Built by Shape
Berlin, Germany, Oct 2017
There is something magical about listening to live music. It’s not only about the quality of the sound but also about the space in which the experience happens. Hearing the same track through normal stereo speakers often doesn’t really live up to the real thing. The reason for that is that hearing sound isn’t just about the tones that we hear. As we stand in a concert hall, sound waves come at different speeds and angles to our eardrum. Our brain needs that information to tell us the location of the sound source. If there are more sound sources, they start to represent a sound mix. As we move through space, the mix changes accordingly to the position. If we listen to music through the speakers, this is not possible, because we always hear the same music mix. Virtual reality is the first medium, which could make the whole listening experience more real. We took it upon ourselves to find out how this could work.
We created 4 boxes in Unity and each of them acted as a source of sound (instrument). We implemented a few algorithms that would change the sound of those instruments according to our position in the virtual room. After that, we started to create 3D elements for the room. We decided to go with some planets, to make everything a bit mystical. The “sound boxes” have been placed on the main planet in a circle and the user in the middle. There have been 11 boxes which the user could move freely around with the HTC Vive controllers in his hands. Each box represented an instrument from David Bowie's Space Oddity.
Our project shows that listening to music in virtual reality adds a layer of reality which is not possible to achieve on common stereo sound systems. The main elements that adds to this effect is the active head tracking through which we manipulate the sound mix according to the current position of the head. Furthermore also the ability to interact with the sound boxes makes the experience more personal. Imagine yourself all alone on the planet, listening only to Bowies vocals. It gets under your skin.