Meet the 2017 Viacom Music + VR Fellows

Six fellows are prototyping new VR experiences focused on transforming music engagement

2017 Viacom VR Fellows with Viacom NEXT and NYC Media Lab leadership

Virtual reality is a new medium that draws from the best of many disciplines and techniques such as art, engineering, animation, and game design. This summer, NYC Media Lab presents the Viacom Music + VR Fellowship with Viacom’s New Experience Team (NEXT).

Six fellows are working to produce individual VR experiences centered on a piece of music from Viacom’s music library. Program participants were chosen based on their diverse backgrounds, talent and expertise in art, technology and design.

Viacom NEXT, led by Chaki Ng, is focusing intensely on VR. This fellowship is a way to foster young talent from NYC universities where there is tremendous interest and enthusiasm for rapid prototyping in the VR space. In addition to access to the Viacom NEXT studio and premiere VR equipment such as the HTC Vive, the fellowship incorporates weekly check-ins with Viacom leadership. David Liu, Robert Ruffler, Chaki Ng, Mac Lotze, and Bryan Collinsworth of Viacom NEXT are working as mentors as the fellows produce their prototypes throughout the summer.

The program will conclude on Wednesday, August 9th in a final demo day. Read on to learn more about this year’s fellows and what they hope to achieve in the program, and please see contact details below for an invitation to preview these new VR experiences.

Meet the Fellows!

Secant Remix by Corey Bertelsen

Corey Bertelsen

http://www.8ude.com/ |@Super8ude

How did you get started in VR?

The first VR project that really inspired me was Isaac Cohen’s “Lune”, which is a beautiful, serene experience that has you building a virtual pillow fort. I got started with VR working in Robert Yang’s VR Studio Class at NYU. I made some small prototypes based off the music of FKA Twigs, and my team made a high-fidelity, minimal interaction experience that required you to watch advertisements in order to escape a room.

How can VR transform the music experience for fans, and what do you hope to accomplish in this Viacom Music + VR Fellowship?

VR has the potential to immerse people into synaesthetic musical worlds, creating space from sound in a way that hasn’t been possible before. The normal role of the audience member as a passive recipient of music is no longer the accepted norm — VR allows us to create situations where each audience member’s experience is unique and deeply connected to the music.

Not only is this a new form of spectatorship, but VR can also change the way musicians create music. The spatialized interfaces afforded by VR offer avenues of composition, improvisation and performance that we’ve only begun to explore. Working with my classmate Chao Jin, our hope with this fellowship is to continue to probe the possibilities for music creation and appreciation in a virtual space.

What new skills do you hope to learn or gain this summer?

In terms of hard skills, I’m hoping to improve my abilities in both audio programming and shaders. The most powerful music VR apps that I’ve experienced have a robust, responsive connection between the visuals and the music.

In addition, I’m hoping to gain experience in UX design, particularly in regards to music creation in VR. Our proposed project has a music creation component, and it will be a fun challenge to make this as intuitive and engaging as possible, for musicians and non-musicians alike.

Zer, Danny Dang’s collaborative VR project, part of NYC Media Lab’s Verizon Connected Futures II program

Danny Dang

https://dangddanny.com/ | @dangddanny

How did you get started in VR?

I took my first VR class in fall 2016 of my senior year at Parsons School of Design. The class was called Virtual Reality Journalism and it explored the ways VR could change the way we consume the news. It focused on how major news outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are using Google Cardboard. These lessons greatly influenced me to continue pursuing where VR and journalism can overlap.

In January of 2017, I got accepted to the Verizon Connected Futures program where I built Zer, a VR game that gives kids the tools they need to recognize fake news. While in the program, I also took a VR development class taught by Robert Yang called Recursive Realities. He taught us the skills needed to develop for HTC Vive.

How can VR transform the music experience for fans, and what do you hope to accomplish in this Viacom Music + VR Fellowship?

Music is generally experienced solely through audio. The same way a visualizer helps us conceptualize music, VR can transform this experience and give fans another way to interface with music that isn’t limited to their ears. Music experience can also help transform the current state of the VR industry as well; through this fellowship I want to explore how I can create multiplayer VR experiences that revolve around music.

What new skills do you hope to learn or gain this summer?

Coming from a 2D game development background, I have relied on using pre-made 3D models or using 2D assets in a 3D space. I would like to strengthen my 3D modeling skills in this program. I would also like to gain more knowledge about the process of music composition and what components go into a song.

The Storm by Juan Jose Egúsquiza

Juan Jose Egúsquiza

https://www.jegusquizaf.com/

How did you get started in VR?

I got started with Virtual Reality during my third semester at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. I took a class called DIYVR taught by Sarah Rothberg and I found this technology a great place to share interactive stories and experiences.

How can VR transform the music experience for fans, and what do you hope to accomplish in this Viacom Music + VR Fellowship?

In VR there is plenty room for exploration and experimentation. We can use images, videos, animations, projections, sounds, and interactivity. I believe that in using all these elements, we can create dynamic and engaging experiences for the user to enjoy music like never before. My goal is to create an experience where the user can explore and compose music with light.

What new skills do you hope to learn or gain this summer?

I want to keep learning and creating experiences for the user but also continue my aesthetic exploration of the medium.

The making of TZINA, a collaborative VR project by Or Fleisher

Or Fleisher

http://orfleisher.com | @juniorxsound

How did you get started in VR?

I got started with VR with the release of the webVR API. During that time, I was working on ‘LIVYATANIM: Myth’, and after experimenting with the Oculus DK2, I knew right away that I would continue creating story driven webVR and sound experiences.

How can VR transform the music experience for fans, and what do you hope to accomplish in this Viacom Music + VR Fellowship?

Since music transformed to the digital age, we have lost a few core things that encouraged deep fan experience. In my perspective, the major one is artwork. Since music is mostly consumed digitally, artwork has become a series of images fighting over one’s attention, the physicality of the artwork feels lost. With that being said, Virtual Reality offers artists the power to create a reimagined version of artwork where the fictional world could be experienced in (almost) complete immersion.

During this fellowship, my goal is to create an experience that engages in a dialogue with the music but also with conventions from film and visual arts.

What new skills do you hope to learn or gain this summer?

I have, and still am, investing time in learning what is the best way to produce web based VR projects. My goal is to use this fellowship to deepen this learning process into how I create and develop projects and project ideas.

Perfect Eggplants Don’t Exi- (In Development) by Mikei Huang

Mikei Huang

http://mikeihuang.com/ | @mikeihuang

How did you get started in VR?

I started making VR experiences while taking Robert Yang’s VR class at Parsons School of Design. I was honored to TA for that class the following year.

How can VR transform the music experience for fans, and what do you hope to accomplish in this Viacom Music + VR Fellowship?

VR provides a fully immersive experience that expresses music in a new visual, auditory, and kinesthetic way. With the motion controllers, there are many new possibilities for players to interact and engage with music. I hope to develop a fun sandbox VR environment for players to create and mix musical pieces and build their own masterpieces.

What new skills do you hope to learn or gain this summer?

With the support from the Viacom VR Fellowship, I hope to use my artistic expression to dive deeper into the scripting language, research and prototype user experience in VR, and further expand my knowledge and perspectives on the VR technology.

Firewalk, a VR game by Chao Jin, Dennis Carr and David Frisch

Chao Jin

www.chaojin.me | @VRgamedesigner

How did you get started in VR?

I got interested in VR after I played the VR game “Land’s End” on Samsung Gear VR in 2015. Last semester I took a VR studio class, taught by Robert Yang, and started to make VR prototypes.

How can VR transform the music experience for fans, and what do you hope to accomplish in this Viacom Music + VR Fellowship?

In this summer program, I will work with Corey Bertelsen. We want to explore potential ways that people can experience and create music in VR. We also want to play with the relationship between sound and space in virtual environments.

What new skills do you hope to learn or gain this summer?

The skill of rapid prototyping: fail fast and learn fast.


Contact Information:

NYC Media Lab: Alexis Avedisian, alexis@nycmedialab.org

Viacom NEXT: Alex Rindler, Alex.Rindler@viacom.com