Music has never been an activity that I have enjoyed by itself. What I mean by that is that for me – and for many other people I’m sure – music has become something I do while I am doing something else. I listen to my music while I write, while I work out, while I do the dishes, etc. It’s just never been entertaining enough by itself to command my full attention. Today, however, I could easily see myself enjoying full albums from start to finish – all thanks to my new best friend: Music VR from Harmonix.
Harmonix is the acclaimed video game studio that convinced us all to buy plastic guitars, drums, and microphones through its all-star franchises: Rock Band, and Guitar Hero. Now, the company is looking to revolutionize the way we enjoy our music once again but this time it is replacing the phony instruments with the immersive power of virtual reality headsets.
Music VR is essentially a music visualizer that uses Sony’s upcoming Playstation VR system to turn your tracks into delightfully engaging immersive experiences. Visualizers like this are nothing new but Music VR eschews the basic wave patterns and beat animations of the genre and replaces them with more creative displays, experiences, and mini games.
For example, one of Music VR‘s modes places you on a serene beach filled with intractable objects. By looking at certain points in space – such as the sun, or a boat – you trigger a change in the world and find yourself surrounded by trippy images, engaging colors, and other creative visuals that all move in time to the music you have selected.
Another game mode turns you into the DJ for a party of four or five other creatures. They are all dancing enthusiastically to your favorite song, and you can push and pull on certain “animation points” to create custom moves for your new army of groovy friends.
Fans of Google’s Tilt Brush will be happy to know that Music VR offers a very similar, but musically differentiated, version of a VR art experience. In this mode, you’ll be drawing lines, placing objects, and marveling at your new 3D creations just like in Tilt Brush. In Music VR, however, everything you draw will pulsate, undulate, and otherwise move to the beat of your songs.
The experience that captivated me the most, however, was a flow mode that turns any song you can think of into a mind-bending tunnel of color and light. Songs are imported via USB stick which means Music VR could easily unlock your personal music library in the game.
According to John Carter, the creative lead on the project, the way Music VR works is intricate, .
“What we do is we look at whole audio file break it into sections, those sections are then assigned a general energy level that helps guide the system when it comes to making visuals,” Carter said. “There are also other ancillary effects. Each mode, for example, approaches comfort a bit differently. We also have different effects for a kick drum as opposed to a snare drum, etc.”
Harmonix is also working hard to bring another title – Rock Band VR – to market. But, Carter made it clear that the two projects are not related. He also emphasized the company’s current interest in VR projects and its commitment to finding new ways to bring music into the immersive space.
In short, Music VR will not be the last we see of Harmonix in the industry as Carter hinted there are multiple undisclosed projects currently in development.
Music VR will be released alongside the Playstation VR on Oct. 13. A price has not been set yet for the experience but Carter did say it would be “under $30.”