Virginia Tech Researchers Develop an Audience Participatory App that Encourages Crowd Involvement During Performances

A new research was conducted by computer science professors at the College of Computer Science and Engineering of Virginia Tech, to prove theories on how to enhance and sustain participation of large audiences during live performances; whether in concert halls or in the classroom.

 

The study showed how computer-mediated technology can help performers of whatever kind, in enhancing audience engagement beyond the stomping and clapping interactions conceptualized by Queen’s guitarist Brian May and popularized by lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury (deceased.)

Assistant professor Sang Won Lee, collaborated with fellow assistant professors of computer science, along with Aaron Willette, an undergraduate sound engineering student at the University of Michigan, in developing a novel way of eliciting audience participation, which at the same time channels energy for sustained engagement.

 

The team developed an audience participatory app that engages audience by empowering them to create a real-time composition using smartphones. Lee calls the app and the sounds of the composition Crowd in C, which is the resulting interactive musical piece created by a large-scale audience through participation.

 

To demonstrate the capability of his smartphone participatory app, Sang Won Lee gave a concert performance. During Lee’s performance, the audience participated by logging in to Lee’s Crowd in C app where they viewed a pattern of dots. The audience was asked to move the dots around in order to manipulate tones in the key of C.

 

The tones were then collectively played over a sound system, which allowed the audience to hear the sounds created by their dot manipulations. On his part and in real-time, Assistant Professor Lee changed the C Chord tones of the dots to make the sounds either lower or higher, which in the process, created and played a simple melody.

San Won Lee presented his Crowd in C app at the 12th “Creativity and Cognition Conference” of the Association for Computing Machinery in San Diego, California held last June 26, 2019. He demonstrated how performers can encourage and sustain audience participation outside of the iconic “stomp-stomp-clap” devised by rock band Queen in their performance of the “We Will Rock You” song.

 

Significance of the Audience Participatory App

 

As assistant professor of computer engineering, Lee pointed to the importance of their research as one that delves on what appeals to larger audiences in ways that prompt them to interact as a vast group. The goal of the research team is not only to capture the audience’s interest but also to sustain prolonged interest on what is transpiring on stage or in the classroom. The unique aspect about Lee’s innovation is that audience engagement results to the creation of a music piece, which the audience will perceive as “fruits of their labor.”

Steve Harrison, who aside from being an associate professor of practice in the School of Visual Arts and the Department of Computer Science, also co-chaired this year’s Creativity and Cognition and Designing Interactive Systems Conference, remarked,

 

“Using computer science in non-traditional ways is a wonderful gateway in linking with the public.” “It makes technology relatable to those who tend not to interact or do not realize they are actually interacting with computer science regularly”

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