The Megaverse XR Theatre Lab is an R&D project exploring how to extend the corporeal immediacy and humanity of live performance through burgeoning immersive technology.
We thought there was something missing about the way many performing arts organisations were working with VR/XR technology. It often felt disconnected creatively, bolted-on at the end, or just...lost in translation? The audience gets new angle on the experience, but not necessarily an entirely new experience.
So, what if instead of transposing traditional work into a digital sphere, we aimed to make something inside a live XR world, something fluent? How could we work with artists to find new languages and processes to create performance-based extended reality work in an integrated, platform-native way? How does it inform the way we see the world and ourselves? How does it affect the artforms we work with?
This project has been funded by Arts Council England and the main objective is to explore liveness in virtual reality as well as rapid prototyping performance ideas by leveraging XR tools. The fidelity and quality of the volumetric capture and immersive worlds is currently not our priority at this early stage of exploration - this will come further down the line with more funding and investment.
We will construct a low-cost, portable scanning rig that can 3D capture live performances “in the round” using an array of calibrated depth-sensing cameras. Unlike traditional motion capture, these performances can be live-streamed into a virtual set and experienced through multiple networked virtual reality headsets.
This rig will allow artists to create, devise, and push the boundaries of mixed reality theatre. The creative potential of the rig includes global promenade theatre, virtually porting audience members into the middle of a scene, or gathering live audiences from multiple countries for communal arts experiences.
We will test the rig in 3 week-long sessions:
Engaging with members of the Sheffield Culture Consortium and local artists to creatively test and play with the rig while introducing them to the technology and creative potential of using XR.
Residency with National Youth Theatre devising a workshop theatre piece exploring emotional v. artificial intelligence. We will invite small tester audiences including members of the public, university, funders, and Sheffield Cultural Consortium.
Partnering with Sheffield Hallam University to upskill students on XR technology, engage academics, and push the creative limits of the rig.