GROOVR – Music Driven VR
Creator: Presence Labs
Platform: Samsung Gear VR / Oculus Rift
GrooVR is a VR music visualizer created by Presence Labs. I personally tried the app on the Samsung Gear. When the application loads you find yourself in a space-like scene with purple mountains and geometric shapes on the floor filled with bright purples, pinks, and blues. The music playing in the start menu is really intense electronica. The stars and specs in the sky are moving rapidly to the beat and the colors get brighter and brighter when the music is reaching a peak. Initially, it felt overwhelming: the bright lights, all the noise. I felt like the experience was sensory overload. I noticed that there was a menu I could interact with, and tried to get some of my own music playing to see if that would be more enjoyable. When trying to select a music provider, be it Spotify or soundcloud, I was prompted to log into the account even though I had previously downloaded the spotify application and signed into it on the Samsung phone. The process of having to log in to my account using the gaze tracker and the buttons on the gear was absolutely painstaking. I became slightly nauseous trying to type with my view since the process of typing in my email and 15-character password was so tedious that it took me about 5 minutes longer than I wanted to be doing it. After attempting to log in and being told my password was incorrect, I gave up on trying to log into an account and tried to find something in the stock material that I could enjoy. All of their locations and experiences cost $3+ so I did not try any other locations. However, I found the space environment to fit the one relaxed song that I could find. I began listening to the music and observing how the environment around me was reacting to the music. For the most part it seemed that speed and brightness were the main varying parameters. Overall, I found it to be enjoyable. I think that I would have enjoyed it a lot more had the user interface been simpler and if the one free location would be more general or at least have an adaptive color scheme to the music. I also noticed that I felt like I was floating a bit. This made me a little nauseous but could have definitely been fixed if I would have been able to see “my” legs or any other kind of embodiment.
This experience made me think about a couple of different things. First, how important a simple interface is within VR, especially if the user does not have physical controllers. This needs to be kept in mind when developing across platforms. I’m sure that the full keyboard interface would not have been an issue had I had a hand held controller but having to type on a standard keyboard with your gaze is extremely taxing on the user. Second, I felt that while the experience was entertaining, it felt really tailored to a particular genre. I think that more thought would have to be put into it in order for it to feel truly compatible with any kind of music the way that 2-dimensional visualizers can. However, being able to have a visualizer in 3-dimensional space needs to feel more interactive and immersive.
Thinking about how to take the immersive quality of VR and make it purposeful in a way that a person would use this application to get to understand a new album or really visualize what the artist is trying to convey. I think that one way that this application could be improved is for the visualizations to be compartmentalized so different song elements had different corresponding visualizations. The beat, harmony, or different instruments could each be mapped to specific 3D visualizations. I think this would help the user listen intently to one part of the song and visualize the technical breakdown of the music, which creates a different auditory and visual experience each time.