The Southbank Centre in London is to launch a virtual reality orchestra experience, in order to ensure that classical music keeps pace with other mediums. Allowing users to don VR headsets to take a virtual reality tour of the Philharmonia Orchestra sounds like a fantastic idea, and we at VR360 are very supportive of this kind of experience.
However, there’s one major snag here which the Southbank Centre seem to have missed: The whole point of virtual reality is that you can have this kind of immersive experience without going to the event. You can be at home and put your headset on and ‘be’ there without leaving the house…but they’re staging this virtual reality experience at the Royal Festival Hall itself. You have to go there and put one of their headsets on in order to watch this. If you’re making a trip to the Royal Festival Hall, why wouldn’t you go when they are actually playing live music? VR is for at home, when you’re not going out, these things should be available over the internet for the millions of people with Google Cardboard headsets; not made exclusively for the people who make a trip to the Royal Festival Hall when nothing else is on. For me, this is a bizarre decision and rather than being inclusive and embracing technology, which the Southbank Centre say is the aim here, it’s actually the opposite.
The event is free – so that’s great, and it’ll open in September. In addition, they recorded this with specially designed spatial audio, which in itself should be very cool – as you approach an instrument it will become louder, how I would love to be able to experience this at home. I do love the work that the Southbank Centre does in general, they give away tickets to events to the under 30’s and they have cheap tickets available to everyone. It’s a great institution and I hope they continue to do great things and push boundaries, I just feel like they’ve got this one slightly wrong…fingers crossed that this is just the start and the future is live VR concerts with spatial audio. Please Southbank Center – make it happen!