Sir Paul McCartney playing at Candlestick Park, San Francisco

VR musical experiences

Watch your favourite artist perform up-close and personal, wherever you are.

Read more about all aspects of Virtual Reality technology

A number of virtual reality apps are promising to revolutionise the way we experience music by placing the user in a virtual setting - on stage with your favourite band or in the rehearsal studio recording a new album - in order to feel closer to the artists, or to experience live shows as if you were in the audience or on stage.

VR platforms like Google Cardboard, which is the most popular at the moment, are more focused on the visual rather than aural experience. However, the eagerly awaited Oculus Rift is due to launch at the end of March and includes a set of headphones that are described as ‘entry-level professional’.

“We’re working on audio as aggressively as we’re working on the vision side. We have a whole team ramped up,” Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe said in 2014. “As part of this initiative, we’ve licensed RealSpace 3D’s audio technology, a high-fidelity VR audio system developed over 10 years.”

RealSpace is designed to bring realistic soundscapes to virtual experiences in a 3D environment. Its creators have even released an ‘Audio Panoramic Camera’, a 20cm sphere containing 64 microphones synced up to five cameras that capture a ‘3D sound’ to go with the visuals.

However, questions arise as to how popular different kinds of experiences will be. There is no doubt that gaming is being touted as one of the biggest features; indeed the Oculus is largely being marketed as a gaming platform. Yet other experiences are still yet to be widely adopted.

Miles Perkins works for Jaunt VR, whose smartphone app is trying to bring VR musical experiences to a wide audience of Google Cardboard users. For music performances in the future, he says that Jaunt is just scratching the surface of VR potential. “VR augments the experience of a music performance, in that even someone that was in the crowd can now gain an on-stage perspective of the concert,” he says.

Perkins thinks that VR will never try to replace ‘real’ live concerts or performances, but “VR gives people a more immersive experience because they allow the musicians to interact with each viewer on an intimate level that is otherwise unavailable. “

So how will VR events earn their keep, and will they affect the revenue from the real-life events? Perkins says: “By recording rehearsals, backstage scenes and live performances themselves in VR, artists can then turn around and sell the experience or give out VR headsets at future shows to see the additional immersive content.”

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