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Dream On: Aerosmith and 90’s VR

Pegasus flying out of a giant, red, spinning asterisk.

Known as the Star of Affinity, this asterisk is the iconic logo of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Now I know what you’re thinking, wasn’t this supposed to be an article about Aerosmith and VR?  I mention the Red Hot Chili Peppers because seeing this image and the rest of the Californication music video was an eye opening moment for me as to the synchronization of computer graphics and reality.

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The music video is fashioned as a video game and follows each computer animated band member through various adventures through California; surfing on sharks in San Francisco Bay, snowboarding across the Golden Gate Bridge, and flying on dragonflies.  All culminating in the band members meeting at the Earth’s’ core to turn back into their real selves as if they had actually been in the game the whole time.  Their ability to storytell through the integration of reality and computer graphics was so compelling to me.

Now imagine compelling music video storytelling with VR.  This is exactly what Aerosmith was able to do with their 1993 power ballad, “Amazing.”  Let’s take a look into how Aerosmith was able to use VR technology to tell a love story.

As the video opens and the song begins, the scene pans a teenager’s room.  On his desk, a VR headset and glove.  We first see him scanning images of both himself and his dream girl into the computer to then begin editing his own avatar into the ideal version of himself, sans pimples and all.

Donning his headset and glove, he inspects his hands and shows off the full range of functions that the glove provides.  Bearing physical similarities to other 90’s data gloves, he is given full hand and finger tracking as well as gesture control of the user interface.  Even letting him reach out and interact with the Aerosmith band members in their own virtual world.

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The headset, custom made for the video by 90’s head mounted display manufacturer, Liquid Image has a larger profile than the headsets of today but shows progress from some of the industrial versions that came before it.  You can envision actually owning a headset like this one in your home.

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Having now fully entered cyberspace and another coming of the chorus, the user is completely immersed and able to live out his wildest dreams.  Together, him and his cyber lover ride tandem on his motorcycle across the desert until a biplane swings through, carrying them high enough that they can skyboard back to Earth.  As the song comes to a close, he removes his headset and we discover that he was not as alone as he thought.  His dream girl was a real person with her own headset; suggesting, the capability for multiplayer VR.

Was VR well known enough for this video to have an impact?  Or, would it have just confused people with it’s future technology?

Take a look back at this video from 1993:

Just listening to the audio, it could be placed in a video from today and still contribute to the conversation about VR.  VR was thought to have finally checked the boxes that had been holding it back for decades.  Sega VR, Virtuality, and the Nintendo Virtual Boy had either been released in arcades or scheduled to be released to the masses within the next couple of years.

Aerosmith, being a prominent band that had been riding success for decades and still had success to come, embraced the technology.  They saw the potential and used it to their advantage.  Let’s come back to the biplane that they rode in the simulation.  Incorporating the biplane of yesterday within a futuristic VR simulation showcases how quickly we’ve innovated that the ability to fly has now become commonplace.

Aerosmith’s ability to seamlessly morph their own music with VR and a love story was innovative for it’s time and like many others assumed consumer VR had arrived.  Unfortunately, they were left to dream on and wait until the VR of today.

Image Credit: YouTube AerosmithVEVO

About the Scout

Tom Buchanan

Tom is a cofounder and hardware engineer for Contact CI, a company developing VR input gloves. In his spare time he can be found playing ice hockey, rugby, or reading Ready Player One for the nth time.

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