Technology 5 min read

Where VR Failed, Augmented Music and Magic Leap One Might Prevail

Roy J Baron |

Roy J Baron |

Magic Leap has been working for years on a Mixed Reality music app with the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. The app could be integrated into Magic Leap’s thoroughly hyped hardware.

If English-centric internet culture is threatening to kill off the language of Iceland, the country could find solace in VR. That’s right, Icelandic artists are among the early pioneers of augmented music.

In 2016, Icelandic singer Björk wowed the public in several cities of the world with an immersive exhibition entitled “Björk Digital”. It features 360-degree VR music shows, an example of which you can see above.

Why is Björk important? Well, because she helped inspire the likenesses of many of our favorite robotic characters–both real and fiction. Of course, her ideas were inspired by renderings of previous robots.

Any chance this reminds you of I, Robot?

Now, another group of Icelandic artists helped Magic Leap startup in a mixed reality audiovisual project.

#Tónandi , Magic Leap’s app infuses spirit into music.Click To Tweet

Magic Leap Wants to Augment Creative Arts

In general, Magic Leap’s vision and tech are geared towards entertainment, storytelling, and creative arts. Aside from working on its long-promised hardware ready, Magic Leap is already thinking about content.

We don’t know if we’ll see Magic Leap’s hardware unfold as well as its teaser videos indicate. Yet, we think their ideas are spot on. As Facebook strives to keep up with the toward-meaningful-content trend, new platforms will have to think ahead.

This point goes double if you consider how hard of a time VR has had in inspiring its users.

Read More: Here’s how VR Hypnoanalgesic Experiences are Advancing Neurological Research

Magic Leap has developed a reputation as an ultra-secretive Mixed Reality startup that keeps a tight lid on its projects. Some seem to think it could be to hide a less-than-adequate product. Others think they’re a one-of-a-kind company that doesn’t release products until they’re perfectly ready. Magic Leap has also allegedly tested the waters on Uber-esque social scandals.

For over three years now, Magic Leap has been promising to make far-reaching changes to the mixed reality (VR and AR) industry. Until recently, the company has only thickened the mystery around its projects.

This, however, has changed as the startup recently unveiled its Magic Leap One, an augmented reality headset with a retro-futuristic cyberpunk design.

This wearable computer shown off by Magic Leap is described as the “Creator Edition” that should start shipping within the next six months.

First users will be designers, developers, and creators who are encouraged to join Magic Leap’s Creator Portal. This includes development SDK and resources to help them build digital content.

In 2016, Lucasfilm, the production company behind the Star Wars saga, announced its partnership with Magic Leap via its Industrial Light & Magic studio. The proof-of-concept footage was shot using Magic Leap’s tech and without the use of any special effects. This showed a global audience just how Mixed Reality could take storytelling to a whole new level.

Last October, the startup has also teamed up with digital comics and motion books publisher, Madefire, to bring Mixed Reality comics to its device.

With all of these successful partnerships and internet hype, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Magic Leap also wants to bring Mixed Reality to music.

Augmented Music: “Tónandi”, an app That Infuses Spirit Into Sounds

Magic Leap has been exploring ways to use Mixed Reality to augment music for years, but, keeping up with the startup’s propensity for secrecy, the news has only just been released.

In an Instagram post, the Icelandic alternative rock music band Sigur Rós unveiled a project the band has been working on with Magic Leap for the past four years.

“After four years under wraps, we are more than excited to finally go public about our relationship with Magic Leap. Even now, though, we are still at the very inception of a project with near unlimited potential for creativity and fun. Thanks to Rony Abowitz [Magic Leap CEO] for daring to dream and his amazing team at magic leap for bringing the future one step closer.”

The audiovisual project is an app dubbed Tónandi, a concocted portmanteau (a blend of two words, like brunch) that means “sound spirit” in Icelandic.

Magic leap invited Pitchfork to test the app. According to the music magazine writer, he interacted with the “sound spirits” and altered the music sounds using his hands.

“I see a group of little sprites floating around in front of me,” said Pitchfork. “The jellyfish-like creatures seem to match the waveform of the music I’m hearing through headphones. Encouraged to explore with my hands, I reach out, causing the waveforms to alter shape—both visually and in the audio playback.”

There’s still no release date set for the app, but it’s likely that it will be integrated to Magic Leap’s much-hyped device. The first preview of the app promises big things for music. In this experience, each listener will have different experiences as they can alter both sounds they hear and holograms they see.

Using real-world settings augmented with holograms, Mixed Reality puts users into immersive experiences without disassociating them from reality. Perhaps that’s the edge Mixed Reality has over VR: a tenuous relationship with reality that enhances the experience.

Do you see any further possibilities of the use of Magic Leaps software? Are there any issues that you see with this tech?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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