon GO.”
Alongside the five winners booths in the area is a selection of internationally developed game programs, including “The Climb 2,” “Loco Dojo,” “Beat Sabre,” and the PS5 Playroom.
Filipe Gomez, curator of the Creative Solutions program, told Arab News: “There are developers who are pointing to a future where screens will not exist. Everything will be designed.”
Amr Boghari, a concept artist and AI enthusiast, said: “This reflects a good mental image over time and is expected from our government as it is a big supporter of this development and progress that advances humanity.
“But it generally depends on the person’s usage. An abundance of technology can diminish the spiritual aspect, and this applies to many examples. Our role is to create a moderate space that combines reality and assumptions.”
Of the GameDev Zone, Gomez said, “The level of engagement from the public has been incredible. To me, it really reflects a willingness to learn, grow and prepare. The creativity is there.”
The Ithra program team aims to create unique experiences for people of all backgrounds to enjoy.
Abdulrahman said: “Everyone is proud. That’s the only word I can say. Everyone who tries them on when they see them is just amazed at the quality of work, even though we call them prototypes.”
And the goal of the program was to establish Saudi Arabia as a major immersion center in the region and possibly the world.
“It’s up to us and stakeholders like Ithra to push a specific agenda that really cares about how people are going to be impacted through this transformation to prepare them to be good decision makers. When it comes to creative solutions, they create humanistic solutions,” Gomez added.