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Exciting virtual reality on Pireos December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.

Stereoscopic theater constructed by Foundation of the Hellenic World inaugurated yesterday

It’s real. At the Foundation of the Hellenic World’s new Tholos theater, computer-generated graphics will allow the audience to participate in shows at the new state-of-the-art venue.

Tholos, a new virtual reality theater constructed by the Foundation of the Hellenic World on Pireos Street in central Athens is heralding in a new era in entertainment in the Greek capital. President of the Republic, Karolos Papoulias, presided over the inauguration ceremony of this impressive new venue yesterday.

Tholos, the Greek word for dome, is, without a doubt, an interesting marriage between culture and new technologies. What makes Tholos so special? First of all, there’s it shape, a round, futuristic edifice that seems to have landed among the old industrial spaces and gas stations on Pireos Street. The dome-shaped theater seats 132 spectators and is equipped with cutting-edge technology that allows stereoscopic three-dimensional projections to cover the entire dome. The spectator is thus fully enveloped in a virtual world, losing all sense of time and space.

Another asset of Tholos is its interactive potential. The audience can intervene in the show by using a special remote-control device attached to their seat, while there is also the possibility of incorporating real images of, say actors or presenters, into the simulated show. In contrast to the equally impressive projections at the Athens Planetarium, the screenings are not just a video, but computer-generated graphics that allow for audience participation.

Having explained all this in his introduction at a recent press conference, Dimitris Efraimoglou, the managing director of the Foundation of the Hellenic World and general manager of the project, was eager to get guests into Tholos for its maiden screening. The new virtual-reality production takes the audience to the Ancient Agora of Athens, revealing a precise panorama of the site’s architecture and layout.

The lights dimmed and a tour of antiquity began. Within the first 5 minutes of the impressive production, however, many began to feel a slight nausea; a result of the enveloping quality of the surrounding environment that shocks the senses. The effect is but short-lived.

Efraimoglou was reassuring. He said that only 10 percent of spectators are susceptible to the effect and added that the guides who will be presenting the material to the public are specially trained to deal with any possible malaise. Visitors are nevertheless advised to consult the ushers before attending performances.

On a different note, Efraimoglou said that Tholos, as well as other important venues that are in the works for the Foundation of the Hellenic World will, in the future, be used as creative tools by young artists and researchers. The managing director also added that Tholos intends to host school groups from around the country.

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