AR technology and Drama fusion - Dr. Zhang Weilui


Theater is an act that has been around for over 2,000 years. What began as a festival in ancient Athens has grown and transformed into a global, multi-billion dollar industry. Now, as in all aspects of human life, technology is changing what theater can offer its audience. Despite funding cuts over the past few years, theatre continues to thrive and innovate in the UK, with more than 14 million people walking through the west End's doors in 2015, and it's clear that live theatre and music can still draw audiences. But audiences always want more, and the growing popularity of immersive theatrical experience productions like Secret Cinema and Punchdrunk shows the public's desire for interactive and autonomous characters when visiting theatres. That's exactly what directors, producers, writers and technologists have been trying to offer as they try to combine augmented reality with specially trained actors and stories. Augmented reality encompasses a multitude of technologies that involve supplementing performance Spaces with video, audio, and graphics -- all designed to enhance the viewer's experience. Its creative uses have been realized in British drama. Late last year, Rufus Norris' recreation of "Alice in Wonderland "-- called" Wonder.Land "-- and the subsequent exhibition at the National Theater featured digital projection and virtual reality experiences, It shows the convergence of our physical and digital lives.

AR Practical Action

CoLab Theatre is a London-based theatre company that strives to provide an autonomous and sometimes enhanced experience for its audience in an urban environment. CoLab's director, Bertie Watkins, says they offer "osmotic theatre". It goes beyond an immersive experience and has more to do with game theory, which involves extending fiction into the real world (such as PokemonGo).

In an interview with Factor, Watkins explained why using technology is the best way to combine the physical and fictional worlds: "We're on our phones almost 24 hours a day and we use technology all the time as a way to blur the lines between reality and fiction. "It's pretty good to turn a phone that is normally just a communication device into something like a weapon or a port for hacking."

That's what CoLab achieved with their show Fifth Column, a spy thriller that puts viewers at the center of the action as they run from bad guys on the streets of London. During the performance, viewers follow digital cues across the city and into videos that aid in the narrative and appear to be part of the real world.

Watkins remembers the show well, but online reviews suggested that while it was fun, there were clearly logistical problems with using augmented reality.

Destroy the principle of narrative

Watkins is very candid about the difficulties he faced running Fifth Column and how to ensure that the technical aspects of his work seamlessly fit into live performance. One of the biggest problems he experienced was the combination of technology and human error.

"We've got a huge, broad spectrum of people from 8 to 80 years old from all kinds of backgrounds, so we'll get people who like the sound of technology, but they kind of shy away from it when it's put in front of them '." Watkins said. It seems that while smartphone use is as common as using a light switch, it's not always that simple.

The CoLab team is also trying to deal with smartphone differences. They tested the Fifth Column app on Android and iPhone, but found that people still use different platforms, or just don't update their phones regularly, both of which can affect the game.

That is likely to change as the technology becomes more widespread and CoLab improves its software." "I think the more we work with actual software developers to be able to build customized things for us, the easier it will become, "Watkins added. CoLab is working on creating an app that would act as a system app on smartphones, allowing production teams to use push notifications and block interference from other apps.

Maintaining a steady narrative throughout the show is also a challenge, as technology is often a distraction, but Watkins seems convinced that it is still possible to tell a good story and present the nuance of the characters.

"It's all about the premise and how we set up a narrative that people ultimately want to know, so we say they need to discover a secret. "We're trying to keep people curious about what's going on, and not play so hard that we don't get any narrative at all." Watkins said.

The future of theatre

For Watkins and many others, the future of theater is virtual reality. Instead of experiencing a regular theatrical production, the audience will be immersed in a completely fictional world and experience the story for themselves by enhancing certain aspects of it through technology.

Watkins says his next big project, coming out next year, will be a virtual reality experience, and CoLab is already filming all of their current shows with full-angle cameras to serve VR. The CoLab theatre team also hopes to work with Microsoft to use their VR camera in the future.

Watkins believes vr companies will continue to target theatres rather than cinemas. We're good at perception, being able to make the audience look in a certain direction or follow the narrative." Watkins said. If this is true, then funding and research will certainly expand the possibilities that theatre companies like CoLab can create.

For now, audiences can expect augmented reality to expand immersive scenes and appear in traditional theater performances. This month, history's most famous playwright will receive a technological makeover when the Royal Shakespeare Company presents a new version of The Tempest, complete with a 3D hologram of the soul character. It seems that those who call for normalcy in traditional drama will soon be facing the challenges ahead.