News: This Theater Group Is Taking Entire Audiences into Mixed Reality with Networked HoloLens Headsets

This Theater Group Is Taking Entire Audiences into Mixed Reality with Networked HoloLens Headsets

Live theater doesn't typically benefit from the kind of computer-generated special effects that big-budget Hollywood blockbusters deploy, but that could change soon thanks to Microsoft's HoloLens.

The device will make its theatrical debut this week at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. There, as the school's Department of Dance performs an original piece titled Imagined Odyssey, the audience will view the performance through HoloLens headsets.

Each audience member, in a seating array equipped with 80 networked headsets in all, will see holograms on stage from their own point of view. Dancers will work their way through the performance on a mostly empty stage, but the audience will see golden portals, swirling tornados, and magical trees.

Image by Case Western Reserve University/YouTube

"Nothing has ever been done on this scale using networked mixed-reality devices," said Mark Griswold, a radiology professor at Case Western Reserve and faculty director for the university's Interactive Commons, in a post from The Daily, the university's online internal communications outlet. "It's been an amazing testing ground that further shows this technology's potential to be transformative, no matter the discipline or setting."

The mission of the Interactive Commons is to utilize the HoloLens to present information in new ways. With its latest effort, the Interactive Commons may also be able to apply what it's learned in designing shared experiences for the classroom.

But this isn't the university's first foray into mixed reality. Over the summer, the university collaborated with Boulevard Arts to enable an interactive art exhibit at The Courtauld Gallery and the British Museum. And last year, it partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to release the HoloAnatomy app.

"Since the launch of Microsoft HoloLens and the paradigm shift to mixed-reality computing, Case Western Reserve has been on the leading edge of innovation across many educational experiences," Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Windows Mixed Reality Experiences, told The Daily. "It has long been one of my dreams to experience artistic performance that combines the physical and digital worlds with mixed reality, and I'm thrilled that this dream is now coming to life with this piece."

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Cover image via Case Western Reserve University/YouTube

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