A recent and shining example of this was my visit to the office of Reality Jockey a few weeks back where I was introduced to some of their superb mobile apps and the concept of “reactive music”.
F**k it, we'll do it live!
The company was set up in 2008 by Michael Breidenbrücker, one of the founders of Last.fm with the plan to bring his ideas around interactive music to life – something the introduction of the iPhone had made possible. Over the past few years the London-based team of coders and music producers have already developed reactive music apps for AIR, Easy Star Allstars and Little Boots as well as a tie in app for last years blockbuster Inception which has had around 3 million downloads since its release at the end of last year.
To say that Reality Jockey is taking music to an utterly new place probably seems like hyperbole – it isn’t. They’ve developed a mobile-based platform that lets the user interact and control music in a way that’s never been done before. Their RJDJ app, for instance, lets you plug in a pair of headphones (best if they have an inbuilt microphone) and control “scenes”, patterns of music and loops through movement of the phone and your voice, remixing tracks through physical interaction and essentially creating what it’s creators call a ‘Soundtrack to your Life”.
The Inception app, which was launched last year to coincide with the release of the film on DVD takes the concept of reactive soundscapes a step further by adding a level of augmented reality gaming to it. The app, which was developed in conjunction with the legendary composer Hans Zimmer (who wrote the score for Inception) lets the user enter several dream states, with each one containing its own soundtrack and unique reactive features.
The gaming element comes into play through the “unlocking” of certain states through either actions, such as keeping still or traveling faster than 30mph, or environmental factors such as weather or location. For instance, one particular dream will only unlock if the user is in Africa – something which Rob Thomas, CCO & Product Manager at Reality Jockey assures me has been driving some completionists using the app crazy for a few months now.
In addition to providing the user with an extremely immersive and interesting experience, I believe these apps could potentially trailblaze the way towards a new form of interactive media. Their potential as a new form of music product is certainly something worth thinking about, especially since Reality Jockey has made the tools for artists to create their own “scenes” available for free.
Like all augmented reality technology it takes something of a leap of faith from the user’s perspective to get into this kind of interactive experience, but once you’re there it can be seriously impressive.