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Get on stage! New type of concerts

For the music-loving public it is rewarding to treasure the memories of the concerts they attend. Especially those in which their favorite artists perform songs that resonate in their daily lives and serve as the soundtrack of their own lives. The treasures come in the most dissimilar forms, from bracelets, photos, entrance tickets, even a scar.

All this may change a lot in the future. At least we know that traditional concerts already coexist with new ways of presenting music. The avant-garde playwright Antonin Artaud used to say that illusion was no different from reality. In this way, he argued that spectators should suspend their disbelief before a theatrical work and conceive the theatrical work as reality. After all, reality is in a way inaccessible to the brain and our instruments of perception and measurement of natural elements are inaccurate.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality are two technically complex concepts. However, at the user level they are simply intuitive and beautiful. Indeed, there are already concerts available to be enjoyed through these technologies on platforms that allow the viewer to be sensitively immersed at very deep levels.

Part of the experience today is going to the venue and waiting in line to get in. At a VR concert, you can enjoy the show from the comfort of your home or any location you choose. This could take the adrenaline out of the experience and end up taking some of the essence out of the experience itself. But ultimately the argument sells itself quite well. If we think in terms of accessibility as a generic category, there is an economic and geographical barrier due to logistical needs and internet services. Glasses are expensive too. But they can be considered a very interesting option for people with physical disabilities or little time for adventure.

VR concerts offer immersive experiences with 360-degree views of the stage, the environment and, sometimes, interaction possibilities with elements of the virtual environment. Herein lies one of the most interesting points of these experiences. In some, you may have the opportunity to interact directly with the artists or even go on stage. You could be part of the show.

Ah! But the feature that most fuels my certainty that these events are here to stay is that while traditional concerts have a finite capacity due to the territorial limitations of the venue of choice, VR concerts can theoretically accommodate countless spectators. The industry is sharpening its teeth in the face of obviously lucrative opportunities.

Finally, think about the fact that VR concerts are often recorded and can be viewed multiple times, whereas traditional concerts are one-off events and the audiovisual recordings of these do not necessarily allow for the possibility of the immersive experience.

This all started much longer ago than it seems. In 1935 the story Pygmalion's Spectacles by Stanley G. Weinbaum, where you can read about a virtual reality system based on glasses and with the possibility of holographic recording of fictional experiences, which included smell and touch. Of course, the science fiction of almost a hundred years ago sounds less strange than it seemed at the time.

Skipping some relevant milestones in this history, only 33 years went by and Ivan Sutherland appeared, who with the help of his student Bob Sproull created what was considered in the history of virtual reality as "andhe first VR hull or head-mounted display (HMD)" for use in immersive simulations. It is understood that we are talking about an archaic device both in terms of user interface and realism.

Since then, the technology has advanced rapidly, with significant improvements in graphics, interactivity and realism. Today, VR is used in a variety of fields, from entertainment to medicine to education. Major technology companies are constantly vying for control of the emerging VR and augmented reality market. It's a typical case of technological advances slowly being incorporated into everyday life and by the time we realize it, they are already indispensable. It's a possibility with all this we mentioned.

For the time being, there are several solid experiences in this field. We are not talking about science fiction. One platform that has served as a favorable space for massive virtual events has been the popular game Fortnite. This has highly efficient technological infrastructures developed to provide exciting and user-friendly experiences. Ariana Grande and Travis Scott performed concerts within this framework. Both events were of high technological quality and public attendance.

On the other hand, there are other technological scenarios and contexts such as Wave and Meta Quest that host events of this type, and renowned artists of great renown and scope such as Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish have performed there. It is also part of the strategy to encourage audiences to participate and access the products and licenses that allow access to these things.

But to go even further, it is now possible to have a ticket for a completely virtual festival. This is the case of Porter Robinson's Secret Sky Music Festival. It is not the only one, because we can mention the Decentraland platform which hosted the Metaverse FestivalThe event was attended by approximately 50,000 users.

We, from Cuba, can really do very little. All this is far beyond the reach of an average citizen of the archipelago. We would need to circumvent certain geographical blockades, circumvent some remote access controls and above all have accounts and money accessible outside the country. Besides, the glasses and devices to enjoy the concerts are also expensive and are not available in Cuban stores.

For those who want to venture out or are just curious, you can use applications such as YouTube, Horizon Worlds, NextVR, CEEK VR and Soundscape VR, although there are others. These allow you to see both live concerts as event recordings above.

You could have Michael Jackson in the living room of your house to liven up the evening among friends or Celia Cruz on Sunday night. Who knows if in some bar in Havana in a few years you will be able to enter to see the "reguetonero" of the moment in a collective virtual experience. Some kind of activity that today seems as bizarre as the "silent discos" where everyone goes with headphones.

There is much more within reach of our life cycle than we imagined in childhood. Surely the music industry of the future will take it upon itself to make this VR thing more and more democratic. More users means greater reach, opportunities and resources. It is not for nothing that Meta appeared in the context of technology companies and in particular within the field of social networks as a fundamental niche.

Time will tell the last word here. I love the outdoors and real experiences. I don't dislike the technologies either, nor 3D cinema, which is like VR's little brother. We will have a chance to enjoy and suffer the consequences of so much development.

Avatar photo Edu O'Bourke Professor and Researcher in Social Sciences. Psychologist and singer-songwriter. More posts

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