In cooperation with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, Haaga-Helia’s HomeOpera project aims to develop new extended reality concepts for the elderly to enjoy holistic and social cultural experiences at home. The project is a perfect fit with Opera’s own RDI project Opera Beyond, which combines arts and technology to build an ecosystem of independent actors that give rise to unusual combinations.
The main event of Opera Beyond is an annual international conference, postponed twice because of Covid, and finally held at Opera’s Alminsali in September 2022. The theme of the 2022 conference was Visioning Stages Beyond.
Our HomeOpera project team had a strong presence at the conference as participants, exhibitors and speakers. We had ample opportunities to learn from world-leading technologists, futurists and artists, showcase HomeOpera’s own research, form new connections and get visibility for the project. In this blog post we reflect our experiences on disseminating RDI project deliverables.
Learning from world-class speakers
Extended realities are at the heart of the HomeOpera project, so the Opera Beyond conference gave a valuable learning experience for the whole project team. The two-day conference was packed with interesting keynotes on emerging technologies and the road to metaverse.
Among the highlights was Ida Kymmer’s and Dan Burgar’s talk on the meaning, purpose and connection in the metaverse. Both Kymmer and Burgar are working towards democratizing VR/AR/Metaverse technology to make it accessible to everyone. Their shared vision of the metaverse is actually slowing down the internet, to create places where people can linger, have great conversations and share them. Burgar also emphasised building the web 3.0 with intention and authenticity, working together and fostering communities while bridging the gaps of different industries.
Another memorable keynote was from futures researcher Monika Bielskyte, who by her own words ‘explores the bleeding edges of Science Fiction universes’. Bielskyte’s Protopia platform prototypes visions of radically hopeful and inclusive futures shaped by the need for expanded futures literacy. Some of her radical ideas include the celebration of presence, taking regenerative action, promoting symbiotic spirituality and defying escapist fantasies. The technological panacea is a lie and technology is just an extension of us.
Cristina Andersson addressed similar notes in her talk on AI and quantum computing. Andersson has been working with artificial intelligence and robotics since 2011 as an expert in EU and national organizations as well as with several companies. She is also a member of the steering group of the Finnish National Artificial Intelligence 4.0 program led by the Ministry of Employment and Economy. Andersson’s key message was that tech needs to be nature smart. The emerging quantum computing requires far less energy than we are consuming now, hopefully leading to a greener, yet more efficient technological future.
Lively panel on diversity
The main event of the seminar for our HomeOpera team was project manager Aarni Tuomi’s panel discussion on perspectives to diversity and inclusion tomorrow. Gaining visibility and disseminating results are other important goals in RDI projects.
Being asked to participate as a speaker in a world-class seminar is a great sign of respect and confidence from the event organiser. The Opera Beyond conference was attended by hundreds of international academics and performing arts professionals, and the main programme was also recorded so even a bigger audience could access it later online.
Together with fellow panelists Silva Belghiti and Rita Paqvalén from Culture For All, Sheree Spencer from Volcano Theatre and Michael Hidetoshi Mori from Tapestry Opera, Aarni Tuomi brought the viewpoint of the elderly culture fans to the panel discussion. How to design digital services and products with and for people from diverse backgrounds, all with their unique motivations, needs, levels of digital readiness, and backgrounds?
Aarni’s take-home message was to involve the user in all steps of the development journey by building systematic processes for “devil’s advocates” to challenge and support the RDI work. As our HomeOpera project team has learned time and again in the course of gathering user insight, old dogs can (and are actually quite eager) to learn new tricks – if just given the right support.
Networking and sharing insights
HomeOpera also had a stand in the conference exhibitor’s lounge, where we showed a video of one of the pilot projects, collected cooperation contact details and shared news of the project with other collaborators.
The seminar was an excellent source of new contacts as well as a platform for making new plans with existing partner companies. We also had new cooperation suggestions from organisations we didn’t even know about, which will hopefully turn into new pilots later this year.
It was also important for the HomeOpera project to be present at the seminar in the eyes of the Opera’s own team. Everyone from the artistic director Lilli Paasikivi and production manager Timo Tuovila was there together with the project manager of Opera Beyond Annastina Haapasaari. Also several members of Opera’s technical staff were present at the seminar.
The evening cocktail event gave a great opportunity to have relaxed discussions with the hosts and participants. Sharing insights and discussing keynotes at the seminar is valuable in establishing shared knowledge and coming up with new ideas for collaboration.
Re-energised by the excellent and insightful two-day Opera Beyond conference, our HomeOpera project team continues the work on developing and researching concepts for older adults to experience culture in a digital social way at the comfort of their home.
The HomeOpera project is funded as part of the European Union’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic by the European Regional Development Fund (REACT-EU), and conducted by Haaga-Helia’s Service Experience Laboratory LAB8.