Cultural and social participation through a joint virtual experience of real stage events
Public events are a vital part of cultural life. Interestingly, they provide significantly more sensory sensations than just watching and listening to what happens on the stage. An important part of the individual experience is the presence of others in the audience with whom the evoked emotions can be shared. Unfortunately, there are several reasons hindering people from attending public events – either personal reasons such as physical distance or global like a pandemic. This calls for a contemporary technical solution that goes beyond traditional formats.
While various efforts are being made to transport stage performances to safe and comfortable listening and watching environments by means of immersive technology, SocialSTAGE-VR focuses on the aspect of cultural participation as a virtual social experience.
Project details and goals
Delivering a life-like experience into people’s living rooms independent of time and place relies on providing content for head mounted VR-displays and headphones. This ensures immersive sound and vision in optimal quality and from an ideal angle for every audience. This way, SocialSTAGE-VR also does away with audience number limitations so events can be made available to a virtually unlimited number of viewers. In terms of the social interaction, SocialSTAGE-VR sets itself apart from other concepts by offering multi-user capability. Avatars representing the audience members can interact with one another – verbally, as in a traditional chat, as well as non-verbally through gestures or even facial expressions. This allows the viewer to become part of a crowd and participate in life-like social interaction in a natural way.
In the audio field, Fraunhofer IIS contributes a library for spatial sound rendering. With sound coming from the expected directions, the listener’s ears can fully immerse in the illusion of actually being at the event. As for the visual part, IIS experts are working on practical ways to record live content as easily as possible so that it can be viewed with VR goggles while permitting the subject to move in a certain radius around their virtual seat. This is important for the interactive aspect, enabling the viewer not only to look at their co-audience, but also to virtually lean over towards others. Due to the live nature of the recorded events, all audiovisual algorithms are required to work in real time.
Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the funding code 16SV8773, the project is coordinated by the Technische Universität Chemnitz with Fraunhofer IIS, vr-on GmbH, Die Etagen GmbH, point omega Aktiengesellschaft and YOUSE GmbH as its partners.
SocialSTAGE-VR: Cultural and social participation
By addressing the subject of social interaction, SocialSTAGE-VR is more than just another way of sharing immersive recordings of live events. It opens up new ways of experiencing interactive cultural events together with family and friends or even total strangers – regardless of questions of personal health, schedules or distance.