The Actual Reality of Virtual Reality with Heiko Ihde (Hoshi)

A Fascinating Journey into the World of VR and Music

Welcome, music enthusiasts, to a groundbreaking episode of the Future of Music Podcast! If you’ve ever wondered how the worlds of virtual reality (VR) and music collide, this episode is an absolute must-listen. Hosted by the dynamic duo of Ryan Withrow and Jonathan Boyd, the show is a treasure trove of insights, and this time, they’ve brought in a special guest from the vibrant city of Berlin – Heiko Ihde, affectionately known as Hoshi.

Picture this: The allure of virtual reality instruments that transcend traditional boundaries, the evolution of gaming, and the future of music education, all discussed in one captivating conversation. If that doesn’t pique your interest, we don’t know what will!



A Glimpse into the VR Maestro’s World

Hoshi is a true pioneer of the fusion of VR and music. With over two decades of experience in the video game industry, Hoshi’s journey is a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of virtual reality. From his early days as a graphical artist to his current role as a game development and design lecturer in Berlin, Hoshi’s expertise is second to none. But what truly captures the hosts’ fascination is Hoshi’s work on the “VRemin,” a virtual theremin that combines the magic of VR and music. It’s an innovation that’s impossible to ignore, a creative marvel that invites players to explore the uncharted territory of music-making in a virtual realm.

One can’t help but wonder, what draws someone like Hoshi to the world of video games? For Hoshi, it’s not just a profession; it’s a lifelong passion driven by curiosity and an insatiable appetite for exploration. He shares stories of his early encounters with games like Doom and Duke Nukem, which ignited his curiosity and set him on the path to game development. Hoshi’s journey is a testament to the symbiotic relationship between gaming and creativity. It’s a reminder that the allure of video games goes beyond entertainment – it’s a gateway to a world where imagination knows no bounds.

The Quest for VR Authenticity

Hoshi’s perspective on the VR landscape is refreshingly candid. He doesn’t mince words when he mentions that while there are some outstanding VR experiences out there, there’s also an abundance of subpar content. Many developers, it seems, have taken a shortcut to the VR realm, merely bolting on VR modes to traditional games.

Imagine playing a game like Resident Evil 7 in VR, a title that’s undeniably gripping. But the experience becomes marred when you’re tethered to a gamepad, moving through the virtual world without corresponding physical motion. This dissonance between what your eyes see and what your body feels is a recipe for motion sickness, the nemesis of VR enthusiasts. When our bodies remain static while our virtual avatars are in constant motion, it can lead to disorientation and discomfort. Developers must tackle this challenge head-on to create truly immersive and comfortable VR experiences.

Hoshi’s insight underscores the importance of crafting VR experiences that are inherently VR-centric. The future of VR isn’t just about repackaging existing games for a new platform but about reimagining how games can be built from the ground up to exploit the unique affordances of virtual reality.

His frank assessment of the VR industry serves as a reality check. While there’s immense potential in VR and AR, not every foray into this space yields a groundbreaking result. It’s a reminder that innovation should be driven by the desire to enhance the user experience, not simply for the sake of adopting new technology. But Hoshi’s critique doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm for VR and AR. It reinforces the need for quality over quantity. The best VR experiences, he suggests, are those that harness the unique capabilities of VR to create something genuinely novel and captivating.

The Imagination Age Beckons

As technology ushers us into the “Imagination Age,” where creators can bring their wildest dreams to life, VR and AR are at the forefront of this transformative era. The power to imagine, create, and explore new worlds has never been more tangible, and VR is the portal through which we step into these realms. The convergence of gaming, technology, and creativity is propelling us into an era where the lines between the virtual and the real blur. We’re no longer passive consumers of content but active participants in the worlds we help shape. This is the promise of VR and AR – a future where our imagination knows no bounds.

To set the stage, Jonathan takes us on a journey through the history of music, reminding us that humans have been crafting instruments and making music for tens of thousands of years. From ancient flutes to modern-day synthesizers, the act of creating music has always involved physical interaction with tangible instruments. In the context of VR, the challenge arises when trying to replicate this physicality in a virtual environment. As Jonathan notes, some early attempts have resulted in what he aptly terms “2D music experiences in VR.” These experiences attempt to translate traditional musical instruments into VR without fully capitalizing on the medium’s three-dimensional potential.

Hoshi shares his candid perspective, stating that he has not yet encountered a virtual music experience that truly resonates with him. This sentiment underscores the need for a reimagining of how music creation and performance can harness the unique capabilities of VR.

The Promise of VR Instruments

One notable exception to this trend is the development of true 3D virtual reality instruments. These instruments are not virtual simulations of real-world counterparts, but entirely new creations that leverage VR’s immersive environment. Jonathan references drumming games as an example, where players can immerse themselves in a virtual drum kit and rhythmically interact with the environment. This shift from emulating existing instruments to crafting novel VR instruments represents a promising step forward in the realm of virtual music.

However, the conversation also highlights the challenges associated with VR instruments. Much like the issues surrounding locomotion in VR games, VR instruments face the dilemma of how to strike a balance between authenticity and practicality. For instance, while replicating the physicality of playing a real instrument can enhance immersion, it may also pose ergonomic and logistical challenges.

Hoshi’s personal journey into creating a VR version of the theremin serves as a unique success story within the realm of virtual music. The theremin, an instrument known for its hands-free, motion-controlled playstyle, is an ideal candidate for virtualization. Hoshi’s creation not only offers an affordable alternative to traditional theremins but also successfully replicates the unique experience of playing the instrument in a virtual space. Interestingly, Hoshi’s theremin VR experience garnered diverse reactions from users. Some praised it for capturing the essence of the original theremin, while others critiqued it from a perspective of unfamiliarity with the real-world instrument. This divergence in opinions highlights the subjective nature of virtual music experiences and the challenge of catering to diverse user expectations.

As we navigate the intriguing crossroads of virtual reality and music, one thing becomes clear: the path forward lies in finding innovative ways to embrace VR’s unique attributes. Virtual music experiences must strive to strike a balance between authenticity and accessibility, leveraging the immersive qualities of VR to create entirely new musical possibilities. While challenges persist in ensuring that VR instruments are both intuitive and enjoyable to use, there’s no denying the potential for groundbreaking innovation in the field of virtual music. The convergence of technology, creativity, and musical expression opens doors to a new era of music-making, where the boundaries between the physical and the virtual blur.

Apple’s Vision Pro and the Future of VR

The conversation then shifts to the highly anticipated Apple Vision Pro. While Apple is known for entering markets later than competitors but aiming to deliver superior products, Hoshi remains skeptical about its impact on the VR landscape. He questions the affordability and accessibility of a headset that boasts a $3,500 price tag, noting that even the most popular VR devices struggle to capture a broad user base.

Ryan brings up the intriguing angle of Apple’s focus on productivity and work applications in VR, which could differentiate it from the gaming-centric approach of existing headsets. This shift may signal an attempt to tap into a new market segment, targeting professionals seeking enhanced productivity through VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies.

The Limitations and Potential of VR

As the conversation unfolds, it becomes evident that VR, while offering remarkable possibilities, still grapples with several challenges. These challenges range from comfort and affordability to the overall value proposition for users. However, Hoshi’s perspective provides a valuable reminder that VR is not a panacea for all forms of entertainment or work. Traditional gaming and productivity methods, such as playing on a handheld console like the Nintendo Switch or the Steam Deck, continue to offer distinct advantages in terms of comfort and accessibility.

Jonathan begins by acknowledging the inherent difficulties of learning musical instruments such as the guitar or piano. Learning an instrument, he notes, often requires wrestling with the physical aspects of the instrument itself. It can be challenging, frustrating, and, for many, a deterrent to pursuing music.

Hoshi shares his personal experience as a musician, highlighting his journey from playing the piano and keyboards to embracing the guitar. He emphasizes the importance of learning by ear and focusing on various musical elements like rhythm and harmony. This aspect of traditional music education involves putting in effort and practice.

The Quest for a New Paradigm in Music Learning

The conversation then delves into the potential of VR and AR to redefine music education. Jonathan raises the question of whether these emerging technologies can create new paradigms for learning music. He presents the idea of developing virtual environments where individuals can intuitively and gamifiedly explore music, perhaps without realizing they are learning.

Ryan adds to this idea by envisioning an AR or VR experience that immerses users in a world of interactive music. In this vision, individuals could engage with virtual instruments or environments that teach them the language of music subtly and organically. The goal is to make learning music more accessible, enjoyable, and less daunting.

Hoshi acknowledges that some games and experiences already incorporate musical mechanics, providing a taste of what’s possible. However, he also brings up the potential pitfall of gamified learning experiences becoming too easy and lacking long-term retention.

The conversation touches on the fine balance between creating engaging, gamified experiences and ensuring that learners retain and apply their newfound knowledge in the long run. It’s a challenge faced not only in music education but across various fields where technology is reshaping traditional learning methods. Imagine stepping into a world where music isn’t just heard; it’s experienced. Hoshi sheds light on the revolutionary ways in which virtual reality is transforming the music industry. From immersive concerts that teleport you to a different dimension to interactive music creation.

Learning a new language, be it Spanish or programming, has its own set of challenges. But what about learning the language of music? Hoshi shares intriguing insights into how VR and AR can revolutionize music education. Understanding the principles of music might be the key to making it accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Music isn’t just a language; it’s an emotional journey. Music and VR can offer an avenue for people to express themselves emotionally and immerse themselves in a world where calendars don’t exist.

The Future of VR and AR – What Lies Ahead?

Heiko Ihde leaves us pondering the future of VR and AR. In the next five to ten years, will these technologies continue to evolve and captivate our senses, or will they face new challenges? Discover what Hoshi envisions for the future of VR and AR, and why staying happy remains a top priority.

As the episode draws to a close, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat, eager to dive into the limitless world of virtual and augmented reality. Whether you’re a music enthusiast, a tech aficionado, or simply someone intrigued by the potential of immersive experiences, this episode of the Future of Music Podcast is your gateway to a new reality.

Tune in now and be prepared to have your perception of reality, music, and technology forever transformed. The future is here, and it’s virtual!


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