X-Ray Vision and Spirited Chairs

Custom interactive prototypes designed to activate a public space
  • Client:
    The Old Globe
  • Services:
    Concept, Design
  • Funder:
    The MetLife/Theatre Communications Group A-ha! Program

Activating the public space outside San Diego’s The Old Globe theatre, X-Ray Vision and Spirited Chairs were designed to make the Old Globe’s Copley Plaza more interactive. These small infusions of technology into Copley Plaza expanded access by creating multimedia experiences that gave visitors a better sense of the theatre just beyond the surrounding walls.

X-Ray Vision and Spirited Chairs were two multimedia installations in San Diego’s Copley Plaza designed by BPOC in partnership with The Old Globe theatre to activate Copley Plaza, expanding access to both their buildings and grand history of performances. Both projects address The Old Globe’s driving question: how do we engage the plaza visitors during the day, when no performances were going on?

The Old Globe began a search for solutions through Stanford University’s process of Design Thinking, as facilitated by BPOC. Their staff stepped through three interconnected stages: Listening, to learn about needs directly from audience members; Brainstorming, to find solutions that address the needs identified; and Building, to prototype and test solutions.

X-Ray Vision allows visitors to look behind closed doors, into the theatres and backstage areas not generally accessible during the day. It uses Google Cardboard as a simple, affordable virtual reality viewer for spherical panoramas. Using PTGui Pro software, BPOC stitched together 434 high-quality photographs to create 360-degree views of the costume shop, Old Globe Theatre, Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre, and Lowell Davis Festival Theatre Center. The images were transferred onto a Nexus 6 phone, where they are viewed using the Cardboard app.

Spirited Chairs takes prop chairs from productions, already placed in Copley Plaza for guests to rest, and enhances them with unexpected whimsy. BPOC fitted seat cushions with a mix of capacitive and pressure sensors to trigger embedded Raspberry Pi computers to play dramatic performances from the production in which the chair was featured. Each chair rotates through short clips from Richard III, The Price, or Other Desert Cities. To allow The Old Globe to change sound clips for future chairs, BPOC made each Pi accessible via FTP, for easy updates.

While the prototypes were on display, people lingered in Copley Plaza for much longer. Visitors had expressions of wonder as they spun around to view Old Globe interiors through Cardboard. Families happily hopped from chair to chair to hear different audio clips and to take selfies. X-Ray Vision and Spirited Chairs exemplify a way for museums to incorporate technology by starting with the Design Thinking process and moving into the prototype phase, allowing visitors to help create the environment of exploration and learning.