Re: Real-Time Immersive Theater in Pittsburgh
- 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
Earth Theater Director
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
- 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
"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
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