The shape of things to come: what to expect from Dubai in 2017

The Vision editorial team make their business, arts, innovation and sport predictions for Dubai in 2017

Virtual Reality

Danielle Green, Editorial Director

When I interviewed British documentary filmmaker and producer Anthony Geffen for Vision’s first issue of 2017, Dubai International Film Festival was preparing to roll out the red carpet for its 13th edition.

Geffen, a recognised pioneer in hi-tech videography, who has worked on groundbreaking documentaries with veteran broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, was intrigued that the festival had introduced a virtual-reality strand. The UAE, he noted, was the perfect place for VR taking into account the nation’s rich storytelling tradition and its appetite for new technology.

With 2017 predicted to be the year that virtual reality (along with big data and the internet of things) finally hits the mainstream, it will be fascinating to monitor the role Dubai’s own innovators have to play in this global development.

It may not be common knowledge but the emirate is home to myriad companies operating in the virtual-reality and augmented-reality space. Among these are leading 3D animation and game design studio Pixelhunters, architectural visualisation firm ArchiMaze, and event technology company Fractal Systems.

Nurtured by Dubai’s spirit of innovation, these businesses are already carving a niche in this burgeoning sector – running the gamut from entertainment to professional applications. With healthcare likely to be the next sector to benefit from VR, and Dubai making noises in the med-tech space, could this be the next avenue of exploration for innovators in the emirate?  

Art & Culture

Georgina Lavers, Editor of Vision Magazine

For me, it was an iridescent monolith set down decisively in Shindagha Heritage Village a few years ago that wrapped up Dubai’s art scene into an exciting – if paradoxical – package.

Here we had artist Monira Al Qadiri’s ‘Alien Technology’; a futuristic structure that abstractly comments on oil, slap-bang in the middle of a purpose-built historic village that celebrates the traditional Emirati way of life.

You can see these juxtapositions all over the city, whether accidental or with a sly nod to their surroundings: Slinkachu’s miniscule figurines laden with shopping bags outside malls; murals of yawning sharks and neon-bright parrots on the featureless sandstone of a residential building.

It is my belief that Dubai’s creative scene will continue to expand like this, embracing contemporary pursuits and showing an acceptance of all types of art.

Business incubators and accelerators, Dubai’s trend du jour, will start to take into account young creatives, offering prototyping labs with innovative facilities such as 3D printers.

Gallery districts such as Al Fahidi or Alserkal Avenue will continue to expand, embracing exiled artists and boosting the profile – and prices – of creatives working in emerging markets.

Alongside this, I cannot see Dubai’s embrace of a vast range of projects that span operas to ‘aquatheatres’, street art to film festivals, waning any time in the near future. Some of these initiatives will enjoy success in the emirate; others will fall by the wayside.

After a time, it is my belief that the city will start to refine its reach and narrative, curating an art scene that is confident and thought-out, but always inclusive.

It is my belief that Dubai will start to refine its reach and narrative, curating an art scene that is confident and thought-out, but always inclusive

Georgina Lavers, Editor of Vision Magazine

Innovation

Patricia Clarke, Assistant Content Editor

I always believed innovation to be something of a buzzword, a generic term used by governments and businesses to describe rehashed ideas – until I visited Dubai.

There is everything that we already know – that it took just six years to build the world’s tallest building in the heart of the city, that there are seven-star hotels, and fantastical man-made islands. But innovation in Dubai is about far more than the glamour that first meets the eye.

Entrepreneurs are building the city from within. 2016 incubators and accelerators like AstroLabs and Dubai 100 saw technology and healthcare start-ups receive funding and unprecedented support, producing everything from apps that diagnose minor illnesses to wheelchairs that can be driven with the mind alone.

Government-led programmes like the Dubai Future Accelerators also saw huge leaps in transport technology, like testing facilities for Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s futuristic hyper-fast mode of transportation, as well as research into safety systems for the Dubai Police. To me, this is the true meaning of innovation; these are products made with the general public in mind, with direct benefits for city locals

In 2017, there is no place to go but up. Advancement in the digital sector is well-established, particularly when it comes to healthcare and transport, but I believe that this will be the year for cultural innovation in Dubai. There is a growing understanding of the importance of art in the city, with locals and professionals alike embracing the crucial role of architecture, arts and crafts in the city. Following the opening of the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, I foresee a merging of the fields of art and technology, driving innovation – the real kind – in Dubai. 

Sport

Kate Dobinson, Editor of Vision.ae

It was in the hush descended around 22-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick as he birdied the 18th of Jumeirah’s Earth Course at the DP World Tour Championship. It was in the jubilant crowd as the South Africans’ dare gutsily upset the entitled Olympic champions Fiji and their Dubai Sevens campaign. It was in the in the guillotine-precision of the world’s number one squash player Mohammed Al Shorbagy’s racquet slicing through his opponents’ PSA Dubai World Series Finals  ambitions in a glittering glass court at the Burj Khalifa.

‘It’ being the quiet confidence that Dubai has proved its worth as one of the foremost sporting capitals of the world, with a slew of events that have been gripping, technologically advanced, accessible and influential.

In  2017, the country’s barrelling drive will grow hungrier still in the pursuit of persuading yet more elite sporting talent to compete in its futuristic courts, stadiums and sands.

The Olympic movement’s most recently acquired sport, golf, features heavily in Dubai’s plans. The European Tour season presents new venues, branding and prize money sure to curl interest even more tightly around the Race to Dubai which saw more than 63,000 fans flock to Jumeriah Golf Estates in November.

In 2017, the Rolex Series – a new alliance of seven leading tournaments around the world, all offering minimum prize funds of US$7m, will include the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai which features a prize fund of US$8m.