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  • Natasha Tsakos

What's in the Box? Tech Tools to Make Art


From the IOT, Sensors, Haptics, Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality, Hearables, Wearables, Big Data, to Drones, Technology is Changing the Face of Live Entertainment on Profound Levels



We live in a time of accelerated change.

It might not be long till a show materializes in our living rooms, till a production transcends its space and solves real-world problems, till orchestras fly in flocks of drones from city to city deploying music everywhere, till robots leap so beautifully across the stage, we might one day wonder why we ever risked a human life before…


What if?


Let’s take a look at the tools artists now have at their disposal to create new work:


THE INTERNET OF THINGS

THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT) is a world filled with hyperlinked objects, buildings, vehicles and other items constantly interacting over a network. According to Cisco, there are more than 10 billion people, data, processes, and things currently connected to the internet. This is made possible in part by:

According to Cisco, there are more than 10 billion people, data, processes, and things currently connected to the internet.


SENSORS

In the last six years, we’ve gone from 10 million SENSORS to 3.5 billion. In the next 4 years: expect a trillion. Those sensors cost less than $1 and consume almost no energy. With a trillion sensors and 100 billion connected devices: objects will develop personalities and talk to one another. Your door will anticipate your departure, miss while your gone, talk to the cocktail maker and greet you accordingly. We are seeing the use of sensors and projections on stage, but this opens the door to whole new level of interactivity. The story no longer needs to end when it ends.


In fact,


AMAZON WANTS TO FILL OUR LIVING ROOMS…

…with sensors and cameras to bring us Augmented Reality (full article on Digital Trends). The applications will probably be more consumer-driven, but imagine creating a show inside someone’s living room. A true Home Theater! Wake up and select: the Jungle theme: your home transforms into a rain forest, birds of paradise sing along with you in your intelligent karaoke Shazam shower. Meanwhile your fridge has ordered an exotic selection of fruits delivered by: Drone Truly. The lighting adjusts to set the mood, a majestic lion appears and roars your schedule for the day!


We used to buy CDs or DVDs of a show, now we can download it, we might even end up purchasing its environmental experience instead. Sounds like science fiction?


AMAZON WANTS TO FILL OUR LIVING ROOMS… …with sensors and cameras to bring us Augmented Reality


AUGMENTED REALITY

AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-generated images on a user’s view of the real world. These opera glasses project super-titles in the language of your choice displayed in real-time during the performance. The Theatre de Paris will begin marketing the glasses to arts organizations around the world this year. It’s a great start and…


The Theatre de Paris will begin marketing the glasses to arts organizations around the world this year.


AUGMENTED REALITY Part II

A world of pure imagination awaits! Imagine dematerializing special effects on stage and personalizing them for individual audience members; Or dematerializing the stage altogether. Reality will be augmented everywhere we go. Any surface will be the surface for another surface (and everyone will move like a performance artist!).


Magic Leap. A world of pure imagination awaits! Imagine dematerializing special effects on stage and personalizing them for individual audience members; Or dematerializing the stage altogether.


HOLOGRAMS YOU CAN TOUCH

If you are not too keen about about headsets, a group of scientists have created HOLOGRAMS you can actually touch! Speaking of touch…


A group of scientists have created HOLOGRAMS you can actually touch!


HAPTICS

HAPTICS relate the sense of touch as a method of interacting with computers. This company has developed an arm band that will let you feel virtual reality. We might witness the next evolution Circuses and Petting Zoos where animals are no longer needed. We could feel and touch creatures we never could before, and revive extinct species. Virtually, but it will feel just as real…


This company has developed an arm band that will let you feel virtual reality


CREATE IN VIRTUAL REALITY

This is the year of VIRTUAL REALITY (VR): A computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with in a physical way using a headset. Between Oculus (now Meta), PlaystationVR, Samsung Gear, HTC Vive, Cardboard, you name it, it’s a race as to who will pop our virtual reality cherry! But VR is not just for experiencing content, it’s for making it too. Tilt Brush is an application that enables artists to paint the 3D space around them.


VR is not just for experiencing content, it’s for making it too. Tilt Brush is an application that enables artists to paint the 3D space around them.


IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES IN VIRTUAL REALITY

Landmark is working on a virtual reality world fair, where users will be able to visit the expo and interact with digital fair goers without ever having to leave their home. The Void blends virtual reality with physical environments, where you become the hero of your own story…


The Void blends virtual reality with physical environments, where you become the hero of your own story…


DOUGHNUT PHENOMENON

I had the pleasure of meeting Jay Iorio at a VR panel at SXSW last year (2016). Jay serves as technology strategist for the IEEE Standards Association. He is also the architect and manager of the IEEE Island in Second Life, a test bed for the virtual world. Jay shared a fantastic analogy in regards to VR, he called it: “Theatre in the doughnut”. That’s right: instead of sitting in a round, looking at the the show; We are now standing in the center of the doughnut, looking at a 360 degree field of view, with the freedom to go anywhere and connect the dots of our own storyline. This ‘doughnut phenomenon’ will accelerate the emergence of immersive experiences like “Sleep No More” in NYC, site-specific, interactive work, in which the audience walks at their own pace through a variety of theatrically designed rooms. Immersive Experiences use processes similar to the making of Virtual Reality and can easily be translated for it too. In turn, those developing content for VR may rehearse and test in physical one. We may see interesting collaborations evolve between Theatre and VR.


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

What about SOFTWARE? Software that creates software! Software that writes, composes or co-designs with you as you develop new work. This Artificial Intelligence (AI) Algorithm that has learned to write political speeches and even a novel, which is up for a literary award. By using machine learning and a 3D printer, engineers have created an original Rembrandt from scratch and a lot of data. Will Artificial Intelligence soon choreograph ballets or re-write a show every single night, keeping the actors and the audience on their toes? How can we intelligently leverage AI in our fields?


By using machine learning and a 3D printer, engineers have created an original Rembrandt from scratch and a lot of data.

DRONES

DRONES have had a bad reputation, but what about Trick Drones, Selfie Drones, Performer Drones, Dancer Drones, Music Drones, Lighting Drones! What next? Disco drones? Flying screens? Flying sets? Watch Cirque du Soleil beautiful drone piece “Sparked”.


Watch Cirque du Soleil beautiful drone piece “Sparked”.


And we’ve just barely opened the tool box!


implications


Technology is changing us on profound biological and neurological levels. Whether we like it or not. Pass Botox and Denial is the next Generation. They are born with computing power, the world at the tip of their finger, and live most of their lives in a virtual state. How do we reach them? It’s more than targeting an age range, it’s addressing an evolutionary shift. What are the implications?


1. WE NEED TO THINK AND CREATE 3-DIMENSIONALLY


Which we don’t really do. We write words on paper or screen, it’s flat. We watch a movie, it’s flat. We think of an idea, it’s flat. It’s linear. We even often two-dimensionalize our own character… But our digital immersion is becoming three dimensional. Three-dimensional computing is even underway, but that’s another story…


2. IT’S ABOUT THE USER. THE EXPERIENCE: THE USER EXPERIENCE


It’s no longer passive. It’s Active. Reactive. Immersive. People want to feel. They want to participate. They want it tailor made and the demand for resolution, connectivity, speed and comfort will keep rising.


3. NEW STAGES ARE BEING CREATED: UNCHARTERED TERRITORIES


In the virtual, augmented, the real reality, in people’s homes, buildings, parking lots, autonomous vehicles, (because what happens in a car if we no longer need to drive it?) online, outside, inside our heads and in our ears. The stage as we know it will be dematerialized, demonetized and democratized (as per Peter Diamandis’ 6Ds of Exponentials. If you haven’t read the book, read it: BOLD)


4. ART IS NO LONGER CONFINED TO A BOX


Stories and relationships will develop where we least predict them. I can envision story tellers from Pixar working at GE or Cisco developing new applications for the Internet of Everything (IOE). According to the Washington Post this month, the next hot job in Silicon Valley is for poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic types. The tech world gets it! But what if Artists drove this exponential wave instead? What if Artists became the operating system of technology? What impact would we cause, what innovations might arise?


5. DISCIPLINES CONVERGE!


Video game design and playwriting, playwriting and artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence and acting, dancing and robotics. The potential collaborations are insanely exciting. You may graduate as one thing, and evolve as another. We are about to experience a ripple effect of interactivity at play. It is no longer about super-imposition, but intelligent integration.


Charlie Chaplin attending the premiere of his film City Lights in Los Angeles accompanied by his guest of honor: Albert Einstein. Imagine if these two had created a show, a movie or an immersive experience together!

One of my favorite pictures of all times! February 2nd, 1931: Charlie Chaplin attending the premiere of his film City Lights in Los Angeles accompanied by his guest of honor: Albert Einstein. Imagine if these two had created a show, a movie or an immersive experience together!…



CONTENT UPDATE


We do have new tools and materials to create new work with, but what good are they, if we have no good story to tell? Content needs a system update and step up to the inter-connected intricacies and information of today. As do we. We need new lenses, new scopes, new voices that address our emerging mythology.


I am not advocating for technology at all cost. Technology for technology’s’ sake is like knowing how to speak and having nothing to say. We’d make a lot of funny noise. And we are making a lot of funny noise… I believe the magic lies in the delicate balance between Arts and Technology. The intelligent fusion, the natural synergy of both is inevitable as they inspire and challenge one another.


There is everything to rethink about storytelling. And it may not all work out. But we won’t know until we try it, test it, risk it, have fun with it. We’ve been stuck in a climate of rules and regulation, repeats, and remakes… We’ve been doing it the same way for the past 3,000 years! It’s time to invent!



what can we do?



Disruption is coming. How can we prepare for it? Here are a few sparks:

  • Kevin Kelley (not to confuse with Kevin Kelly, dubbed "the most interesting man in the world") regarded as the most innovative football coach, said last week: “I don’t read about football, I read about everything else”. That is how we stay relevant and innovate. By developing an appetite for disciplines that have nothing to do with Theatre. Here are a few blogs and sites I recommend:

  • Wired

  • Kevin Kelly

  • Peter Diamandis’ Tech Blog

  • Popular Science

  • Tim Ferris Podcast

  • And of course, a TED Talk a day keeps the dullness away…


  • Set your own “experimental engine”. Jeff Holden, who has built experimental engines at Amazon, Groupon, and Uber says: “ You have to be in the mindset of constantly testing crazy ideas, new models, new products, new processes.” Build an internal team within your organization to disrupt current models and come up with crazy ideas. This book “Sprint”, from Google Ventures, offers a unique 5-day process for solving tough problems.


  • Curate dynamic and forward thinking programming. If you are a Producer: support and commission Artists who are working in those areas. If you have your own production facility: set audacious goals for your company.


  • Think about your crew differently. Consider hiring programmers and engineers to come up with innovative applications for your Theatre and infuse a forward thinking culture into your crew.


  • Finally, remember that while it has everything to do with technology, it also has nothing to do with it. It’s our stories that need update.



May your adventures be meaningful and mind boggling!


Creatively Yours,

Natasha



Talk Transcript at Adidas "Calling All Creators", Ziba Design, Portland, Oregon, May 11, 2016



 

QUOTES


"The story no longer needs to end when it ends."


"Technology is changing us on profound biological and neurological levels. Whether we like it or not. Pass Botox and Denial is the next Generation. They are born with computing power, the world at the tip of their finger, and live most of their lives in a virtual state."


"We now need to think and create three dimensionally"


"We are about to experience a ripple effect of interactivity at play. It is no longer about super-imposition, but intelligent integration."


"What if Artists became the operating system of technology?"


"We do have new tools and materials to create new work with, but what good are they, if we have no good story to tell? Content needs a system update and step up to the inter-connected intricacies and information of today. As do we. We need new lenses, new scopes, new voices that address our emerging mythology."


"I am not advocating for technology at all cost. Technology for technology’s’ sake is like knowing how to speak and having nothing to say. We’d make a lot of funny noise. And we are making a lot of funny noise… "


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