The THEATRON computer software uses a specially enhanced web browser enabling the user to navigate virtual reality reconstructions of the theatre and performance sites. In addition the user has access to a wide variety of related multimedia assets and narrative text accessible from the model and information panels. These include photographs, computer animations and 360 degree panoramas. Some of the theatre sites also have audio reconstructions, enabling the user to hear what the audience would have heard from different parts of the theatre.
The freedom to explore
THEATRON has been built around the concept that exploration reinforces learning. By allowing the user to explore the virtual reality model of a performance site, users are able to ‘experience’ elements of the theatre, such as space, acoustics, sightlines and the relationship between these, which are difficult to convey using conventional teaching materials; This in turn prompts the user to ask questions and serves as a standing point for discussion and discovery.
Navigation of the virtual space may be conducted using keyboard or mouse giving the user a full six degrees of freedom. To aid users in their exploration, each virtual environment includes a number of preset viewpoints placed at areas of interest and marked by scaled figures that serve as additional visual navigation cues.
A personal virtual tour guide
THEATRON links each viewpoint within the virtual space to textual narrative contained in a side window that may be shown or hidden at will by the user. The narrative provides the theatre explorer with a personal ‘virtual tour guide’ explaining not only that which can be seen, but the concepts, history, cultural relevance and other fundamental factors behind the selected viewpoints.
Each viewpoint has additional sub topics associated with the narrative that both illustrate and expand the main text. These allow the users to select those elements they wish to investigate further aiding the learning process in an intuitive way. Both narrative and sub headings are supplemented throughout with a range of rich media assets that enhance the users’ understanding.
An online virtual library
Each THEATRON space is more than a virtual lecture tour, the theatre explorer has access to a wealth of recourses through the General Information side window, which, like the Viewpoint Information window, can be activated as required.
This window provides the user with a comprehensive reference section for the selected site including expanded histories, biographies, site maps and additional photographs, 3D reconstructions and computer animations.
Each theatre also has selections for further reading, related internet sites as well as suggested tasks, questions and research topics specially designed to promote independent and user-centred study.