The Future Of DJing: VR DJ Sets With TheWave

This week at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, there was some unique news for the DJing world – an Austin-based team of virtual reality experts and local DJ/producer Grimecraft have teamed up to launch the first VR DJ setups with a system called TheWave. Learn how this VR tech could bring DJ sets to audiences around the world – and watch a sample of a VR DJ set inside.

What Does A VR DJ Set Look Like?

It’s pretty hard to get a good feeling for any type of new VR experience with an embedded video (if you’ve used a newer Samsung Gear, Oculus Rift, or even just Cardboard VR, you know how different the video versus the experience is). Last week, Grimecraft may have made history by livestreaming the first DJ set performed entirely in VR. Watch it below:

What happens when you remove a traditional club / festival environment from reality, and recreate it from the ground up? In TheWave, visuals can be a fully immersive experience. It’s like taking the concepts of silent disco, VR, and live streaming DJ site Mixify and putting them all into one. As Grimecraft put it on the first announcement of the concept:

“Forget everything you know about live music. Now imagine a new way of creating and performing music using VR. Imagine it’s so easy that anyone, regardless of skill, can be a virtual reality artist. What if you could perform live in a virtual venue that is listening to each note you play, and reacting visually for you and the audience?

What would a bass drum feel like? What would it look like? And what happens when the bass drops…”

Why Watch A DJ Set In VR?

VR Headsets

What makes the concept of virtual DJ sets or concerts appealing? For a large part of the world, the performers that they want to see are not playing in their city regularly. But if your favorite DJ puts on a show online in VR, then you could easily join into the show and watch them perform without leaving the comfort of your bedroom.

To be clear, this does not seem like it’s going to supplant or take over the club experience. People are likely not going to be wearing VR headsets in the club – you already have that experience there. Instead, it’s bringing the club to everyone, everywhere.

The DJ or visuals team can have complete control of the environment – instead of looking at visuals on the stage, you’re inside of the visuals experience. You can see and interact with other audience members. You could even walk up to the DJ booth and try to trainspot.

It’s also very much a silent disco-like experience when you’re wearing headphones – the music can be bumping, but you’re not bothering anyone around you. We’ve heard that for some of the press demos at GDC, they’ve attached Subpac M2s (wearable subwoofer backpack units) to the viewers as well so they can experience a full tactile bass sensation as well.

How Does A DJ Play In VR?

Two virtual "decks" in TheWave
Two virtual “decks” in TheWave

This is a great question – and if you watch the embedded video at the top of the article, it’s clear that right now it’s being done in a way that mostly emulates a traditional DJing setup, just in three-dimensional virtual space. But it’s VR – there’s no reason that a DJ setup would have to even remotely resemble a traditional workflow.

The HTC Vive controllers/headset
The HTC Vive controllers/headset

In TheWave, the DJ is using the HTC Vive VR gear, which includes a headset and two hand controllers that allow quick manipulation of objects in 3D VR space. In the demo we’ve seen, Grimecraft also has large boxes that control filters and EQ, as well as basic VU level meters for each deck. It’s a pretty basic DJing setup – but step one here is absolutely creating something usable before creating new DJ workflows.

There’s quite a bit more detail that we want to know about this setup, so next week we’ll be shooting a full How I Play / video interview with Grimecraft. If you have specific questions you want to make sure are covered in the interview, please speak up in the comments below!

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  • Berkin Canga

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if people could join the Dj’s set and party with them?! It may already be possible through wifi and a server though…

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  • Scoox

    Gimmick alert! As if wearing headphones wasn’t uncomfortable enough. Seriously, if I’m at the club I”m there to have either drop a set or have a great time with my friends, not stare into some wacky animation on a pair of goggles.

  • AirGuitars>CunTrolers

    This is the same like controllerism. You can drive a car with your feet (it really works), but it doesn’t make it a good idea…

  • DWREK

    Despite all the myopic negativity in the thread so far, I am very excited for where this takes DJing/Performing, for the listener in their home. This could create new opportunities of monetization for the bedroom producer/DJ, and more importantly, new oportunities for engagement and surreal experiences for the listener. Performing with VR and wands? Meh. It will get better. It certainly leaves my head spinning with possibility!

  • As with everything virtual and/or non-tangible interfaces, what concerns me the most is the ergonomics. Even when you are pulling a crazy-ass four deck Traktor-Ableton dj-live hybrid, you always have something to rest your hands on, whether you are twiddling with knobs or not.

    But on virtual/non-tangible interfaces if you are doing something, your hands will always be on air. And keeping your hands on the air all the time can be very tiresom.

  • Tom Cobbly

    Agree with MoMo, but “keep that stuff at home” might be exactly what it could be good for. Imagine if it becomes popular and a lot of clubs catch on, no carting decks, mixers, amps speakers, lighting around, fighting traffic, van breaks down, etc., just do it from your room.
    The ‘VRDJ’ would then control all the house’s lights, effects, etc. and be on a screen. Changing over would be instantaneous.
    Mind you, the 1980s graphics would have to improve 😉

  • MoMo

    Possible does not mean logical. If the world hates laptop stares then “Blind cat man with two handheld controllers” will not be a attraction in a club. In virtual reality for the internet, meeting rooms may’be but nah…keep that stuff at home.

  • C’mon, April 1 is still a few weeks away!

  • Titan721

    I know this is a think piece, but let’s be real here. VR is an insanely pricey gimmick right now and that’s all it might be if we don’t curb greenhouse emissions within 5 years. What it takes to simply power one rift/vive is an 1100$ computer (If you were to build one from scratch today) and 600-800$ headset. So until VR becomes so ubiquitous that everyone has one and the processing power becomes so minimal that multiple units can be run off one computer, then we can start seeing VR parties and such. Otherwise, it’s nice pie in the sky piece but that’s all this will be.

    • PSVR day 1 for me. 400 is a decent price tag

      • Titan721

        Eh, you still have to go buy the Playstation camera if you don’t have one, and they say that you’ll probably want to go snag those Move controllers which put it grand total of about 500 once you factor those in. Plus, that’s assuming you already have a PS4. I also have heard reports that Sony is going to come out with a PS “4.5” that’s going to support 4k resolution and I’m going to assume those 120hz they say that they want to achieve with PSVR. So far it’s stiting at 60hz to 90hz on the current PS hardware.

        • Yep, I’m all in. Looking forward to October 🙂

    • Maddy

      My $700 computer cleared their VR test.

  • deejae snafu

    in the year 2016 , we have advanced virtual reality to the visual peak of the atari 2600.
    gg

  • StephenNawlins

    You can purchase it soon by typing following in Google:
    Things the world doesn’t Need!!!

  • teufelzkerl

    I just checked my calendar, no. April’s fool still some days to go. LOL anyway.

  • “Imagine it’s so easy that anyone, regardless of skill…”
    This is where I have stopped reading. ><

    • Tom Cobbly

      But I think that whether you are driving a stick shift, or auto, the skill shows through, or not, anyway. I don’t see any difference. Being a DJ isn’t much like it was in the 1970s, but I think it is much better now, due to all the innovations that *good* DJs can take advantage of. Crap DJs are crap DJs and vice-versa.

  • Tina Sloan

    Because nothing says Cyberpunk more than Axent glowing cat ear headphones…

  • Sami

    Not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, music is meant to take us on a journey and evoke emotion from its listener. This could be a way to make it even more immersive and allow people to use their eyes as well as their ears on this journey. For isn’t that what a DJ’s set is? A journey.

    On the other hand, music brings people together in a way no other medium can. A person can be at a festival or a club where no one speaks the same language but the right song or set can bring them together as one and make all their differences fade away. With VR in it’s current state, I personally see everyone going on these amazing journeys or visual experiences by themselves.

    For each person, they will have to decide what matters to them more. I am not here to make a statement about technology or say we are loosing touch with each other because we spend to much time online or on our phones. All I’m saying is that music has been about spending time with like minded people and I don’t want to loose that.