Hummingbird: Collaborative Virtual Reality for Tele-Immersive Interactive Theater

Virtual Reality performances being developed in collaboration with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre that merge real and virtual worlds for tele-immersive interaction.

Hummingbird: Collaborative Virtual Reality for Tele-Immersive Interactive Theater is an ongoing project developing multiuser theatrical performances that merge real and virtual worlds with the goal of encouraging stronger theater engagement with techsavvy younger audiences. Participants follow the story’s protagonist into an immersive virtual world reminiscent of Japanese paintings. They embark on a collaborative journey to overcome challenges, such as finding hidden drawers, planting seeds and using pick axes to chip away rock. This tele-immersive, interactive experience has the potential to reimagine theatrical storytelling.

The project bridges art, science and live theater through a collaborative research effort between computer science and design faculty and students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) and Chicago’s Tony Award-winning Goodman Theatre, whose youth program works with Chicago’s diverse demographics of middle-grade and teenage youth. The project is being designed for the Goodman Theater New Stages 2020 showcasing experimental and ground-breaking theater works. Chicago youth will attend tele-immersive real-time performances that will run concurrently at the Goodman Theatre’s Alice Rapport Center and at the UIC/EVL Continuum, allowing for untethered social interaction and collaborative exploration of the plot lines through avatars and multiuser interaction. Hummingbird extends traditional live theater and makes virtual reality art accessible to a broader audience. It will demonstrate how virtual reality technology can be both an artistic and a storytelling medium integrated with a live theater performance.

The project is supported by the University of Illinois Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and the UIC Award for Creative Activity.

Project website

Young adults interact with each other in the Orchard scene discovering the footprints during the production test.
Project development in the Electornic Visualization Laboratory (EVL)
Orchard Underworld
Initial sketches of the Underworld, Orchard and Giant Statue virtual environments.

VR Theater performance Hummingbird is suported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts .