Flatland: an immersive theatre experience centered on shape changing haptic navigation technology

Spiers, Adam; van der Linden, Janet; Oshodi, Maria; Wiseman, Sarah and Dollar, Aaron (2015). Flatland: an immersive theatre experience centered on shape changing haptic navigation technology. In: IEEE World Haptics Conference 2015, 22-26 Jun 2015, Chicago.


Flatland was a large scale immersive theatre production completed in March 2015 that made use of a novel shape-changing haptic navigation device, the ‘Animotus’. Copies of this device were given to each audience member in order to guide them through a 112m2 dark space to large tactile structures accompanied by audio narration from the production’s plot. The Animotus was designed to provide unobtrusive navigation feedback over extended periods of time, via modification of its natural cube shape to simultaneously indicate proximity and heading information to navigational targets. Prepared by an interdisciplinary team of blind and sighted specialists, Flatland is part performance, part in-the wild user study. Such an environment presents a unique opportunity for testing new forms of technology and theatre concepts with large numbers of participants (94 in this case). The artistic aims of the project were to use sensory substitution facilitated exploration to investigate comparable cultural experiences for blind and sighted attendees. Technical goals were to experiment with novel haptic navigational concepts, which may be applied to various other scenarios, including typical outdoor pedestrian navigation. This short paper outlines the project aims, haptic technology design motivation and initial evaluation of resulting audience navigational ability and qualitative reactions to the Animotus.

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