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May 2, 2018

Make trippy music in VR with pals (and OK Go)

by John_A


When I heard that OK Go frontman Damian Kulash was teaming up with VR studio Within to create an interactive music-making experience, I was stoked. But when I checked out Lambchild Superstar: Making Music in the Menagerie of the Holy Cow at the Tribeca Film Festival, I was simply bewildered. Not in a bad way, though. Although it’s not the traditional jam session I was expecting, Lambchild was still a supremely quirky and unabashedly weird trip of discovery and collaboration.

I sing and play piano, and was hoping Lambchild would be a way to rock out with my friends on actual instruments in VR. How naive. The name alone should have been a clue — this features a menagerie and a holy cow, if not at least some sort of young lamb. It’s not your grandmother’s songwriting session.

In Lambchild, you and your friends take on the form of upright walking lamb-like characters, and are surrounded by a ring of “music-making contraptions”. There’s an eel that serves as a sort of guitar, and critters jumping on pipes act as an odd faux synth. Very little of this makes sense — it’s best you don’t question each so-called instrument’s setup.

There isn’t a goal in Lambchild other than to have fun and be creative. It took me quite awhile to learn how to interact with the virtual devices, and frankly if my coworker Devindra Hardawar hadn’t been there in the simulation to guide me along, I might never have figured out what to do. Because he had checked out an earlier preview, Devindra knew which levers to pull and what animals to look out for, and got us to all the best parts. (Hint: Make sure you press the button in the middle and then run over to the cow to pull its tail. It’s worth the effort.)

That ability to share this experience is one of the highlights here, by the way. As we saw with in last year’s Life of Us, interactive multi-player VR is an elevated experience, and Lambchild builds upon this by allowing your pals to join you remotely. They can beam into Menagerie-of-the-Holy-Cow-land from whatever country or city they’re in, and you guys can have a fun playdate together. It’s like joining an MMORPG but in VR.

The version we saw is still not finished, and we can expect more improvements to come. So far, we were only able to try it out with two players at a time, but adding more participants is in the pipeline, along with other updates to the content and gameplay.

There’s no official word yet on when and where Lambchild Superstar will be available, especially since the technology required to support multiple remote players in one VR environment isn’t mature yet. When it does launch, though, get ready for a trippy blast through rainbow-colored musical farts.

Click here to read all the news from Tribeca Film Festival 2018!

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