image of the Egyptian Oracle ceremony
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The Egyptian Oracle

The Egyptian Oracle performance is a live reenactment of an authentic public ceremony from ancient Egypt’s Late Period. We project our Virtual Egyptian Temple on the wall at life scale extending the physical theater into virtual space. The temple is not a film, not a static image, but a true three-dimensional space, which the audience navigates during scene changes. The central actor is a high priest, an avatar controlled by a live human puppeteer, hidden offstage. The supporting actress stands in front of the screen, in costume, mediating the experience. Audience members represent the Egyptian populace acting out brief roles in the drama. Finally, the sacred boat (left) is another puppet also controlled by the puppeteer. In the drama, the will of the temple god moves the boat. Either video is better than any explanation:

Intro Video (90 sec)     Full Video (25 min)

The show conforms to a high level of historical accuracy, suitable for any museum setting. Members of the audience come before the god with questions and problems to be solved. The priest poses questions to the god, and interprets the movements of the boat as divine revelation, with the force of law; the processional Oracle was an essential feature of Egyptian public life during this period. The National Endowment for the Humanities (USA) funded the development of the performance, evaluation, and open-source software (HD-5120910).


Senior Staff
Jeffrey Jacobson, Ph.D. Project and Technical Management. Evaluation design and analysis. Configuration management. Interim and final reports. Distribution websites.
Robyn Gillam, Ph.D. Egyptology. Provided source materials, constraints and an educated viewpoint during our creative process.
Friedrich Kirschner Programming. His extensive background in film and previous experience with digital puppetry was crucial and very welcome.
Brad Shur Puppeteering. Performed in all shows and gave invaluable advice and insight on the dramaturgical needs of the performance.
Kerry Handron Leader of the narrative team. Developed and managed all of the performances of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Gathered the data, there. Was the live actress all of their shows.
David Hopkins (davidhopkins3000 at Artwork and animation. The remarkably beautiful Temple was also his work from a different project.

Essential Contributors
Brenda Huggins Was the live actress in all of our shows and assisted Brad with Making final adjustments to the script.
Jon Hawkins Created the current non-dialogue sounds and music for the Egyptian Oracle performance.
Asa Gray Created the original music for performance as well as ambient sounds for the Temple.
Ajayan Nambiar Engineered the traveling kit for performances, which features a surround sound system. Created sound effects in the music and ambient sound of the Temple to give a greater sense of depth and realism.
Natthaphol Likhitthaworn Improved the animations and software performance. His dual ability to do artwork and programming is quite valuable.
Michael List - Was the puppeteer for the Carnegie Museum shows.

Other Friends and Contributors
Josephine Anstey and David Pape were generous to host our mid-project dress rehearsal at the University of Buffalo, and their suggestions were most welcome.
Ken Hargrove, Heather Bloss, Ted Grindrod - Independent evaluators of the performances.
Brianna Plaud Made the costume worn by the actress in the Boston area performances.

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The initial phase of the project is now complete, giving us a working prototype and a model for future development. To read about it in great detail, download the final report.

Final Report

If you would like to stage the performance yourself, or build something else with the software, click here to access

Application and Source Code

Our immediate goal is to show audiences how ceremony and drama were essential to ancient Egyptian culture, something not well represented in most museum exhibitions or textbooks. More broadly, we wish to sharpen their empathy for other cultures, and connect ancient civic life with that of today. We also wish to investigate the educational power of this low cost technology, which we will open source at the end of the project. The same approach could represent other times, places, scales and topics. The puppet could be a Roman emperor, a dinosaur, or Mr. Protein, guiding the audience through a human cell. By mixing physical and virtual reality, we gain many of the advantages of both, achieving a more immersive experience for the students.


Gillam, R., & Jacobson, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Egyptian Oracle Project: Ancient Ceremony in Augmented Reality. Bloomsbury Publishing. LINK


Contributors to Our Ongoing Efforts
Siddhesh Pandit Developed networking code which allows the puppeteer to control the show via the internet or a LAN.

Advisory Board
Lowry Burgess, Gave valuable advice on the psychological and aesthetic impact of the show. Assisted with securing Institutional Review Board Support for our evaluation efforts.
Christopher Innes, D.Phil. Assisted in efforts to gain additional funding. Facilitated the live performance at York University.
John Baek, Ph.D. Gave valuable advice on the evaluation protocols.
Michael Nitsche, Ph.D.Gave valuable advice on the software and the production in general.
Semi Ryu, Ph.D. Gave valuable advice on the dramatic structure of the production and possibilities for further improvement.

Institutional Partners and Contributors
PublicVR Lead institution for the project. Provided administrative support, additional funding, and significant in-kind support.
Puppet Showplace Theater Provided performance venue for the April 19th dress rehearsal and May 20 performance. Provided crucial staffing.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History Provided an excellent venue, educational context, audiences, and evaluation.
William Diamond Middle School Provided both venue and data gathering for the September 19 performance. Assisted with development of testing protocol.
Boston Cyberarts (AXIOM)Provided a venue for the May 1st 2011, and February 16th 2012 performances.
Boston Children’s Museum Simulcast the May 1st performance into their exhibit space.
Grid Institute Provided a performance time, and an excellent audience for the May 13th performance at the immersive education conference.
Boston College Provided the performance-space for the May 13th performance. University of Buffalo ( Provided space for our mid-project dress rehearsal on February 12th

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