Why do Ruins of Krüger play in VR? ~Part 1

In October I released my first VR Experience. It is a musical Experience and features the Berlin underground band Ruins of Krüger.

So why are the Ruins of Krüger transformed into strange avatars and sent to play on Uncanny Peak  whenever somebody summons them by starting the app?

Well first of all, the band and their music have an explorative approach and vibe to them – quite powerfully described in this review  – and it seems only natural for a band like that to make first curious steps into this unknown and enchanting territory.

This evocative quality of the band also contributed to the decision to chose one of the more pop songs and make the setting rather minimal, in order to keep the whole experience concentrated and avoid dissonances of the visual and the auditory content. In the future it may be worth a try to illustrate a musical exploration, giving a possible synesthetic interpretation, but I’ll write more about that later in part 2. For the moment I’d like to look at things more from my side as the developer and try to answer the question:

Why this strange virtual concert?

I am a VR enthusiast and while I am ecstatic about all the possibilities that could spring to life through the establishment of VR as a mainstream medium (like virtual concerts!), I am also slightly worried about some possible outcomes of the advancement.

There’s for instance VR’s natural affinity to manipulation, the danger of intentionally or accidentally using the “empathy machine” as a machine for pushing and pulling the thoughts and feelings of the users, the danger of turning into an  “overwhelming machine”. That may sound a bit exaggerated, but I think VR can be immensely powerful once it comes into its own.

Another vaguely related aspect of the process is that the more VR becomes important for mainstream consumer audiences, that are not creators, the more it will be at risk of suffering from a flattening of its cultural language, a language that we only just discover.

It just would be nice to avoid the mid-seventies stadium rock phase of VR if we can, especially in these early days of the medium. VR is of course a medium concerned with surfaces and a medium about the impression the world leaves us with. In this light it is not surprising that spectacle and shininess (or grittiness which in a way is another kind of shininess) are important factors right now. It is also obvious that for VR to be a success there must be some content that gives people what they want, that panders to its audience to quite some extent.

And there is nothing wrong with that for the most part.

But this medium is going to be too big to leave the exploration of its foundational workings and fruits to blockbuster type content only. I suspect that it is the small or the deep or the weird or the reckless that will give Virtual Reality a big part of its cultural significance, its wealth and personality. And while I am not even hoping that the small experimental VR concert I have made is very significant or important, I do think that VR Experiences like the one I did are as a whole very important and significant.

So this is the first reason why I made this.

The second reason has to do with just being an enthusiast and wanting to have something like this. I am not sure if it is due to a lack of search engine skills, but I couldn’t find any fully animated band doing their thing in VR. The closest thing I could find was the Nuren Kickstarter and that looked more like a mixture of revue and music video. So in case I was right, it had to be done.

In case I was wrong – all the better. So if anybody who reads this knows of another musical experience that is not a 360 video and features animated musicians, please send me a link.

What will this lead to? What is my vision?

One thing that has to be said is that the current VR renaissance couldn’t have come at a better time. Unity and Unreal Engines are practically free, pushing ahead the “democratization of game development”, as are powerful tools like Blender, Sculptris or Visual Studio Community. On the hardware side Oculus sent their Development Kit to everybody that wanted one (and could afford it). This fact alone enables many people to produce their personal takes on VR, deciding what should be the face of our new, virtual world, helping to shape its features right at the start. In the past, say twenty or ten or even only five years ago, the situation would have been quite different.

I hope for more music, more games, more art that is maybe small, maybe weird, maybe bizarre, but daring and unconventional (and perhaps much more so than my own first exploratory steps into the medium.) If I personally would make another musical thing I think it should be more interactive. Either having the ability to jam with the band or other players, or maybe exploring more, finding musical boxes or scenes to trigger and influence. Maybe a mix of concert and instrument.

Then of course there’s the spectacle of a real live concert – with a virtual motion captured band and a virtual crowd attending the Metaverse version of a club gig (not so much a stadium type event, that doesn’t make any sense to me, in a serious way.) It is still only a promised spectacle but I think it won’t be long until it arrives. There’s some stuff to be said about that as well, and I think I will write about it in a second installment.

Link to the Experience on Oculus Share : https://share.oculus.com/app/ruins-of-krger-play-in-vr

 

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