I just “attended” my first “live” VR performance: Reggie Watts in AltSpaceVR.
(Air quotes used to illustrate how silly it is to demarcate the reality of experiences in VR. I won’t be using them again, VR is real enough to shrug off the quotes.)
(You can check out a recorded version of the show on youtube. Update: The video has been made private. Hopefully it’ll return at some stage, as it’s an interesting piece of archival material.)
A quick collection of thoughts about live performance in VR
Not So Great Things
A “Mute All Audience Members” button is vital. Surely one of the main advantages of VR shows is that you don’t have to deal with idiots talking over the performance? I found myself having to wander through the crowd to find whoever was the source of obnoxious noises and mute them.
Ideally the VR client should detect if the audience isn’t wearing headphones (show noise is feeding back through their mic) and automatically mute them.
When a performer starts their show, all audience members could have their volume reduced/muffled by the software. Real performances use amplification to allow the performer to (mostly) be louder than audience members. Anonymity combined with a technological ability to be as loud as the person on stage made for a very rowdy show.
VR client software should have a “temporary mute” button physically on your controller. A “cough button”, so you don’t have to locate and toggle the little microphone icon if you need to clear your throat/eat chips.
Audience Interaction doesn’t really work unless all audience members are in the same virtual room as the performer. With over 500 (I heard someone say 800 at peak) users trying to watch the show, they were being split into separate room copies, separate from the “VIP” room that the performer was seeing. This seemed to cause the audience I was with to feel disconnected, and they started to become unruly when they realized they couldn’t be seen/heard by the performer.
Even the “VIP” room had some strange moments as the audience level was close to that of Reggie’s (embedded video cued to 56m38s. Update: The video has been made private. Hopefully it’ll return at some stage, as it’s an interesting piece of archival material.):
As a super great performer he recovered the moment well, but I think this situation has more potential drawbacks than advantages.
A common element of support acts is the “please come to the front of the room” section of the performance. VR audience members seem to have no problem going right up to the stage and dancing. I’m mortified by public dancing, but it’s not as scary in VR.
Muting noisy/annoying audience members is a superpower everyone has wanted at a show. Now it’s a thing you can totally do. Giving this power to the performer as a moderation tool could also be great for their experience of the show. Goodbye hecklers.
Motion Capture + Audio Recording = Ability to play the entire show back later. This makes for some interesting performance possibilities, and was useful today when the servers became overloaded. It seemed that the VR performance was actually played back from recorded motion capture and audio data.
So Is VR One Of The Futures Of Live Performance
Yep, it absolutely can be. It has some huge advantages over video streaming. The feeling of presence is pretty magical. The drawbacks won’t take long to solve, but the advantages are many and will continue to grow as the tech matures.