Björk Digital and the rise of VR tech
Written by Nigel Smith
Nigel Smith is Director of Transformer, an Auckland creative agency. He’s currently based in the UK but is still actively involved in Transformer’s projects. We’re delighted that Nigel has agreed to share some of his design-related UK experiences with our DA audience over the coming months. First up Nigel reviews Björk Digital.
Virtual Reality. You’ve probably seen half-hearted attempts at using VR, usually involving clunky headgear with out-of-focus images that are often less impressive than looking at a poster on the side of a passing bus.
Prepare to look at VR again. Björk Digital, a recent exhibition at Somerset House in London, shows that with imagination (and meticulous attention to detail), immersive worlds can be created to give a unique perspective, using VR.
Björk has created a number of ‘videos’ to accompany songs from her Vulnicura album. The exhibition is divided into a series of rooms, each with a different VR or interactive experience. In one VR video we see her dancing around us on a seashore. We have to turn 360º to follow her. You can look down at her feet, up to the sky, or turn from side to side to focus on details of the scene. Several more Björks appear throughout the video so then you can look in any direction to see multiple versions of her.
Another video is shot entirely inside her mouth as she sings. You can look up into the roof of her mouth, down along her tongue and back into her tonsils. It’s not as gross as it sounds.
The sound design is exemplary. In Black Lake there are are two screens at opposite ends of the room showing different but related films that eventually merge together. The sound is delivered through many speakers arranged in a circle around the room and we’re encouraged to walk around to experience different parts of the soundscape. You hear sounds coming from different parts of the room — rib-shaking rumbles over here, twittering synths over there, descending bass lines rolling down a whole wall of speakers. It’s a very different experience to listening at home, even on good headphones.
“It’s fair to say that no other musician is as embracing of technology’s intersection with visual art as Bjork… The exhibition is billed to defy categorisation, mixing performance, film, digital installation and interactive experience.” Dazed
The promotion was also innovative. In June Björk made history by appearing in the first ever virtual reality live stream. It was broadcast for a limited time on YouTube — a clever way to use social media to promote the exhibition.
So, can all this artsy tech be used to sell tins of beans? Well we’ve seen VR technology entering two of Transformer’s main fields of operation in 2016 – tourism and real estate.
In tourism Southern Discoveries have begun using VR technology at Trade Expos to show the grandeur of the scenery at Milford Sound that can be experienced on their cruises. The scenery is breathtaking in 2D, but when you enter the VR 360 world it takes on another level of wow. The potential for the tourism industry is enormous.
Southern Discoveries’ marketing director, Julia Savill says “We were the first company to operate cruises in Milford Sound and now to be the first operator presenting agents with this amazing technology is really exciting. It will be a key tool in our sales kit from now on.”
Meanwhile, in Australia, Frost* Collective have used VR technology in a recent marketing campaign for Coronation’s 8 Phillip Street development in Parramatta, Sydney. The display suite is designed around a fully immersive, real-time VR experience. “Together with technology and innovation company, Transmedia Group, we have announced a joint venture offering transformative VR technology to the property industry”, say Frost*.
And whatever happens in Australian real estate marketing is sure to turn up in NZ marketing campaigns soon after – watch this space.
Björk Digital has finished its runs in London, Sydney and Montreal.
More venues are expected to be announced soon for 2017.