“To Be With Hamlet” is a live theater performance experienced in virtual reality. Audience members wear the HTC Vive headset immersing themselves in an intimate experience with Hamlet, Shakespeare’s dramatic masterpiece.

An introduction to the Hamlet VR project

Once inside the VR theater, audiences walk the battlements of Elsinore Castle with Hamlet as he confronts the ghost of his murdered father. What makes this project unique is that it is performed live with an actor in the virtual space so both the participant and actor are aware of each other’s presence.

During Art-A-Hack 2016, the Hamlet VR team created an initial prototype of what would become a full live performance. They used the motion capture (Mocap) studio at NYU Tandon’s School of Engineering. Art-A-Hack partnered with the school during its 2016 season.

Zhen Liu working on the prototype for the Art-A-Hack showcase
Zhen Liu working on the prototype for the Art-A-Hack showcase

The team’s largest challenge was learning how to translate a classic theater experience into virtual reality, which has a new set of dynamics to consider. Another major concern was working out how to make the Mocap environment work within the constrained “viewing space” of the Vive.

A prototype was developed and demonstrated for visitors at the final Art-A-Hack 2016 showcase. This work-in-progress is a unique experience, and is intended for development to attract the interest of theatre and film producers. The team has explained that this will be the first piece of its kind in the world.

The team's presentation at the 2016 showcase

The team has published extensive documentation of the project and published other media and information on the Hamlet VR website.