Aïsha Devi – Spatial VR at Simple Things Festival

The Simple Things Festival hosted I Am Not Always Where My Body Is, a 5G multi-user VR piece built around a hologram of electronic artist Aïsha Devi.

Working with Simple Things Festival and the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab, Zubr collaborated with Aïsha Devi to bring her track ‘I’m Not Always Where My Body Is‘ into an ambisonic virtual reality music video, nestled amongst otherworldly visuals supplied by Pussykrew. Having directed a volumetric video capture session of Aïsha, we transformed her performance into a holographic rendering as the centrepiece of the experience. Millennium Square played host to our VR piece loaded onto 5G-enabled VR headsets, where groups of 15 festival goers embarked on a shared musical trip. The event was fully booked and was experienced by more than 150 people in one day.

Capturing Aïsha Devias a Hologram

In coordination with Simple Things Festival, we arranged for Aïsha to attend a capture session at Band Studios in Bristol. Aïsha improvised a number of kinetic performances to the featured music track, which we captured using depth-sensing cameras. These captures were then processed into 3D renders and stylised into glowing forms to match Pussykrew’s visual aesthetic, before being embedded into a virtual environment.

Music performance volumetric capture virtual reality experience
virtual avatar music artist dance performance

Captivatingaudiovisual immersion

With the need for a strong focus on musical quality, we called upon our experience building VR spatial audio content using Google’s powerful Resonance Audio technology. We scattered 10 separate stems from Aïsha Devi’s track across our virtual stage, to create a surreal audiovisual soundscape which reacts and evolves as you move through it; allowing participants to discover their own unique, multisensory ‘mix’ of the performance. The vocal tracks were attached to Aïsha’s holographic presence, moving with her as she jumps around the virtual stage, whilst bass and percussion were enhanced visually with explosive particle systems and effects.

Freedom to explore

This VR music video experience was no “armchair” 360 video. Building upon our previous spatial VR experiences such as Alpha Regio, we fused augmented and virtual reality technologies to enable participants to navigate the “open-world” at their leisure. To achieve this, we established a ten square-metre zone in Millenium Square, which provides more than enough roaming space for all participants at once.

Zubr multi user 5G virtual reality 6DOF music experience
abstract virtual scene music video experience

Collective participation

Underpinning the virtual reality music video itself is Zubr’s very own multi-user networking system, which has previously powered shared experiences at the Limina VR Theatre and the Eden Project. This system enables up to fifteen participants to take part in the experience together, as if they are all attending an intimate music gig.  A key factor in creating this shared space is allowing participants to see each other. Each headset is represented in VR by a virtual alter-ego, in the form of various 3D animal skulls. As well as adding to the surreal nature of the piece, each participant’s experience is further enhanced  by witnessing the actions and demeanours of everyone else around them.

5G-powered network integration

It isn’t an easy feat to establish a reliable, low latency connection for this many devices in an open public space, but that’s where our collaboration with the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab made all the difference. Making use of 5G-enabled smartphones, we were able to exploit Bristol’s 5G Testbed, the world’s first 5G urban network.

What’s next in multi-user
immersive experiences?

The Zubr team is continuing to build on the knowledge gained from this project, and is initiating several related projects in 2020. This includes MeshParade; an augmented reality app which will make use of the Bristol testbed’s Edge Compute infrastructure to allow participants to collaborate on their own photogrammetry scans.

The testbed offers dynamic end-to-end slicing and orchestration over heterogeneous wired and wireless networks, enabling the testing of novel applications, like the one enabling Aïsha Devi’s hologram.

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Academic Lead,
University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab