The future of music tech: Risks, data and new industry standards

Deep in the heart of Brick Lane in east London, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) regional co-chair for London, Matthew Dempsey, gathered four bleeding edge experts to discuss current trends and the future of technologies in music as part of the We Are Robots festival...
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Deep in the heart of Brick Lane in east London, the Audio Engineering Society (AES) regional co-chair for London, Matthew Dempsey, gathered four bleeding edge experts to discuss current trends and the future of technologies in music as part of the We Are Robots festival...

Venue 93 Feet East was packed with people for a panel talk as part of the innovative music festival We Are Robots.

The panel consisted of futurist and speaker Amelia Kallman (ameliakallman.com), BAFTA winning composer for film and TV Alexander Parsons (alexparsonsmusic.com), cellist and part of collaborative Audio/Visual project ‘Gestalt’ Abi Wade (abiwade.com) and music producer and experimentalist Dan Potter of Warsnare (warsnare.com). What attendees heard was fantastical, sci-fi made real and maybe a bit scary too.

In the now

Currently available are experiences such as ‘Strata’ which uses bio-data such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweat rate etc. to create a personalised audio and video virtual reality experience in real time.

Engineering and design company Hoare Lee (who were responsible for award-winning “The Hive” installation at Kew Gardens) are working with architects to create personalised experiences for visitors to buildings that follow them around and allow people to control their experience as they go around.

The international collective of artists, speakers, graphic designers and musicians known as Miro Shot have been working with augmented reality and scent artists to create a heightened music experience with residencies in Amsterdam and Somerset House in London.

Ministry of Sound using Dolby ATMOS, an object based surround sound system, to allow DJs to create a unique spatial element to their music while performing live.

Risks

Of course there are risks with new technologies, and the panel explored these risks and how they could be handled.

Physically, our brains can be overloaded with stimuli or disjointed from competing stimuli. This has already occurred with people feeling nauseous because while wearing VR helmets - people’s eyes thought they were moving, but their ears said they were sitting still. With better algorithms and plenty of testing, these issues can be explored and negated before the experience reaches the public domain.

It has been found that developers who have been intensely working in the metaverse have had an issue of being too immersed, and needed a reset back into reality. Long term studies need to be made on the impacts of immersive media to understand what’s happening and put safeguards in place.

When connected to a computer, there is still the potential of being hacked, which means hackers can move boundaries in your VR space and make you bump into furniture or feed you an unwelcome image. There has already been a document written by Amelia to look at these risks and security measures are being looked into and being prepared.

Standards

So what rules are already being made in this brand new world? Certain thoughts are already becoming clear.

Stories must come first to make this new medium engaging, fulfilling and not just a flash in the pan technology. Most of the success stories such as animated drama “Lucid” have multi-layered stories giving them a deeper emotional context like a favourite album or film.

Getting feedback from your audiences is key to knowing what’s going right, what’s going wrong, and how to fix these problems and develop the media and keep it relevant.

Sharing and collaborating with other creators is deeply important to keep the standards of work high and consistent. It’s now possible to work with others over distance in entirely new ways.

The future

What all this can lead to in the future is breath taking. Imagine being able to take a cherished memory and capture the image and create a soundtrack using AI and bio-data and being able to transmit that experience and share it with someone that couldn’t be there, or close friends.

Can’t make that great concert because it’s on the other side of the world? Invite some friends over and have the band holoport into your lounge through the metaverse and have an experience all your own, or use VR to walk on stage and be inches from your favourite artists as if you were there.

Summary

The talks left everyone with plenty to think about, and with a bright outlook on the potential that technologies can have in music. The quote from the event that sums it up best for me was, “Music essentially should be a collaborative thing, and these new technologies and the new networks that we’re going to become part of … are going to blur the lines … between the performer, the composer and the audience.”

The event was recorded and will shortly be up on the AES YouTube channel (youtube.com/aesuksection) with the rest of their video library. More information on the AES can be found at aes.org.

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