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Re: Real-Time Immersive Theater in Pittsburgh

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  • kerry
    Thank you Ryan for the post about the theater. Please refer to his post as I don t wish to repeat. I would just like to add a little more..... The ability to
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 14, 2001
      Thank you Ryan for the post about the theater. Please refer to his post as
      I don't wish to repeat. I would just like to add a little more.....

      The ability to respond to audience input is what sets us apart from film
      from the audience's perspective. Most audience members don't know or care
      that we can create the stuff on our computers rather than needing a film
      crew. Most audience members don't notice or care about the technical
      advantages digital projections have over film. What they can see is that
      they are changing the course of the show as it goes along. That being said,
      it is much harder to write and create and have something more than a
      branching story or one that stops occasionally.

      The most successful approach in the Earth Theater is GlobeTrotting: XXX. So
      far the XXX's are The Americas, Africa and I am working on Bugs. This is a
      geography show for 2-5 grade with a flow based closely on the standard
      children's live star show. There are lots of questions like "what do you
      see" "what is this" "where are we". There are many prerendered bits and
      the operator picks what comes next based on what the kids know, like and
      what the rest of their museum experience that day is. This works, but only
      for homogenous school groups.

      Cretaceous Chaos was the first real attempt at total audience interaction.
      At MAPS you saw an 8 minute version with frame rates as low as 5/sec. We
      have trimmed it to 6 minutes and have a minimum frame rate of 11 now are
      will be running it for school groups this summer. The total interaction can
      be summed up as 2 leaning, 3 yelling, and one motion detection interaction,
      with many questions which don't trigger anything, but are asked as real
      questions. The interactive system is very solid. The ETC's vision code can
      reliably pick up 4 inputs from the audience... lean left, right, center and
      arms up, and can break the audience into teams by blocks. We use an active
      IR camera that really can see in the dark. The audio code can either feed
      the rendering software a number or compare it to trigger values. It is all
      off the shelf hardware. The rendering software works but is less stable.
      The interesting part is that it is free at alice.org When the students
      come back in the fall we will work on something that combines realtime
      generated with prerendered material.

      As for the laser games, like Ryan, I think they are great fun and don't know
      how to use them in public shows.

      As a last note I am wondering if anyone has seen the Smithsonian's new
      theater experience?
      http://www.cnn.com/2001/TRAVEL/DESTINATIONS/06/12/smithsonian.immersion.ap/

      -kerry

      Kerry Handron
      Earth Theater Director
      Carnegie Museum of Natural History
      HandronK@...
      412-578-2580
    • Ryan Wyatt
      Thanks for the follow-up on your theater, Kerry. Now I want to come back to Pittsburgh for your school shows... As far as the Smithsonian thing goes, the show
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 15, 2001
        Thanks for the follow-up on your theater, Kerry. Now I want
        to come back to Pittsburgh for your school shows...

        As far as the Smithsonian thing goes, the show sounds like
        "Body Wars," which I saw at iSci in Montréal last November.
        I reviewed it for a colleague, so I've appended my (somewhat
        flippant) review below. Background info: the Immersion Studios
        theater has three HD images placed side-by-side to create one,
        single 3x16 image, plus about thirty workstations with
        touchscreens. People sit two to a screen (unless the crowds
        are small enough for people to work on their own) and answer
        questions to control the flow of the show. (Not just three
        buttons...)

        "Also, my take on 'Body Wars'... Interesting concept, but less
        engaging in its execution than I would have hoped. It seemed
        unable to decide whether it was a video game or an immersive
        experience: should I look at the large screen or the small one?
        I found the small screen too enormous a distraction from the
        large screen, and after all the voting and such, I didn't feel
        as though I had much effect on the outcome (although I tied for
        fourth place out of about forty people). The experience seemed
        to me very unconvincing in terms of feeling *truly* interactive.

        "On top of that, the program doesn't really seem to *teach*
        anything. Nor could I follow the effect that any of our choices
        had on the plot.

        "I didn't exactly look under the hood at iSci, but all the Immersion
        Studios equipment is behind glass, so I was able to guess at most
        of the functions. A lot of computing power -- and the response
        time still seemed sluggish to me! What kind of world do we live
        in?"

        BTW, Immersion Studios has a similar ride/experience/thingie in
        Boston... I'm actually *in* Boston at the moment for MIT's "Image
        and Meaning" conference, but I don't think I'll have time to explore
        much off MIT's campus (aside from a trip to the Museum and the
        *other* Hayden Planetarium this past Tuesday).

        I'll report back on "Image and Meaning" next week.


        Ryan Wyatt, Science Visualizer
        Rose Center for Earth & Space
        American Museum of Natural History
        79th Street & Central Park West
        New York, NY 10024
        212.313.7903 vox
        212.313.7868 fax
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