Saudi tech experts bring future AI technology closer to reality

RIYADH: Saudi technology experts are putting the latest advances in artificial intelligence into the hands of players attending a major international festival in the kingdom.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has partnered with the Saudi Electronic Sports Federation for the Gamers8 event, which is being held in Riyadh to showcase the latest developments in augmented and virtual reality technologies.

Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, director of the Immersive Lab at Ithra for Creative Solutions, believes that the futuristic artificial intelligence seen in many current science fiction films could become publicly available within five to 10 years.


The indoor GameDev area, bustling with excited and curious Saudis looking to try out the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in Riyadh. (supplied)

The technologies on display at the festival focus not only on gaming, but also on interactive and immersive experiences, entertainment and learning.

Abdel Rahman indicated that the kind of virtual reality tools seen in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 adventure movie “Ready Player One” are now easily available. Ithra even had a Teslasuit and a glove (a technology that can create a tactile experience by applying forces, vibrations and movements to the user) that members of the public could test out.

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• One of the Ithra winners’ projects, Predicting Rain, allows people to feel the rain by wearing virtual reality glasses.

• Ithra even had a Teslasuit and a glove (a technology that can create a tactile experience by applying forces, vibrations and movements to the user) that members of the public could test.

“We can put people in some games that use all the technologies together, where they can walk around and enjoy every hit in the game. It’s a complete immersion. It’s not 2045, it’s 2022,” he told Arab News.


The indoor GameDev area, bustling with excited and curious Saudis looking to try out the latest Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in Riyadh. (supplied)

In Riyadh Boulevard City, where Gamers8 is fully streamed, Creative Solutions’ GameDev district features typical games developed in 72 hours or less, as well as the program’s five previous winning designs, as well as internationally developed video games.

Although the VR experiences available are not fully equipped, they still allow visitors to get the general idea behind the immersive stories.

One of the Ethra winners’ projects, Predicting Rain, allows people to feel the rain by wearing virtual reality glasses. Its developer, Naima Karim, tells of how she became paralyzed at a young age, but discovered a love of drawing through the impact of rain. “There were a lot of people who moved with it, they took off their headphones to cry,” Abdul Rahman said.

Other AR projects take users on a journey through the history of the universe or on a mission to find hidden objects, similar to the mobile game “Pokemon GO”.


The main entrance to Creative Solutions GameDev Zone is enriched in partnership with the world’s largest esports festival, Gamers8, in Riyadh Boulevard. (supplied)

Next to the five region winners’ booths are a selection of internationally developed game shows including “The Climb 2”, “Loco Dojo”, “Beat Saber” and the PS5 Playroom.

Felipe Gomez, Curator of Creative Solutions, told Arab News: “There are developers who point to a future where there are no screens. Everything will be foreseen.”

Amr Boughari, a conceptual artist and AI enthusiast, said: “This reflects a good mental picture over time, which is expected of our government, it is a huge supporter of this development and progress that advances humanity.

But, in general, it depends on the use of the person. The abundance of technology can reduce the spiritual aspect, and this applies in many examples. Our role is to create a moderate space that combines reality and assumption.”

In the GameDev area, Gomez said, “The level of audience participation has been amazing. For me, this really reflects the desire to learn, develop and be prepared. The creativity is there.”

The Ithraa team aims to create unique experiences that people of all backgrounds can enjoy.

Abdul Rahman said: They are all proud. This is the word I can say. Everyone who tries them, when they see them, are just amazed at the quality of the work even though we call them prototypes.”

The goal of the program was to establish the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a major immersive hub in the region, and possibly the world.

“It depends on us, and stakeholders like Ithra, to push a specific agenda that really cares about how people will be affected by this transformation, to prepare them to be good decision makers. When it comes to creative solutions, they come up with human solutions.”

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