SubPac isn’t a VR-exclusive company by any means, and one of the most recent stories that proves this is how Kyrie Irving was seen wearing the wearable M2 piece of kit during the NBA Finals that took place this month. James Williams of SubPac shared exactly the company’s stance on where VR fits in to its overall agenda, and why it would want to dedicate a whole event to VR: “We created this event to spotlight how important audio is to the overall experience of VR. SubPac is the ideal periphery for VR, deepening immersion and adding a physical element that takes the whole experience to a new level.”
So what does an audio-led VR event even mean? There’s no denying it, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect before arriving, except for a lot of vibrations. Walking down the street, following my phone’s navigation, I arrived at a multistory bar not too far away from Old Street station in London, an area where you’d expect a quirky type of night event to take place. I was directed to go to the top floor, and once I had arrived the room was moderately packed with people, networking conversation, and most importantly, music VR.
First things first, I had to take my jacket off due to the sheer humidity in the room (London had just experienced an incredible amount of downpour and didn’t we just know it) and despite the warmth in the room there were still lines stretching from each corner of the room where the VR stations were set up. The atmosphere was relaxed, with the same set up as a regular bar with music and multicoloured lighting, and so I made my way over to the first set up that was before me – Draw&Code’s music video for All We Are. I know what you might be thinking – this is going to be a set up of underwhelming music videos that are only there because you can put a headset on for it. Well in this instance, both you and I were wrong.
As well as the showcasing of a song that sparked my interest, the technology used by Draw&Code was of another kind. Not only did they incorporate the 360 degree room scale advantage that the HTC Vive gives, but in order to visualise the band members who were playing their respective instruments around you, the studio opted to 3D scan each of them and make them up of particles that connected to an orb in the center. This Liverpudlian studio had created an interesting way to take in a musical performance without the troubles of trying to make real life recording not look awkward, and without bombarding the viewer with psychedelic shapes and colours. This, of course, was accompanied by SubPac’s M2 piece of kit, but the only downfall was that the bar’s lighting occasionally interfered with the sensors for the HTC Vive, and so the experience was interrupted.
Other smaller experiences included the cardboard music video of Run The Jewels’s track, Crown, as well as a more than understated ‘VR silent disco’ which really could have done with having a much larger scale for more of an impact. There was also a relatively trippy experience by Marshmallow Laser Feast, a London-based studio, where the user takes on the perspective of various woodland animals, called In the Eyes Of the Animal. I couldn’t quite work out whether or not I had been eaten or simply morphed into another creature, but this experience was more of a sensory stimulator than audio with the important inclusion of the seated SubPac piece of kit.
One piece that stood out from the rest in particular was Audioshield, which has already been reviewed by VRFocus. In this setting, however, it was interesting to see how much interest it generated compared to the more passive experiences. It was interesting to see the balance of both passive and active experiences, but there is no doubt that the purely music-led experiences gave a different feel that is somewhat unique right now in the way that VR events go. With the amount of content being created for VR, it won’t be uncommon to see more niche events cropping up – just be careful of the shining lights on those sensors, though.