Aesthetic Research

The Aesthetics of Mobile Devices in the Theater

Usually when an audience attends a theatrical event, they are asked to turn off their cell phones (or tablets). But Kama Begata Nihilum proved that this is not always necessary. In fact, we are dedicated to exploring how mobile devices can enhance the theatrical experience, rather than merely annoy others in the theater or draw the audience’s attention away from what’s happening in front of them.

How can mobile devices enhance the theatrical experience? This is a question that we are trying to solve on a case-by-case basis, which will lead to establishment of some general principles. Some measures to think about are:

  • can the mobile device deliver information to the audience that is unobtainable or undeliverable in any other way?
  • can the mobile device be used to augment the stagecraft, making it even more effective (such as lighting effects, etc.)
  • can the mobile device be used to break the fourth wall by gathering audience input into the course of the event?

As we work with theater directors, we will be coming up with a list of ways in which mobile devices can enhance the experience. In Kama Begata, we were able to give device users more visual information through the Augmented Reality in the app than audience members who did not have smartphones were able to see—and this could not have been delivered in any other way, actually.

We also were able to make connections with the audience through the use of color, with color matching the phone’s screen to the colors of the important action onstage.

Thirdly, we brought the visual effects in the projections out into the audience, mirroring flashing lights onstage by flashing the cell phones brightly at the same time.

These specific effects proved to be highly effective with the audience, inspiring the establishment of LAIT. But we took things a step further, and according to our mission, held a “LAIT day” symposium on May Day (May 1), 2015. The LAIT day symposium consisted of two parts: a demonstration of LAIT’s capabilities, and a public brainstorming session, where we put to the 25 or so LAIT day attendees the questions “How Might You Use LAIT?” and “What Other Capabilities Might It Want to Have?” We gathered a list of suggestions from these folks, which have been guiding some of our R&D.

See Photos from LAIT Day

We now have extensive experience with LAIT in live performance, from which we’ve gleaned numerous insights. We are operating now from the LAIT “Roadmap” that outlines features and improvements that we will implement as they prove themselves to be useful in a majority of performance situations.