Six years ago LCD Soundsystem crushed the spirits of fans everywhere when they announced they’d be playing their final show.
But then this month they dropped a new album, American Dream, so I guess we can forgive them?
Leading up to the full album release on September 1, LCD Soundsystem released the second single, “Tonite,” along with a special VR dance party. Built in collaboration with Google’s Data Arts Team, the “Dance Tonite” experience lets you move between rooms filled with dancing 3D shapes, ending with a vast roomless expanse of fan-created dancers.
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Depending on your device, you can experience “Dance Tonight” by making dance moves yourself, watching from the perspective of one of the dancers, or watching the dance party from a unique POV that travels from room to room.
A new kind of music video
Most music videos are produced like short films. There’s a storyboard, hired actors, and a narrative that doesn’t change the next time you or anyone else watches it.
When you watch “Dance Tonite,” though, these filmic elements have been eschewed to make way for the empathetic experience of a collaborative, ever-changing party where the viewers and fans not only watch the experience, but also help create it.
“Dance Tonite” turns the concept of a music video on its head—returning it to an experience much more like a live show—where there is no director calling the shots, the actors aren’t hired guns, and the experience is unique every time.
Artists have made their craft interactive before (see the recent AR app from Gorillaz), but LCD Soundsystem went a step beyond with “Dance Tonite.” By allowing fans to create their own dancer groups, “Dance Tonite” succeeds in being interactive, but by making that interactivity lasting, “Dance Tonite” becomes truly collaborative: the dancers you create stay in the experience for others to see.
With “Dance Tonite,” LCD Soundsystem has returned to the music scene with a new experience that’s immersive, collaborative, and—unlike Gorillaz AR—can be viewed without downloading an app.
VR for everybody
So how’d they do it? With a new technology called WebVR, that (as the name suggests) puts high-quality VR experiences within a standard web browser.
I like to describe WebVR as the “responsive design” of VR: Where previous VR experiences had to be downloaded as a game or app, WebVR is an open standard that lets creators work with a single codebase to have their experiences accessible on any browser-enabled device. There’s no app to download, there’s not even a special headset if you don’t want one—all you need is a URL and a browser, just like a responsive site!
Likewise similar to a responsive site, the “Dance Tonite” experience (and WebVR experiences in general) don’t break if you don’t have a perfect set of specialized equipment. Viewing “Dance Tonite” from a standard desktop or mobile device? Fine—just pull up the site on your browser, sit back, and watch the dance party (in third person, or click to jump in and out of a first-person POV).
“Think of WebVR as the ‘responsive design’ of VR.”
But, if you have a mobile VR viewer like the Daydream View or a Cardboard headset, pull up the URL on your phone and pop it into your viewer, and you’ll have a more immersive experience, moving through the dance party in a first-person perspective, able to look around by moving your head.
And if you’re one of the lucky people who has a room-scale VR kit like an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, you can experience “Dance Tonite” one level deeper, as you create your own virtual dancers by having your dance moves captured through the headset and controller.
While many digital creators are out there chasing the new devices and wearables for their work and art projects, it’s encouraging to see LCD Soundsystem and the Google Arts Team making experiences that can be enjoyed by everyone.
If you’re interested in creating a VR project for your organization, contact Four Kitchens, or check out some of the client success stories that Four Kitchens provided to the entertainment and education industries.
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Aaron Stanush is President and Co-Founder at Four Kitchens, a digital agency that designs and builds websites, apps, and experiences for organizations with important content.