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.

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