Five (Fake) Tech Inventions That Could (Truly) Change Broadway

What tech will dazzle the Great White Way in 2020, and beyond? We’re giving you our best $10-Times-Square-psychic predictions for the five technology breakthroughs that are going to change Broadway…as soon as they’re invented.

1) The Virtual Reality Orchestra
You’re milling around the theatre before a show begins and you take a quick peek into the orchestra pit. In just a few years, you might be looking at the first orchestra being played entirely with virtual reality instruments. The technology is already being developed to transform sensory-weighted tools into playable, yet non-existent, instruments. Combining the compactability of a virtual reality instrument with the endless library of MIDI sounds, this advancement would allow for the music pit to play virtually any instrument with a single set up. STOMP will never be the same.

You can’t tell, but he’s playing a rim shot

2) The Remote Audience
 What if you could watch a Broadway show from your couch at home? No, I’m not talking about your bootleg DVD of Wicked.

Another evolving application of virtual reality technology is bringing the experience of a live show to your living room, or bedroom, or bathroom. While that might sound like a regular night at home with Netflix, VR headsets actually fully immerse the user in a completely new environment.
Imagine being able to watch a live show from anywhere while still feeling the vibrations from the orchestra as the overture begins. There could even be a filter to block out your noisy seatmate who refuses to put their phone on airplane mode, despite it buzzing like someone is texting them the entire transcript of Les Miserables. One. Word. At. A. Time.

3) Your Robot Castmate
Look, you don’t have to skim the table of contents in the “Handbook of Research on Synthetic Emotions and Sociable Robotics…” to realize that, despite the warnings of thousands of science fiction stories, robots are going to eventually have feelings. In fact, early studies have revealed that humans have the tendency to prefer expressive robots over their more competent counterparts.

And once our automated counterparts start thinking and feeling, who’s to say they won’t be bit by the acting bug? On the one hand, they might make great cast mates; they’re already off book by the first readthrough, their impeccable internal clock never misses a cue, and of course they’ve been programed with millions of different choices for their scenework. However, at their current stage, robotic facial expressions are nothing short of terrifying.

4) Stage Manager, Siri
“Siri, what’s my line?”
Our gals Alexa and Siri already know how to turn on our lights, set our alarms, and DVR our favorite shows, but what if we asked them a different kind of question?

Could Alexa remember stage directions? Could Siri keep a list of cues? The future of the Artificial Intelligence assistant is in learning your routines and preferences in order to anticipate needs and prepare solutions before you even ask! Sound like someone else we know?

While it’s very possible that one day our favorite SMs could be joined at the table by an AI personal assistant, first we need to teach them how to stop accidentally ordering multiple dollhouses. Can you imagine the disaster if Alexa took Trekkie Monster’s favorite internet lesson as a command?

5) Design in 4 Dimensions
Imagine it’s the second act of Hamilton, and Eliza sets her love letters from Alexander aflame in a heartbreaking moment of torment. Suddenly, small scraps of the flaming letters begin to sprinkle from the ceiling, engulfing the audience. While that might sound like a dangerous accident that would send people running out of the theatre, with the development of augmented reality, it could become one of the endless possibilities for set designers working in four dimensions. But wait – how is augmented reality different from virtual reality?

Augmented reality gives artists a chance to layer effects over an existing environment. With the ability to create and execute previously impossible effects in an incredibly realistic and immersive way, designers in theatre will have a huge amount of creative freedom to push the boundaries of how their audience experiences a show from all sides.

Technology is constantly evolving, and at PEKOE we know it’s important to think outside of the box to keep finding fresh new ideas that invigorate our art. While many of these advancements may be decades out of reach, I guess you could say…