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Scientists & students use theatre to interrogate ethics of VR & Quantum

Press release issued: 3 July 2019

A collaboration between University of Bristol scientists and Bristol school students has inspired two immersive theatre productions exploring the ethics of Virtual Reality (VR) and Quantum Technology.

Qupid and VR100 are the culmination of a six-week collaboration, part of Redland Green’s enrichment programme, designed to connect young people with researchers at the University of Bristol, and encourage them to think critically about the implications of these cutting-edge technologies.

Award-winning theatre company, Kilter, worked with the students and scientists to develop the concepts for the two productions. The first, Qupid, is a short, performed love story, followed by a conversation with artists and researchers about the future of quantum technology and the ethical implications for individuals, society and future generations.

The second, VR100, is a short, script-in-hand performance piece, set in the year 2079 at a 100th birthday party hosted by Bucketlist.vr. The production aims to test-drive ideas and provoke an ethics conversation about VR.

Dr Kirsten Cater, project lead from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said VR and Quantum technology have been maturing over the past decade and are now on the cusp of mainstream adoption:

"While VR and Quantum technologies may support human beings to live and work faster, with greater efficiency, and to benefit from previously inaccessible opportunities, such progress may come at a price. In recent times other revolutionary technologies have come to fruition long before their ethical implications have become the subject of public discourse, and with troubling consequences."

Project co-lead, Dr Edmund Harbord from the University’s Quantum Engineering Technologies Lab, added:

"As Virtual Reality and Quantum Technology enter the public zeitgeist we must learn from the past and educate developers and consumers alike to be aware of their power and why we must use them responsibly. Who better to help us shape the future than the technology developers and consumers of tomorrow!"

Visit the Kilter theatre website for more information or to book free tickets for Qupid on 5 July or VR100 on 11 July.

Further information

The project is supported by academics across disciplines at the University of Bristol led by Dr Kirsten Cater and her team from the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Dr Chris Bevan, Dr Stuart Gray and Jo Gildersleve – and Dr Edmund Harbord and his team from the Quantum Engineering Technologies Lab – Rachel Chadwick, Zoe Davidson and Holly Caskie. The workshops were produced and led in partnership with Caroline Garland and Oliver Langdon from Kilter Theatre.

The series of workshops took place with twelve pupils from Years 9 and 10 at Redland Green School in Bristol. The sessions saw students and academic experts work in partnership to imagine the political, societal, and environmental implications of Quantum technology and Virtual Reality for Bristol and beyond.  

The workshops were developed as part of Redland Green’s enrichment initiative, which seeks to empower pupils to “explore their physical, creative, social, political or career interests” with like-minded peers and foster cross-year friendship building. The cohort involved in the VR and Quantum Technology collaboration have a range of academic and personal interests - from STEM subjects to the Arts but are united with the shared goal of advancing the planet for the better.

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