Augmented theatre: a 100% French feat

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

As a world’s first live demonstration, the surtitles were provided in English and Chinese for ‘King Lear’ and English and French for ‘Return to Berratham’ at the Avignon Festival.

eeNews Europe caught up with Carl De Poncins, co-founder and president of Theatre in Paris to learn more about this new field of augmented reality (AR).

Created in 2014, the company offers surtitling services including translation and projection setups, but also booking and reception services to literally accompany non-French speakers to their seats, in the capital’s theatres. These services help theatre companies share their live performances across multiple languages for a more international reach.

While surtitles are not new, typically projected above the stage, they are usually limited to one language and still require theatre or opera goers to glance at them, away from the main scene. The novelty here is that augmented reality glasses are used to offer an individual surtitles to spectators, even outside theatres.

"We’ve developed a surtitling Android platform that includes a kit of ten AR glasses and a control tablet with our dedicated app", explains De Poncins.

"The see-through surtitles projected in front of the eyes can be configured for each individual glasses, for letter size, brightness, colour and location within the spectator’s field of view. Although typically, the theatre hostess would set the glasses for first time users, a touch pad control on the glasses let them scroll through simple configuration menus, very much like those they would find on a smartphone", he continued.

But surtitles are only one application, told us De Poncins. "With the control tablet, stage managers could augment a scene with visual effects, such as adding rain, lighting or even entirely new decors within street performances".

On its roadmap, the company plans to build a library of visual effects and bespoke content creations for stage managers to make the most of augmented reality.

As for the actual hardware, Theatre in Paris chose Optinvent’s ORA connected glasses because they were the only ones up to the job, according to De Poncins.

"We know of another experimental theatre company in New-York which explored the use of AR for their live performances using Google Glass, but their field of vision was too narrow and too restrictive for the text density of theatrical performances", told us De Poncins.

"The Optinvent glasses give us three times as much field of view, and it is centred so you can choose where to place your text or visual effects, without forcing spectators to glance up every second for their surtitles".

At just under 700 euros, the Bluetooth and WiFi connected glasses deliver a full colour 4:3 see-through display with 33 pixels of resolution per degree, across a 24° field of View (this translates in a diagonal of 84" at 5m). Another claim from Optinvent is that it’s patented Clear-Vu technology is light weight and shatter proof since all its key optical components are based on molded plastic.

Movies theatres represent another potential market for Theatre in Paris’ AR-enabled surtitling services, as the surtitles could be provided either in place of today’s subtitles for foreign movies, or even for local language movies, for hearing impaired movie goers.

"We’ve showcased our technology to some movie distributors and they were quite interested", admitted De Poncins, but as for 3D spectacles in cinemas, it is a matter of customer accessibility and entertainment experience added value versus added costs for the cinema operators.

Visit Optinvent at

Visit Theatre in Paris at

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