Mike Curtis
Apr 27, 2017 · 10 min read

When was the last time you attended a concert or watched a music video from your favorite band? Thanks to YouTube and a host of other video streaming services, our favorite music is right at our fingertips in a matter of seconds, but I believe there is a better way.

I took a few hours and came up with this concept. Given more time, I’d love to explore this further, but I think you’ll find the idea fascinating! Please, read on and share your thoughts afterwards.

The Backstory

A few days ago, I found myself watching a music video for the band, Rush. If you know them, you know their drummer, Neil Peart, is sensational to watch. Actually, sensational doesn’t quite do that man justice… Phenomenal? Out-of-this-world? I’m not sure I can articulate his level of talent into words, but one thing frustrated me while watching their video.

The First Problem

I wanted the camera man to stay focused on Neil, the drummer. I didn’t care so much what the guitarist was doing, nor to watch the lead singer’s foot tap the pedals on the ground. I wanted more Neil Peart on the drums! Here’s why:

Neil Peart’s Drum Solo

See what I mean? Incredible.

The Second Problem

In a similar situation, I recently had a conversation with my sister who was ecstatic about attending the upcoming Def Leppard concert. She was so excited in fact that she forked over $750 for a VIP package. This got her a few cool perks, one of which was meeting the band. While an argument stands that meeting “the man of her dreams” was well worth the $750, I couldn’t help but think about people like myself who simply can’t afford to do something like that, or wouldn’t. To each their own.

Don’t get me wrong, I can only imagine the experience of actually being there, meeting them, and taking in the atmosphere of a live concert cannot be recreated.

I began thinking of how one might address these two problems through UX and VR.


Addressing the First Problem

Whether you’re at a live concert or watching a music video online, there’s a problem. At a live concert, you simply can’t walk up to the lead singer and stare at his face while he’s playing; they’ll throw you off stage. You can’t plop a chair down next to the guitarist and see where he placed his hands on that sick solo; he’ll smack you with the guitar and tell you to leave.

How about watching the music video… that has to be a better experience right? Not so much. The camera man is now making the decisions for you.

You’re not in control of that music video. The camera man and video editors are highly talented & skilled, but at the end of the day, they’re making the choices for you.

While your favorite band member is killing it on the bass guitar, the camera man (or video editor) has switched to the drummer. A long shot at the crowd might not be what you want to see when the band is doing something you’d rather see. All joking aside though, doesn’t this problem bode well as one we might tackle in the UX world? I hope this is starting to get the gears running in your head; as a UX designer, it did for me. Let’s move to the second problem and then we’ll tie the two together.

Addressing the Second Problem

If you’re buying the VIP package to meet the band members, hug them, take pictures with them, and get something autographed, I haven’t figured out a way to recreate that. If you’ve got the money, by all means, go for it. However, what about everything else in your VIP experience?

Could a VIP experience soon come down to choices — your choices?

What if a VIP experience could come down to choices — your choices, not somebody else’s. What if you could choose which band member you want to focus on and the concert was an experience you created? That to me sounds like a pretty sweet deal and I might not even have to fork over $750 to make it happen.

Enter VIPR — Total Concert Immersion

With the recent rise and popularity in a movement to virtual and augmented reality, a better experience can be designed for us as users. VR, or virtual reality, has the ability to immerse us in an experience like never before. I came up with a concept, joining both the VIP concert scene and virtual reality, which I’m calling — VIPR

How VIPR Works

Here’s the scenario. Let’s say Maroon 5 is touring and you weren’t able to make it. Bummer.

  • At the concert, Maroon 5’s stage crew sets up multiple 360 degree cameras for the show. One is pointed at the singer, drummer, guitarist, crowd, etc. — however many they need for the concert. They record the concert from multiple angles and complete their show.
  • After the show, Maroon 5’s marketing team takes the concert recordings and breaks them up into individual songs, then pushes them to the VIPR service. They set a price for how much songs cost and now their virtual songs are available to the masses.
  • You jump on VIPR, find Maroon 5’s latest concerts, and stream your favorite songs to your VR device, in this case, using your mobile phone and a VR headset. Standalone VR hardware would work fine too.
  • You become completely immersed in the music experience with the ability to change cameras at anytime, remain fixed on one, or change to another song; you are the decision maker at the concerts you want to virtually attend.

Design for a Mobile Device & Keeping it Simple

I chose to design for a mobile device and create the experience where the user slides their phone into a VR headset. For now, I wanted to mockup just three screens to get a feel for what’s possible in VR.

What Would VIPR Look Like?

Well, that’s a very good question. Good place to start on a UX project is to get out a piece of paper. I separated a sheet of paper into four sections to start defining the needs and goals of the project. The quadrants were:

  1. User/Needs
  2. Assumptions
  3. Goals
  4. Constraints

With only a few days to work on this concept, I had to work quickly, and this quadrant idea seems to be one of the best out there for beginning the research and discovery phase when pressed for time.

User Story Board

After getting a good feel for that, I started searching many of the popular music apps like Pandora, Apple Music, Spotify, and others to get a sense of where they put their focus. Using my quadrant above, and a little research on my own, I wrote down the key features I felt VIPR should have.

Nothing too fancy, just trying to create an MVP (minimum viable product) and establish a few key areas VIPR would need to include.

Sketching it Out on Paper

I like sticking to the 10x10 method. Even though I didn’t quite get that many cranked out, doing them quickly helps ideas to flow and creativity to abound.

In addition to the VR app itself, doing the 10x10 sketches caused me to begin thinking about other marketing ventures for VIPR. What might actual hardware and VR gear look like for the product? I definitely do not define as an artist by any means, but the ideas kept flowing and I could see in my mind what wearing the VIPR headset would look like, even though that wasn’t my intended direction!

Moving the Designs to Sketch

Inherently, I want this to feel much like a music app. Artists, Albums, Songs, Genres… all the things we’re familiar with when we listen to music. I did however have to start thinking about the VR space and what that looks like when you’re immersed in that world.

Screen 1: Dashboard for VIPR

From this first screen, the user can accomplish tasks such as searching content, viewing their account, purchasing new content, adjusting app settings, viewing their music, new arrivals, and other in-app support. The next screen explores what the user sees when they tap on “Artists”.

It’s here on the second screen where the user can perform the same top-level functions, go back, and most importantly, hone in on the music they want. The user can see the number of albums, songs, and the rating for the artists they’ve downloaded to the app.

Now let’s click on an artist, “Linsey Stirling”, and see where the real fun begins!

Notice something on the left-hand side of the screen above? These are icons that let you choose the camera you want to view when this song was recorded at the concert! Here’s how it would work in this example:

  • Full View Camera: Shows you a full 360 degree view from a concert-goers perspective, much like you would normally see if you were there
  • Singer Camera: The camera is completely dedicated to the singer; if all you want to do is stare at Linsey Stirling for the whole song, you’re good to go
  • Electric Guitar Camera: If you notice the guitarist is strumming out some crazy riffs, you can move the camera to them at any time
  • Drums Camera: You decide if you want to watch the drummer during his drum solo (If I were watching Rush on this app, I’d never leave this camera view!)
  • Piano Camera: I always wanted to learn how to play the piano, but never did, so maybe this could work as piano lessons too?

Anyway, I think you get the idea. The available camera icons would obviously change depending on the artist, what instruments they’re playing, how many band members, etc.

Prototyping VIPR & Learning New Tools

I won’t try and sound clever; this part was hard. I’ll admit that I’m still learning to design in the VR world, but I gave this my best shot to try and prototype what this app would look like.

If you haven’t heard of equirectangular images, that’s okay, I hadn’t either. In simple terms, think of those spherical images your phone’s camera can create. I had to include these in my prototype, otherwise, the VR prototyping tools can’t recognize and render a proper example of a 360 degree view. If you’re still not clear on what they are, check them out on Flickr.

The next step was finding a tool that could take my designs and render them in VR. I came across a useful tool for Sketch, simply called Sketch-to-VR. In addition, this Medium post/tutorial really helped in the setup and usage of the plugin. The author in this article goes through a step-by-step process of how to use the plugin and generate a working prototype of your VR designs.

The final step in prototyping this out was to try it for myself with my own screens and see if I could make it work. My prototype is choppy, and I’ve probably not found the best way to do it, but it still does the job of getting the concept across… I hope.


Conclusion

With little time and barely getting my feet wet into the VR design world, I’m excited to explore virtual reality further. As UX designers, we have to do everything in our power to not make all the choices for our users. More and more I see a shift in multiple industries to user-centered design and that gives me a good feeling about where we’re headed.

At the present moment, I don’t have the resources, time, or money to build out and develop VIPR to a functioning, living, breathing app. I also haven’t seen this done yet in my searching for similar apps and services. Should you be the one that reads this, loves the idea, and makes it into a real thing, maybe you can throw my name somewhere in the credits when you become a millionaire? I would love that, but more importantly, I would love this app.

I’m gonna head back to YouTube and watch Neil Peart kill it on the drums.

Mike W. Curtis

Portfolio for Mike W. Curtis: Utah-Based UX Designer - For nearly two decades, I've been happily working with people in my career to help them solve their problems. My background in marketing, sales, e-commerce and UX has taught me to make informed & empathetic design decisions.

Mike Curtis

Written by

Dad, husband, UX designer, teacher, and mentor. https://medium.com/mikewcurtis

Mike W. Curtis

Portfolio for Mike W. Curtis: Utah-Based UX Designer - For nearly two decades, I've been happily working with people in my career to help them solve their problems. My background in marketing, sales, e-commerce and UX has taught me to make informed & empathetic design decisions.

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