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Harmonix’s New PSVR Experience, ‘The Easel,’ Changes the Way You Relate to Music

by Jerome Palencia • December 6th, 2015

Just a couple days after announcing that they would be bringing their billion dollar franchise, Rock Band, to VR Harmonix is showing that they have even more planned for VR going forward. Today at PSX, UploadVR had a chance to try a new experience that the team at Harmonix is working on, The Easel.

The Easel is an experience for PlayStation VR much like Tiltbrush on the HTC Vive, you have a pair of hand tracked controllers that allow you to paint in three-dimensional space, with a number of different brush options. Where it differs, however, is where Harmonix specializes – with music.

In The Easel you are able to either load up your own song or select one of the preset tracks in the game. The track runs through the Harmonix Music Analysis System, which is an algorithm that measures things like a song’s tempo, kick & snare drum hits, and section boundaries, as well as interpret a song’s “energy.” This data is then fed into the scene and the brushes you have to paint with all react dynamically to the song that is playing, allowing you to create the ultimate light show, or take your art in VR to another level.

The experience itself was almost like a trance. It truly changes the way you relate to a song, allowing each listen to take on a whole new visual meaning as you craft a dazzling world around you.

The blending of music with art and virtual reality is a killer combination and could really open up some interesting avenues especially if a multiplayer casting solution is implemented. Imagine, for example, a 360º EDM concert experience where the DJ is able to live cast these kind of dynamic visuals to you at home, or even simply being able to listen to a song and create a light show with your friend across the country.

While the creative blending of music and art is an absolute joy, the PSVR exclusive title does show off some of the system’s warts. Whereas in Tiltbrush on the HTC Vive, or to a lesser degree Medium on the Oculus Rift, you can totally walk around and easily create in a full 360º space, in The Easel there were multiple moments where my brush ‘skipped’ due to being momentarily occluded. It wasn’t experience breaking but it did draw me out of the moment. That said, The Easel is a fantastic take on the growing list of creation apps coming to VR.