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    Posted June 7, 2011 by
    Sydney, Australia
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    iCinema - The world's first 3D, interactive, 360 cinema experience


    It’s not quite as realistic as the “feelies” in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, but it’s pretty damn close.

    The world’s first 3D, interactive, 360 degree, cinema is premiering as a part of the Sydney Film Festival, this Wednesday.

    Hidden away in the dark projection room of the University of New South Wales’ iCinema Research Centre, project director, Professor Dennis Del Favero, describes the film as a “digital fairytale but in 360 degrees.”

    “The work operates on the basis of your movement in the space. So as a member of the audience you walk into the space and the space is watching you and tracking you.”

    Called Scenario, the short film takes five viewers, at a time, through a series of problem solving tasks to help characters on screen.

    Other characters with artificial intelligence interact with the viewers, hindering their movement through the story.

    “Instead of there being characters that passively follow a pre-scripted storyline, those characters are making decisions and changing the story according to your behaviour and your action,” says Del Favero.

    The state of the art technology behind Scenario is the Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment (AVIE).

    Ten metres high and four metres in diameter, AVIE uses 12 projectors to create the 3D, 360 degree, image and uses a specialized 24 channel sound system to completely immerse the viewer in the created environment.

    Interactivity is generated using infrared technology that tracks the viewers in the space.

    Characters with artificial intelligence interpret the infrared lighting to make several thousand decisions per second in response to viewer movements.

    Sydney Film Festival director Clare Stewart says Scenario positions Australia as creative and technological leaders in the film industry.

    “I’m really excited that we’ve engaged the interest of Jeffery Katzenberg who’s the CEO of Dreamworks Animation,”

    “Jeffery is, in cinema terms, a kind of leader when it comes to 3D technology and to have gauged his interest in the work I think really demonstrates how cutting edge it is. So he’s here for one day and he’s making a special trip out here to see the iCinema installation.”

    Exporting success

    AVIE technology has also been sold to a Chinese mining company, for the first time.

    The Shenyang Research Institute of China Coal Technology and Engineering Group (CCTEG) signed a $1 million deal for the AVIE technology, to train miners with the realistic simulations.

    Although there are, already, four mine simulators using AVIE technology in Australia, Prof. Del Favero says this is the first time this technology has been used overseas.

    “This system has actually saved lives in Australia because it’s actually reduced the rate of incident of serious accidents [in mines],”

    “The interesting thing about China is that it’s the first time this high-tech art – because it really is art, it’s about how you create a type of experience – has led to an export sale.”

    The mine simulator involves 30 trainees at one time, but unlike Scenario, it's interactivity is not generated by an iPad application, not infrared monitors.

    In one scenario, participants look at the causes and immediate aftermath of an accident similar to the Pike River Mine disaster, where multiple explosions killed 29 people.

    “It’s moving away from this notion of experience just being a text based thing and being a passive thing, but experience being a very dynamic process that involves, not just you but other people,” says Del Favero.

    Professor Margaret Sheil, CEO of the Australian Research Council, praised the innovative work of iCinema which won the 2009 Gold IDEA, the world-leading design award.

    “The international commercialization of such technologies, demonstrates the significant social and economic benefits that can be derived from groundbreaking Australian research.”

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