The Who to launch virtual reality app for Facebook’s Oculus Rift
Fly-through app will celebrate band’s 50th anniversary, alongside 3D retrospective apps for Android and iOS
Stuart Dredge. THE GUARDIAN. 10/11/2014
I’d always hoped I’d fly through a virtual reality environment on a Lambretta listening to some of The Who’s greatest hits before I got old. Now I have, courtesy of an official app being developed for Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset.
The app, which is due to be released in early 2015, is preceded by a smartphone and tablet app for Android and iOS, which launched this week.
Both apps are the results of a partnership between The Who, their management company Trinifold Management, label Universal Music and developer Immersive, tying in with a new compilation album and tour to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary.
The mobile and tablet app also takes the form of a 3D world, dotted with imagery from The Who’s career, as well as rare photographs from Roger Daltrey’s archives; and music courtesy of fans’ own iTunes collections, or streaming services Spotify, Deezer or Rdio.
“We’ve kept it quite tight around The Who Hits 50 album, but the idea is to expand and use the technology to unlock different experiences as the tour evolves,” Michael Fenna, creative and production director at Immersive, told the Guardian.
“The plan is to add a series of other experiences, including live performances. We’ve built it as an evolving thing: there’s a real chance to tell a narrative in a more engaging way than in a book or a film.”
The app is free to download, but may in future charge for some of the extra content using in-app purchases. For now, links to buy tickets and merchandise, as well as music, will be how it makes money.
The Oculus Rift app is likely to be charged for when it launches in early 2015, although a limited demo may be released to the Oculus developer community before Christmas.
You strap on the Oculus Rift headset and a pair of headphones, then find yourself flying through a world based on familiar The Who images, from bullseyes and magic buses to a Soho doorway. Lyrics from the songs flash up as you swoop through the environment, and at one point virtual instruments – bass, drums, guitar and keyboard – hover in the air ahead of you, with each turned up in the audio mix if you turn your head to look at it.
It’s pretty fun, although limited at this stage: there’s clearly scope for lots more content in the final app, including perhaps more gaming elements. Whizzing round a giant pinball table as the ball might be a recipe for motion sickness, but it’s among the elements under consideration by the developers.
“For me, the artist apps that aren’t so exciting are the ones that are basically a website. We’re trying to unlock new ways of expressing creativity, and experiencing an artist and everything around them in a new way,” said Fenna. “Music’s such a primeval thing, and there are some really exciting new ways of bringing it to fans.”(…)
For The Who and their label, working with the technology now is partly a good hook for the launch of its companion mobile app, but mainly about exploring the latest wave of virtual reality early, and learning the lessons.
“Virtual reality’s been around a long time, but Facebook buying Oculus was a big step. There seems to be a wave where this new technology is finally being able to utilise content in a new and exciting way,” said Geoff Smith, head of digital for Universal Strategic Marketing at the label group. “We are on the cusp of it, so it’s exciting to be working with The Who as it reflects how the band have constantly pushed the boundaries both musically and with technology over their 50 years.” (…)
The Who are not the first band to get in early on Oculus Rift, though. Japanese singer Kumi Koda’s recent Dance in the Rain song had a video shot for Oculus Rift, while director Chris Milk’s Hello, Again concert documentary about Beck also has an Oculus Rift version.
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