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In honor of its 50th anniversary this year, one of rock’s most legendary acts is stepping into a new dimension.
The Who is preparing to give fans a 3D outlet through which to experience the music and history of the band, thanks to an app in the works for the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. In addition to presenting you with a trove of content to peruse, like lyrics and images, the app will use the capabilities of the headset to do things like simulate what it would look and sound like to stand onstage with the band.
U.K.-based tech company Immersive, working with Universal Music, created the app as a kind of virtual companion to the band’s compilation album “The Who Hits 50!” that was released at the end of October. Ben Dawson, one of Immersive’s founders, told Digital Trends that the project is the first such large-scale effort from his company and has been at least three years in the making.
“The question bands ought to ask today is how they can stand out from the ordinary.”
“The Who might have been just another rock ‘n’ roll band were it not for the release of Tommy,” explained Dawson. “We felt they were a band that’s really stood the test of time and inspired later generations by moving beyond the 3-minute song into more of a concept – going beyond the album format and really turning digital music into an audio-visual concept. Something that had a narrative and had imagery.”
A more basic version of the app is now available for iOS and Android devices. It features a virtual world modeled around events and images from the band’s career that the user can explore. A media launch for the project will take place Nov. 12 in Shepherd’s Bush, which will be attended by The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey (whose son Jamie is the creative director at Immersive).
Meanwhile, a richer version of that app is what’s coming later for the Oculus headset.
Carving out a spot for itself on a next-gen platform like the Oculus might sound like a big leap for a rock ‘n’ roll band that came on the scene long before the advent of the Internet. Though the band once promised us they’re “not trying to cause a big sensation,” Dawson says this kind of attention-grabbing gesture is exactly what the story of a group that broke boundaries while busting eardrums deserves. In fact, he could barely contain his excitement in a phone interview when giving a taste of what users and Who fans will soon get to experience.
Dawson said the team behind the project hopes users will strap on the Oculus headset and look out into a stadium while a light show unfolds around them. The music would also envelop the wearer, as if they were on stage. Pan around to look at the drummer, for example, and the drums would get louder in the mix of sound emanating through the headset.
Immersive’s goal, Dawson says, is to help artists create rich, multi-platform experiences to present and enhance their content through digital content packages the company calls “Immersive Albums.” The company works across platforms that range from smartphones to, as the project with The Who shows, more cutting edge platforms like the Oculus.
“The question bands ought to ask today is how they can stand out from the ordinary,” said Dawson. “Our company has really been founded to try to bring together audio, visual, and narrative through the use of appropriate technology. I want the emphasis of people who make music and albums to be how much they can push their creativity.”
The app released this week is something of a work in progress, with Immersive planning to keep adding new features. Future editions, for example, will include access to the band’s 50th anniversary tour dates. (That tour will kick off in Tampa in April 2015.)
“Our company is trying to look at how 3D environments can house content and how it can fit within something like the Oculus virtual reality environment,” Dawson said. “This is what bands should be trying to do. They should inspire people by telling stories and making things that are impactful, rather than the kind of throwaway that we’ve been used to.”
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