Telemouths is a system which allows an actor to take control of another person’s mouth, effectively turning them into a live puppet. A participant wears the device on their face, obscuring their mouth and preventing them from speaking, while imposing a new mouth via the screen. An actor is then able to remotely speak for the participant; by speaking into a microphone, their voice is transmitted through the mask. The actor is also able to control the expression of the mouth via a Photon wireless micro-controller.
The system was designed with commonly available components in mind: Sound is transmitted from the actor’s laptop to the phone via voice over IP, and control signals are sent over wifi from a Photon attached to the microphone to the phone. The Photon is powered via USB cable running with the microphone cable. The iPhone can be attached to the face using a headband and some velcro.
Version 1 aims for accessibility in the hopes of seeing experiments in a few kinds of theatrical contexts, from possible empathy-building workshops to large-scale immersive theater. Feedback from the initial prototype showed that there was interest in the idea, but that it was difficult to imagine what the possibilities for a device like this could be without seeing it in action. As a result, a workshop was organized with a small group of theater practitioners to play and improvise and see how it felt, as can be seen in the video above. While everyone had fun, those in the room were in agreement about wanting to see next how the energy would change with a prepared text. Two people expressed interest in trying to use Telemouths in upcoming projects, so next steps will be to figure out a text to try out and prepare a workshop for version 2.
Photon code: via Github