December 23

VR Music Videos And Perception (Tyler Hurd’s Old Friend Available on Steam And Transport)

The critically acclaimed VR music video Old Friend by Tyler Hurd is now available on both Wevr’s Transport and Steam. Sited as a prime example of how virtual reality is pioneering a long due reimagining the music video, the experience combines the kinetic Future Island’s song “Old Friend” with Hurd’s vividly psychedelic and interactive animation to create a joyous immersive dance party.

After viewing the experience at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Business Insider wrote “Old Friend put me in the center of a music video I never wanted to leave” while Wired, in a piece discussing the emerging relationship between virtual reality and music, called Old Friend  “the best example of VR’s potential so far.”

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Hurd says he began the project trying to replicate the powerful emotions triggered while experiencing a favorite piece of music. But later, after watching first hand how audiences responded to the experience, he became intrigued by the mechanics of just how it effected people. It seemed that the experience, and VR in general, might actually be activating neurological pathways in a way that previous mediums hadn’t.

Hurd is not alone in this perception. Physician, philosopher and author Deepak Chopra,  who recently ventured into VR with his own experience,  believes there is mounting scientific evidence that VR has the ability to positively effect people’s health. “I think one of the biggest applications for it in the future will be healing,” Chopra states. “In less than five years I believe you will go to a really good medical center and a physical might prescribe a VR session instead of pharmaceuticals. This will be especially true for things like phobias, anxiety, eating disorders, diabetes, hyper tension, and cardio vascular problems.”

Albert Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies recently received the Pioneer in Medicine Award for his research into virtual reality. Working with young men suffering from traumatic brain injuries, Rizzo has been using VR to improve their reception to therapy. As Rizzo explained to USC News last year, “I realized then that we could harness emerging virtual reality and game-based systems to improve engagement with therapy and diagnostic tools.”

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Hurd says he initially thought of Old Friend as merely a way to use his animation to create a sense of joy and inspire some ridiculous dancing. “I was excited about VR but I wasn’t aware of the full impact until I got a Vive and had my hands in the space,” he says. Yet it wasn’t until a conversation with his girlfriend, Melesande Perera, a long time Occupational Therapist who specializes in Sensory Integration, that he realized Old Friend and VR were triggering emotional responses by activating different parts of the brain.

While this phenomenon is true to some extent with most room scale VR, it seemed more pronounced with Old Friend. The movement of the participant in relationship to the animated dancers seemed to  activate a person’s vestibular system, regulating balance and spatial orientation, and their proprioception, controlling their position, motion, and equilibrium, and then move  down the chain of the brain activity.

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“I think this is something not a lot of people are talking about with VR music videos,” Hurd says. “You have this intense emotional experience that we already have with music and now we’re adding the other sensory systems to it in a way that hasn’t been done before. People know it’s impactful but nobody is really breaking down why. Melesande says these sensory systems are directly tied to the brain’s limbic system, the part of the brain that processes emotions. And emotional experiences are the most memorable, so because VR activates all of these systems it has the potential to create more emotional and memorable experiences than any other medium.”