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BBC Ventures has partnered with, and invested £500,000 in, Bristol-based immersive live events specialist Condense with the aim of engaging young audiences.

Over the last year, BBC Radio 1’s New Music Show with Jack Saunders has used Condense’s technology to  host a series of immersive live gigs with artists including Gardna, Charlotte Plank and Sam Tompkins.

The immersive live gigs sessions enable fans to feel like they’re in the room with a performer by entering a virtual venue called the New Music Portal.

Condense said its technology enables the BBC to stream “true-to-life” live performances into game-like virtual spaces so that anyone can be part of a live event no matter where they are: “Traditionally, broadcasting was passive, but now users can actually be part of the experience. That’s great for the BBC’s mission to reach and engage younger audiences.”

BBC head of Ventures Jeremy Walker said, “The New Music Portal enables the BBC to bring the best of our performances to younger audiences who are increasingly spending time in these sorts of game-like online environments. In fact, they’ve already seen massively popular music events in spaces like Fortnite – young people in their millions have gone to online concerts from megastars like Travis Scott, Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande.

Sam Tompkins performing live in BBC Maida Vale Studios, live-streamed into The New Music Portal

“Using Condense’s technology, we can give artists access to this technology at a much earlier stage of their career – and give their fans an experience they can’t get anywhere else. Artists’ performances are captured and live-streamed as ‘true-to-life’ video, and fans can join live events as an avatar on their mobile or laptop and move around the venue like a video game. This lets artists and their fans ​see and interact with each other live, from anywhere, offering an unprecedented level of connection, community and engagement.”

Condense CEO Nick Fellingham said ihe collaboration has made it easy for music artists to enter the virtual world: “They simply walk into the capture area that’s set up in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios and they are picked up by the Condense camera array. Condense’s algorithms combine all of the feeds into a single 3D video which is then compressed and streamed into the game environment where it can be watched from any angle.

“There is a large screen in front of the artists which allows them to see into the virtual world and interact with the avatars who are attending the event. Fans attending can share emotes with their favourite artist, break out some moves. The Condense platform also allows partners to integrate chat and voice – you can actually talk to artists, and artists can see your avatar name and do shout outs.

“The BBC’s New Music Portal experience is accessible via a web browser. Users can join, customise their avatar and then enter the virtual venue. Once they are in the experience they are able to walk around and explore the virtual world. The performers are streamed into the game using Condense’s proprietary technology where they can be seen in the game. Users can walk around the content and watch it from different angles as if they were actually there.”