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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