Disembodied Performance

The System

For my master's thesis research, I developed the Disembodied Performance System that provides the core implementation for Simon Powers in The System for the opera Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant. This system allows an off-stage actor and opera singer to give a compelling and rich performance on stage in a completely non-anthropomorphic form. The system uses a variety of sensors to gather data about the performer's gesture, voice, and action in order to infer a model of the character's affective and cognitive state, distilling the character's essence at any given moment. This model state is then transmitted to a distributed system of set elements and other components to use light, projection, mechanical movement, and sound to recreate the performance on stage.

The Disembodied Performance System is immediately generalizable to other productions and has broad implications for future work. The concept of capturing salient details about the essence and emotion of an individual provides new opportunities for personal expression including telepresence or representation-independent interaction. Furthermore, this project presents my first steps toward employing research from the field of cognitive science to pose a formal theory for mapping between representations or even between different modalities and media.