Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre (CROMT)

Empathy Machine / Arcadia - Opera for Virtual Reality systems in the field of Conflict Resolution.

CROMT Research Fellow Tim Hopkins, with composer Rob Thomas, have begun a major new investigation into uses of Virtual Reality for Opera, focussing on their potential in adversarial situations.

 Audio-visual presentation on Empathy Machine project by Tim Hopkins and Rob Thomas

We live in conflicted times. Imagine two people with opposing viewpoints. They might be neighbours, or from different countries, or might never have met. They immerse themselves in a virtual reality environment and reimagine each other through something never seen before - an opera they make together. They feel empathetic connections musicians can feel when they make music together.

In partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum, Glyndebourne, Artists and Engineers, with support from Arts Council England, and with guidance from anthropologists Dr Nigel Eltringham (Sussex), Prof Tom Boellstorff (UCAL) Josh Fouts (Carnegie Fellow, Bioneers) Ren Reynolds, Jim Purbick, Robin Hunicke and others, Empathy Machine entails a programme of R  and D to find out how to make this possible.

Tim and Rob are mid-way through their research.  Hosted by the V and A museum as part of their upcoming Opera exhibition, they have conducted workshops on

1)  key approaches to conflict intervention - how can these models inform the functionality of the piece - how do they interrogate or shape the artwork; how should we develop social processes leading up to and away from it?

2)  a comprehensive review of current VR - hardware, software, content - with kit and support from Oculus, Vive, Storm and others - what can the latest off-the-peg work in this field teach us, what creative modalities might we adapt to our aim?

Rob is currently constructing a diagrammatic system for practical exploration in the next workshop, (3 of 4,) where singers (Glyndebourne) will bring their artistry to our investigation, to ask what capacities would performers need - both inside a system they might control, and / or outside am adaptive system controlled by intuitive musicality of the users, with which they have to interact. 

Workshop 4 will look at audiences in context. Final presentation February 2018, at the V and A.