Punchdrunk/Media Lab Update 4
The following post was written by Simone Ovsey from the MIT Media lab. Simone is the project manager for Media lab and is working closely with all of the team in the Opera of The Future group who are collaborating on the project. We thought it was vital to hear about the project from our digital partners, as up to now only Punchdrunk have spoken about the project on this forum.
For our next post we’re hoping to get a blog from one of the team working on the project on site in NYC.
Media Lab Update
Working with Punchdrunk to realize a new vision for audience interaction and participation is proving to be a most worthwhile and rich experience for our team, led by composer Tod Machover, at the MIT Media Lab. We are excited – and it has been great fun – to be partners in pioneering a new type of live performance that highly personalizes the experience for onsite and online participants and explores original ways of fostering meaningful relationships between these audience members through real-time interaction. Entering into uncharted territory within the world of Web technologies, wireless communication, and multimedia has certainly proven to be a fascinating and ambitious venture.
On the Media Lab end, we are at work integrating technologies that have never before been combined and developing entirely new ones. Pushing the current capabilities of Web standards and wireless communications technologies, we are creating the infrastructure to deliver personalized multimedia content sourced in real time from a central location to allow each online participant to receive a completely unique experience co-created by his or her own actions as well as those of an onsite audience member within the context of the existing Sleep No More experience. Whereas each live visitor to Sleep No More constructs an individual experience based on a single multi-stranded presentation, to make the online experience be equally compelling, we have needed to create an entirely different show for each online “player”, definitely not what we imagined when we started the project! Through custom applications of emerging Internet browser capability, video delivery infrastructure, affective sensing, and Cisco wireless equipment that outfits the McKittrick Hotel, we are able to connect online users with counterparts in the live show to push past the boundaries of virtual collaboration and the dynamics of two people interacting through carefully defined/constructed and mediated methods.
The most surprising aspect of the project so far is how much of an intriguing and creative challenge this work has posed for us on the conceptual level. We’ve discovered that many of the technologies we require to create an experience that successfully integrates an immersive multisensory experience across distance simply do not exist, so we have the exciting opportunity to create them. We are re-imagining the current application of protocols in the realms of video streaming, interactive fiction, and virtual collaboration while building new infrastructures to house our innovative developments. Our team of software and hardware engineers, sound designers, interface specialists, game narrative specialists, and “affective computing” experts has been involved in the entire process of constructing entirely new narratives to add to the current Sleep No More show that can enhance and “explode” meaning for both the onsite and online participants.
Since the start of our collaboration with Punchdrunk at the end of 2011, we have maintained a successful, working relationship with the visionary immersive theater company. Conquering the transatlantic divide, we have found an optimal balance of idea sharing and iteration to ultimately realize our project goals. After months of successful communication via e-mail and video conferencing, our synergy was exemplified in a recent trip to NYC for an intensive day of brainstorming and problem solving with all of the members of the Media Lab and Punchdrunk teams. Once together, we were able to make decisions about the scope and quality of the experience that marked the transition from ideation and development to the production phase of the project. The fluid exchange of creative ideas between both sides has leveraged our broad range of expertise to the fullest in order to co-develop an experience that is completely original in both the technical and theatrical realms. It has also allowed us to proceed through the less-optimal communication channels of e-mail and Skype with renewed vigor and deeper collaborative understanding.
Author: Simone Ovsey