On June 4th I went to the Björk Digital VR experience at the Reef. As a member of the VR industry, I was very excited to see what the resources of Björk and the LA Philharmonic were going to create.

Unfortunately, my experience was not so great and based on interactions with other attendees, the entirety of the experience was anti-climactic and a disappointment. I sent this email to the LA Phil, as it was given to me via a business card at the experience when I asked where to send feedback, and I can’t couldn’t any feedback contact info for Björk online. This led me to the decision to post it on my blog to hopefully help reach Björk’s team and inform potential attendees.

Considering the cost of the tickets (in addition to parking), this was not a cheap expense. I assumed we would be getting a true VR experience, which would be both immersive and interactive.

Of the multiple parts of the experience, only one was somewhat interactive. The ability to play with the flowing strings, that emerged from a very vagina-esque shape, in the first Vive experience was cool but still not exactly living up to the potential of VR. The rail track did add some dimension to the experience, but in both experiences the visuals were in your face and lacked interaction and stimulation. In fact, the whole 90 minutes was an up close and personal experience of Björk basically invading your personal space, but with not interaction or recognition that you are there.

The 360 music videos were repetitive and awkward to watch, but I won’t go into too much criticism over the filmed 360 videos, as they are a different medium than VR (under the opinion that virtual reality means the creation of an accessible & interactive space) and therefore the videos met the expectations had for them, except for the tongue one being slightly nauseating.Bjork's Mouth...

I do think they could have been better, meaning more interesting to experience. For example, there was only one 3 second part in the 360 videos (taking place in the first video where Bjork is on the beach) that implemented spatial audio…

How could something advertising itself as both VR and on the cutting edge of music development not feature sound that reflects the progression of both music and technology? Especially when it would have required minimal extra production work…

My main issue is that the Vive experiences had the potential to be very cool, but fell flat. The experience was advertised as 90min VR experience, and what was given was 15 minutes of VR and a whole lot of other time in 360 music videos or watching large screen projections with big speakers.

Regarding the actual VR elements of the experience, simple fixes, such as having Björk’s avatar sing to you, or acknowledge your presence in the experience would have been great.

-Giving the viewer a body to dance with and the ability to interact and move around inside the experience would have made it truly immersive and stimulating.

-Making it a multiplayer experience where the two people in each partitioned section could, at the very least, see each other inside the experience would have helped improve the user experience.

-My thoughts during the Vive part were along the lines of: “This is lame, I am in a VR music experience and I am stuck just watching a Björk avatar ignore me while having to stand still because I am within a foot of another person in VR and if I move I am likely to likely knock them in the face..”

We couldn’t dance, nor could we even move our heads because of the nature of the HMD rigging (which was to keep the cords out of the way) wouldn’t allow much moving.

The woman working at the event told me to look all around, including down, but that was near impossible as the rig wouldn’t let me bend my head down without ripping my HMD off.

There are so many suggestions I have that could truly make the Björk Digital VR experience better, including something as easy as to give everyone a Subpac to wear and plug into the experiences. This would improve the immersive nature and fit well into the musical nature of the whole show.

As it is now, the Björk experience fails to meet the expectations of immersion and interactivity. It is a cold and alienating experience, that does not promote a connection between the viewer and Björk. Nor, does is represent VR in a positive way.

The very personal lyrics and metaphorical imagery of the female body/experience need to also be considered, as the very nature of the experience being impersonal and non-responsive only served to alienate the viewer from the content rather than encourage emotion and contemplation.

As VR is only just emerging into the pop culture sphere, there were a lot of VR first timers at the experience, and it is very disappointing this was their first experience.

I am concerned people walked away from the Björk experience with a bad taste in their mouth because it was quite honestly over priced and boring. Those who did not walk away with that opinion still left with a misconception of VR and its capabilities.

A big part of me wants to ask for a refund (and that is the part that included my receipt as an attachment in my email), but regardless of that happening or not I felt obligated to give feedback.

This had the potential to be an amazing experience that illustrated beautiful artwork, avant-garde music, and the incredible possibilities of VR. I understand it is an “art installation”, but if it is going to be under the umbrella of VR, then it has to meet the expectations of immersion and interaction.

What I walked away with was frustration that I spent that much money on the tickets and disbelief that the various hierarchies of development, design, and such signed off on this being an experience worth the cost.

I hope this feedback is met with receptive ears, as my intentions are not to be hyper critical but to be honest and helpful.

I look forward to a response and would welcome a conversation with the development team.

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