ICONS of INNOVATION was a collaboration that provided a tribute to the great Inventors throughout time while simultaneously bringing together dancers, computer scienctists, technologist, and people working with game engines, design and animation.
“This is, I believe, the first time that a lot of our students who come from traditional performing arts backgrounds, in this case theatre and dance, got to work with animators and technologists using gaming engines, using motion capture, using film and animation in a way that brought a piece together in real-time and then it was distributed across the network,” Oliverio said.
NWSA Dean of Dance, Mary Lisa Burns feels that students were challenged by this new concept.
“They learned some of the challenges of working in digital media, and specifically gaming technology, and gained an appreciation of how choreography can be translated in these types of media,” Burns said. “The students also saw how new technologies can link performances in disparate locations in ways that can widen participation in an artistic event or performance.”
In order for performers in both Miami and Gainesville to be joined together in this shared virtual environment, the Microsoft Kinect was adapted and combined with a well-known gaming engine, the Unreal Development Kit, UDK. This allowed performers to inhabit avatars of famous inventors or innovators from different periods of human history. The dancers then provided their movements to tell their story.
“My role was basically to provide some information about the characters that I researched, said Lindsay Head, UF Dance Student. “[I had to figure out] my relationship to the avatars, the relationships between the avatars in their world and my world, and the worlds combining.”
The World Premiere of ICONS of INNOVATION took place on Friday, November 9, 2012 for the International Digital Media and Arts Association (IDMAA) Conference with full houses in Miami and Gainesville and remote audiences in Salt Lake City and Ecuador. Daniel Lewis, NWSA Founding Dean and a member of the advisory board of IDMAA, felt NWSA should host IDMAA for its tenth anniversary to create a special performance.
“I was extremely excited by the collaboration of New World and Digital Worlds,” Lewis said. “I saw this as a possibility that I could expose students to technology at its best. I feel like I left a little legacy at New World.”
Throughout the performance of ICONS, audience members in all four locations were able to use their Smartphones to text in a vote for various options related to the live performance that unfolded in real-time before their eyes. This provided both the live studio audience and participants in remote sites around the world with a truly interactive experience with the performance artists.
“This is something that is very new. We don’t expect that the traditional performing arts will always have the same environment as they did in the time of Shakespeare or even the 1900’s. And now, we want to do what we can to allow new technologies, including real time motion capture and interactive gaming and mobile telecommunications, to allow the performing arts to move forward in the 21stcentury,” Oliverio said. “As a result of doing this, I’m hopeful that our students both from Miami and here from Gainesville will have developed an increased appreciation, fluency, understandings, and enhanced sense of what it takes to combine live performance with technology.”