Saudi creative program sees 1st immersive technology ideas brought to digital life

Special Saudi creative program sees 1st immersive technology ideas brought to digital life
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Visitors to Ithra, in Dhahran, test prototypes of the first five winning projects to emerge from the center’s Creative Solutions initiative. (AN Photo)
Special Saudi creative program sees 1st immersive technology ideas brought to digital life
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Visitors to Ithra, in Dhahran, test prototypes of the first five winning projects to emerge from the center’s Creative Solutions initiative. (AN Photo)
Special Saudi creative program sees 1st immersive technology ideas brought to digital life
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Ithra means “enrichment” in Arabic and is intended to signify that its programs are intended to enrich citizens culturally. (AN Photo)
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Updated 10 February 2022

Saudi creative program sees 1st immersive technology ideas brought to digital life

Saudi creative program sees 1st immersive technology ideas brought to digital life
  • Year-long Ithra initiative designed to boost Saudi Arabia’s creative economy
  • 5 winning teams created prototypes individuals can test at Ithra until April 23

DHAHRAN: The first fruits of a special creative program launched in Saudi Arabia to generate innovative ideas using the latest immersive technologies are being showcased at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture.

Visitors to Ithra, in Dhahran, will be able to test prototypes of the first five winning projects to emerge from the center’s Creative Solutions initiative.

Using augmented, virtual, and extended reality, haptics, and immersive audio, the products will remain on public display until April 23.

Speaking at a recent demo day, Ithra’s head of programs, Ashraf Alfagih, said: “At Ithra, innovation takes center stage. Here is where imagination is powered, ideas are born, and knowledge is shared. We at Ithra aim to support, inspire, and nourish the growth of Saudis, both locally and internationally.”

Program participants have spent the last 10 months working to bring their visions to life and from thousands of potential ideas, five were selected to be developed into prototypes.

One was Alqatt XR, featuring the women-centric traditional Al-Qatt art form from southern Saudi Arabia. The other creations consisted of a mixed reality, location-based experience focused on the sensations which come from heavy rainstorms, the Jawaab interactive gamified museum tour project, a storytelling experience about great scientists involving holograms, virtual reality, and multi-speaker immersive sound, and the Wamdah virtual journey through time and space in Saudi Arabia.

Some of the finalists had no previous experience of immersive technologies, while program judges focused on looking for original ideas in storytelling with marketability.

As well as receiving up to SR375,000 ($87,400) to develop their prototypes, the innovators behind the selected projects were given access to Ithra’s ideas and immersive labs housing equipment including a haptic suit for physical VR experiences, a special VR treadmill, one of the technology sector’s highest-resolution mixed-reality headsets, and a state-of-the-art VR camera.

Hamish Jenkinson, the program’s creative director who also served as a mentor, connector, and one of the judges for the 30 selected cohorts, told Arab News that he became involved in the scheme in 2019 after being encouraged by the large pool of applicants and the potential for technology to foster gender equality in the Kingdom.

He said: “The Saudi youth is more digitally connected than most in the region, so this program represents a huge opportunity. It speaks to other great changes that come to the country. When it comes to things like esports, there’s great equality there — it’s how fast you can think and move your thumbs.

“When it comes to immersive technology, there is no reason why women in Saudi Arabia can’t be leading — just look at the cohorts. There are three prototypes that are led by female teams and two by men. It’s a great example of how women in Saudi Arabia are really stepping up,” he added.

The Ithra initiative aims to enrich, educate, and inspire creative individuals by developing digital immersive content that connects participants with global experts and investors to promote and nurture new and innovative products.

Through interactive projects, workshops, and talks, the center hopes to help build a national ecosystem of innovators working on realities that expand beyond the physical.

Applicants for the next cohort have until April 30 to apply online.


Three sentenced to 18 years in jail for money laundering in Saudi Arabia

Three sentenced to 18 years in jail for money laundering in Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 December 2022

Three sentenced to 18 years in jail for money laundering in Saudi Arabia

Three sentenced to 18 years in jail for money laundering in Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi citizens had issued commercial registers for several entities and opened bank accounts

RIYADH: Two Saudi citizens and one resident have been sentenced to 18 years in jail and fined $133,000 for money laundering, the Saudi Public Prosecution said on Thursday.

Police investigations earlier revealed that the Saudi citizens had issued commercial registers for several entities and opened bank accounts.

The citizens then handed the resident the commercial registers and the bank accounts, through which they made financial transactions and transferred huge sums of money outside the Kingdom, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The Public Prosecution said funds were generated through “illegal” means as the accused used the commercial registers as a cover to transfer the money abroad.

The court ruled confiscating a similar value of the funds transferred abroad and the proceeds of the crimes.

The resident will be deported after serving his jail term, read the Public Prosecution statement.


UNESCO adds Saudi Khawlani coffee, Camel Heda’a to intangible cultural heritage list

UNESCO adds Saudi Khawlani coffee, Camel Heda’a to intangible cultural heritage list
Updated 01 December 2022

UNESCO adds Saudi Khawlani coffee, Camel Heda’a to intangible cultural heritage list

UNESCO adds Saudi Khawlani coffee, Camel Heda’a to intangible cultural heritage list
  • 11 of Kingdom’s historical practices, items recognized
  • Arabic music, art, dance registered with world body

RIYADH: UNESCO on Wednesday added Saudi Khawlani coffee, and the skills and knowledge associated with its cultivation, and Camel Heda’a to this year’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The decision was taken in Morocco during the annual meeting of the UN’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The Kingdom, in cooperation with Oman and the UAE, led the joint application to register Camel Heda’a, which is an oral tradition where herders communicate with their animals. The communication includes guiding camels to safety during sandstorms, instructing them to open their mouths to feed and having them drop onto their knees to be mounted.

The registration of Saudi Khawlani coffee involved the efforts of several bodies including the Heritage Commission, Ministry of Culture, the National Committee for Education, Science and Culture, the Permanent Saudi Delegation to UNESCO, the Culinary Authority, and the Saudi Society for the Preservation of Heritage.

Khawlani coffee is one of the most luxurious and famous types in the world and has been cultivated in the south of the Kingdom for more than eight centuries. It is associated with the customs, poetry and songs of the people of the region.

With these new additions, Saudi Arabia has now registered 11 cultural elements with UNESCO including the Majlis, Arabic coffee, the Najdi Ardah dance, the flute, falconry, the Asiri cat, the palm tree, the Sadu weaving craft and Arabic calligraphy.

This registration forms part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 that aims to document the nation’s rich heritage for future generations locally and abroad.


Saudi Program delivers 150 homes in Yemen

Saudi Program delivers 150 homes in Yemen
Updated 01 December 2022

Saudi Program delivers 150 homes in Yemen

Saudi Program delivers 150 homes in Yemen
  • The project also included the repair of 600 homes, benefiting over 4,000 beneficiaries in Aden

RIYADH: The Saudi Program for the Development and Reconstruction of Yemen (SDRPY) delivered 150 homes in Aden, Yemen, to improve the living conditions of low-income families.

The new residences were part of the ‘adequate housing’ project, carried out in partnership United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT) and Alwaleed Philanthropies, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The project also included the repair of 600 homes, benefiting over 4,000 beneficiaries in Aden.

It also provided vocational training for Yemeni construction workers in electricity, solar energy, photography, and painting, and upskilled 40 engineers in advanced geographical information systems, construction project management, specialized procurement and project cost calculation, and technical and economic feasibility studies.

Engineers from the Ministry of Public Works and Roads have also been trained in project management, according to SPA.

Ahmed Medkhali, SDRPY director in Aden, said the project was part of Saudi Arabia’s intensified effort to rehabilitate damaged homes and build safe residences that provide proper living conditions for the Yemeni people.


Saudi defense ministry, Spain’s Navantia sign combat ships agreement

Saudi defense ministry, Spain’s Navantia sign combat ships agreement
Updated 01 December 2022

Saudi defense ministry, Spain’s Navantia sign combat ships agreement

Saudi defense ministry, Spain’s Navantia sign combat ships agreement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s defense ministry and Saudi General Authority for Military Industries signed an agreement with Spain’s Navantia company to acquire and build a number of multi-mission combat ships for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

The Kingdom’s Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Salman and Spain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism María Reyes Maroto attended the agreement’s signing ceremony.

Prince Khaled said on Twitter that this agreement falls within Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision to strengthen the capabilities of the Saudi defense ministry.

“This MOU represents the latest effort to fulfill the vision of HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister to localize our military industry and empower and strengthen the capabilities of the ministry of defense, which will help provide security for our country and region,” he said.

The agreement aims to raise the level of readiness of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces to enhance maritime security in the region, protect the Kingdom’s vital and strategic interests, and support defense ministry’s  operational and tactical goals.

According to the agreement, Navantia will localize up to 100% of naval shipbuilding, integration of combat systems, and ship maintenance, in line with Saudi Vision 2030 objectives.

It also focuses on integrating combat systems into new ships, engineering and designing systems and hardware, and developing software.

Testing, systems verification, prototyping, simulation, as well as logistical support and training program design will also be within the scope of the agreement.


KSRelief chief meets UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs

KSRelief chief meets UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs
Updated 01 December 2022

KSRelief chief meets UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs

KSRelief chief meets UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the adviser at the Saudi Royal Court and general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, on Wednesday met with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya, in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, they discussed a number of issues of common interest related to relief and humanitarian affairs.

Msuya praised the Kingdom’s effective and influential international humanitarian role, noting the efforts of KSrelief in alleviating the suffering of refugees and needy groups around the world.