Friday, 15 January 2016

Relax. You're Quite Safe Here.

How new interest in VR could re-ignite the music video and album sales.

Not wearing headphones.
There's been a lot of chatter recently about VR (and AR) from the usual suspects. Apparently the tech is a lot better looking now, you know, realistic and immersive.

The immersive part always makes me laugh. I can be immersive with a pair of headphones and a decent binaural recording. I can be immersed reading a book. Imagine! I digress.

The point was, the narrative goes, VR failed in the 80s/90s because it was clunky low resolution shit.

True dat.

VR - then.
VR - now.
It was also true that gaming in the 80s/90s was clunky low resolution shit. It fucking rocked and a new industry was born - well documented in crowdfunded Bedrooms To Billions for one (I particularly like the founder of U.S. Gold admitting that he had no idea what he was doing).

So VR failed, 8-bit gaming skyrocketed through to the consolidated industry we know today. Stay with me.

Sitting passively wearing headphones. And that other thing.
I believe that VR may continue to fail whist it is physically non-passive. It will appeal to paintballers and lots of other people but who will actually prance around all day in that get up? I don't see it being as big as console gaming (famous last words of course). You can sit playing games at a console all day. VR all day? Be my guest.

Gaming, in common with watching movies, or watching a hybrid of the two - a Twitch stream - is largely passive, hypnotic.

Contemporary VR you must be awake standing up looking around bending reaching tripping over your furniture.

So even though today VR may look amazing it's is not a medium to be frolicking in for hours on end around staircases.

So, by my reckoning, VR must become a more passive activity to succeed - whatever success is nowadays.

VR reminds me of 3D in the cinema - it's going to be rolled out every generation to see if it sticks.


Passive VR. Immersive. Remember what I said about headphones and binaural? This has lead to a boom in Youtube videos promoting ASMR - sounds that make you feel good - and discussions around frisson - music that makes you feel good.

Strikes me that ASMR and frisson typically occur when the subject is passive rather than running around having all senses abused and bruised.

Still no headphones.
So if VR is to become a household medium, how could we shoehorn VR with sounds that make you feel good? Music, of course. Ambient soundscapes. More. No doubt over time a grammar would develop more akin to cinema than gaming (but Twitch is evidence that lots of people enjoy watching games passively and this goes right back to the days when computer games were in the arcade at the seafront - I remember watching that guy beat Space Harrier, awesome!).

Music video can be a great experimental landscape, as indeed can music itself.

VR is so fixated on the vision it forgets the wave.

Ignore the tech companies, ask an anthropologist.

Or, of course, not.

Persuading anyone that they need a helmet to listen to the latest album by the current big thing won't be easy. That's why a new category needs to be invented, and a progressive company needs to be first in it. Which is where it all falls apart. No smart money here! (unless the helmet plugs into a lightning port).

'EyePhone' VR, 1989. Note single cup headphone, d'oh.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Problem Solved: If Apple Ditch The Headphone Jack

The sky is falling as Apple is rumoured to be ditching the headphone jack in iPhone 7. Aside from the fact it is merely conjecture at this point, the entire planet seems to have forgotten that Apple are unlikely to ditch Bluetooth and, that being the case, instead of lining Apple's pockets you can buy a third party Bluetooth receiver to use with your old headphones.

Sure, this is not perfect - if you are able, use a cable - because of course the Bluetooth receiver costs money and is another battery to charge, another device to pair, another complication in your life (simplicity at Apple died with Steve Jobs?) - but it does make Apple's decision easier to deal with if they do indeed ditch the headphone jack and you really want to keep hold of your old headphones (I'm quite attached to my iGrado pair for example).

Actually, it's a TRRS jack, and I'm kind of more annoyed that it will render my Røde Smartlav+ microphone obsolete without some Lightning adapter or improved Bluetooth protocol inclusion.

There's always Android!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Wireless Binaural Recording Coming To Smartphones ... probably

Whilst I refine my own smartphone binaural recording technique (very much wired as at now - if you are able use a cable, right?!) it seems at least two wireless bluetooth binaural products are in the works.

One is OpenEars by Binauric.

The other is the Hooke Audio Verse.

Whilst prototypes are in use in both these wireless cases, I've been using my wired OKM-II for quite some years now and always pleased with the results when the iPhone actually bothers to record the video with a stereo soundtrack.

That's the biggest issue turning me off my current wired solution: unpredictable with iPhone video recording - sometimes you end up with a mono video. I could record double-system reliably but it's just not cost effective and just adds a layer of complexity.

What turns me off the wireless solutions, assuming they make it to market, is yet more battery management/recharging in the field. Boring!

This does however show that binaural recording is getting a respectable foothold in the modern market, albeit nascent from the mainstream perspective right now.