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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Rocksmith

Earlier in the week Ubisoft San Francisco, the developer behind the Rocksmith videogames, dropped a tantalising hint that virtual reality (VR) technology support could play a big part in the series’ future. The developer suggested that using VR could allow players to look at the guitar they are using to learn as they are taught how to play it. Just the thought of this brings several ideas for how VR could enhance the process of learning an instrument.

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VRFocus has already looked at the idea of bringing the once-popular Rock Band and Guitar Hero videogames into VR, and how the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus head-mounted display (HMD) could create an immersive concert experience by putting players up on stage. A VR adaption of Rocksmith could take this idea further as players use real instruments to play for scores of virtual fans, helping to deliver on a fantasy that almost everyone has had at some point in their lives.

In terms of teaching guitar, VR would enable Rocksmith to deliver far more accurate tutorials. In the past the series has assigned different colours to strings presented songs to play in a way similar to Guitar Hero, with notes scrolling towards the bottom of the screen. What if you could now look at an accurate VR replication of your guitar and have the experience specifically point out where it wants you to place your fingers and what notes you will be playing? The screen could always show you the note you’re playing so that you quickly familiarise yourself with its tone.

The advantages don’t stop there. Tutors are essential to learning to play the guitar and creating a virtual guitarist – perhaps even from a famous band – teaching you how to play would act as a great replacement. The virtual tutor could demonstrate techniques that players could study in great detail using a HMD’s positional tracking to lean right in to the fret board.

Granted that these concepts are dependent on input technologies that seem far off. Finger-tracking is already a reality thanks to the likes of Leap Motion, but a system that would be able to work in tandem with the user’s guitar and tell exactly where their fingers are on the instrument is a very specific requirement. This would likely have to be something that Ubisoft San Francisco would develop in-house and would need VR to be readily available to even justify the work.

Rocksmith has always prided itself on being a genuinely practical videogame. VR technology could transform the series from an interesting experience into an essential guitar-learning tool.