Can Game Music and Sound Combat VR Sickness?

dizzyVirtual Reality Sickness: the nightmare of VR developers everywhere.  We all know the symptoms.  Nausea.  Headache.  Sweating. Pallor.  Disorientation. All together, these symptoms are a perfect recipe for disaster. No one wants their game to make players feel like they’ve been spinning on a demon-possessed merry-go-round.  So, how do we keep this affliction from destroying the brand new, awesome VR industry before it even gets a chance to get off the ground?

In response to this possible VR apocalypse, the top manufacturers have taken big steps to improve their popular devices.  Oculus improved the display on its famous Rift device, Valve introduced a motion-tracking system that helps us orient ourselves and not get nauseous when wearing the Vive, and PlayStation VR incorporated a wider field of view designed to make players feel more comfortable. Even with these efforts, players are still reporting motion sickness symptoms, and the creators of the VR systems have responded by pointing the finger of blame at game developers.  So, if the developers of VR games have to solve the problem, then how can the music and sound folks help? Can game music and sound combat VR sickness?

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A Grammy Category for Game Music Composers

grammys-650pxIt’s Grammy Awards time!  This coming Monday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) will throw its annual party, and many golden gramophones will be awarded to the popular recordings that were deemed most worthy this year. This is one of the most prestigious honors for any musician. Each year, Grammy nominees are selected as representing the top of their field: the very best in professional music.  There are 83 Grammy categories this year, ranging from famous categories like Album of the Year to lesser known categories such as Best Children’s Album.  Among those 83 categories, we don’t find a Best Video Game Music category listed… but we do see the category Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media (Includes Film, TV, Video Games and Other Visual Media).  The Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media category has gone through some interesting transformations during the long history of the Grammy Awards. In this article, we’ll be taking a walk down memory lane, exploring the ways in which the Visual Media category has changed to accommodate video game soundtracks.

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VR for the Game Music Composer – What’s New?

google-cardboard_winifred-phillipsRecently I bought my first VR headset, and since then I have been adventuring in the world of virtual reality courtesy of Google Cardboard. For something as high tech and impressive as the VR experience, Google Cardboard makes the whole process easy, low-cost and accessible.  While Google provides instructions for users who’d like to make their own headsets from scratch using simple craft materials, I opted to purchase a version made by the good folks at IMCardboard.com.  Pictured to the right, you see me wearing their EVA 2.0 headset, made from a rubber-like material that’s very comfortable and lightweight.  Despite the more sophisticated look and materials, this headset still adheres to the Google Cardboard specs in terms of its design.  Coupling the immersive visuals offered by this headset with powerful music and sound from my trusty pair of Sennheiser HD 650 headphones, I was now ready to go adventuring in cyberspace.

I don’t know if 2016 is going to be the year of virtual reality, but since I’ve taken my first step into the VR world, I thought we could use this blog to touch base with developments in the VR world.  We’ll look at a brand new audio tech conference that should be particularly interesting to VR folks.  We’ll also get an overview of a couple of top audio technologies for virtual reality video games.  One of these new technologies pertains directly to Google Cardboard, so that’s where we’ll begin:

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