Virtual reality (VR) hasn’t really had much of an impact on music technology. Gaming and porn seem to be the most popular applications. We’ve played with Leapmotion devices, Mi.Mu gloves and other movement controllers which have a lot of performance potential, along with lots of arm ache. But the growing range of VR goggles and technology offer a fully immersive virtual world which makes you wonder how it could be used for musical performance and production. Well, AliveInVR is the first attempt I’ve seen to harness VR for proper music performance and it looks weirdly awesome.
AliveInVR is built for controlling Ableton Live. Once you don the VR headset you appear in a virtual space as a floating DaftPunk-esque silver helmet and a pair of disembodied robot hands. Before you is a wall of blocks, in an 8 x 8 grid representing your Ableton Live session. You can then trigger loops or whole scenes by slapping them with your hands. There’s a toolbar for stepping through your session and tracks and buttons to give you access to mixer controls such as volume and sends. It’s very much in a LaunchPad style, where each column of 8 blocks becomes a volume fader.
In another mode you can turn the blocks into instrument or drum triggers. One neat feature is the ability to pull blocks out of the grid to use for a drum performance. You can place them anywhere in the 3D space and beat out your beats. They say you can record-enable tracks so I’m assuming you could record your slappings into a new clip.
If that all sounds a bit exhausting then you’re probably right. The issue we keep coming up against with VR is the toll it takes on your arms and shoulders by having them in the air unsupported for long periods of time. However, that’s kind of up to how you are using the interface. AliveInVR having taken the LaunchPad concept and placed it in a virtual space to give people an opportunity to run sessions in a very interesting and involving way. Would you feel ridiculous? Probably, but then it’s a great way of generating an instant groovy video of your performance. You could potentially have it up on a big screen at a gig while you are performing in the middle of the crowd. That could be fun, if potentially violent.
AliveInVR is available via the Steam software delivery system. It says you require an HTC Vive headset with two track motion controllers. You can get these as a bundle for around £750 and, of course, you’ll need an up-to-date PC with a high-end graphics card to handle it. Don’t forget a copy of Ableton Live. But after all that then AliveInVR is a very affordable £8.99 (for one week and then it’s £9.99).
There are some very cool looking videos of it working and tutorials on how to use the interface, although it’s all pretty easy to grasp. What you don’t see is the idiot waving his hands around in the real world. Looks like a load of fun and another tick to add to your list of reasons to get a VR headset.
More information on the AliveInVR website.