Live Mixed Reality Demo Shows Seamless Cross-AR/VR Collaboration


At today’s Microsoft Build 2017 presentation, creators at Cirque du Soleil demonstrated a custom creative toolset on stage using HoloLens technology. The world-class theater production company says the tools can be used to greatly enhance and accelerate the set design process for future shows thanks to real-time local digital collaborative design. But, speaking to Microsoft’s self-described Mixed Reality “spectrum,” it was also demonstrated how a remote VR user could seamless collaborate as if they were standing on stage with the others.

As the largest theatrical production company in the world, Cirque du Soleil is famous for its spectacular contemporary circus shows which use huge sets and equipment. When creating a new show, the design process from initial idea to opening performance takes 18 to 24 months, an operation that could significantly benefit from mixed reality tools.

Representing the first ‘deep collaboration’ between Cirque’s innovative C:LAB and Microsoft, the demonstration involved mocking up a prototype set on the Build 2017 stage using a collaborative augmented reality visualisation.

Equipped with HoloLens headsets, Geneviève Pesant, Product Manager at C:LAB and Carl Fillion, Scenic Designer at Cirque, appeared to rapidly construct a set. Objects were created, moved, and resized with a speed and precision that was clearly scripted – forgivable as there was a lot to explain in a limited time. The rendering itself certainly appeared to be running in real-time.

After blocking out some shapes the pair were briefly joined on stage by the VR avatar of Michel Laprise, a writer and director at Cirque based in Europe, who appeared to be speaking to them using one of the new Mixed Reality headsets and motion controllers. While brief, this showed seamless collaboration between AR and VR users, and is representative of why Microsoft likes to lump both types of device into the “Mixed Reality” category.

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Chantal Tremblay, Director of Creation at Cirque, said “we’re really happy to be part of this development of Microsoft HoloLens. Innovation for us at Cirque is our priority. Today, as we’re growing faster than ever, and we’re creating more and more shows, we really think that this technology will help us to become more agile”.

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • nice, It didn’t look like live interaction, more like pretending and automated scripts running (e.g. sphere to the top of the cube) but the idea of what is possible is still great.

    • David Herrington

      I totally agree. Even the guy they brought in that was supposed to be remote was entirely scripted. His lines are all canned and he speaks right over the other guy.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Okay, so Microsoft…I’m starting to really lose hope in humanity, I’m going to sound awful but I feel like seing half-brained, limited people working in multibillions companies. WTF are they doing. What thought process led them to believe that using “Mixed Reality” which it’s absolutely not, would help them differentiate products, that have nothing particular or even much more practical than the headset we already have, and we don’t know what usage it’ll be compatible with (Leap, Steam, Oculus…?)

  • alxslr

    Wait, is that a 2014 demo or something? Why all MS demos seem so staged, forced and boring. They succeed in making some promissing technologies look totally immature or even useless. They even say they scaled it down to fit with the stage, as if they were saying “you know, if we where in Virtual Reality we coud have the original size, but you know, this is just AR” :-(

  • It’s surely a pre-registered show: polycount is too high for HL, interaction in VR are not so natural, etc…

    But it correctly show the potential of Microsoft environment…

  • Andrew Jakobs

    And we all know it certainly doesn’t look like that from within the HoloLens… And to be honest, I’m not really interested in AR for stuff like this.