VR Opens Up New Possibilities For Disabled Musicians
Infinite Instrument’s customizable interface is proving to be an effective tool for physically disabled musicians.
Performance Without Barriers, a research group specializing in digital music interfaces for disabled musicians, has begun employing VR technology as part of their project to empower musicians suffering from physical disabilities that prevent them from being able to operate conventional instruments.
Utilizing a VR application referred to as EXA: The Infinite Instrument, the team — composed of electronic engineers, sonic arts researchers, computer scientists, immersive content designers, and a soloist ensemble — are building unique audio interfaces designed to accommodate specific disabilities. Partnering with Drake Music NI, a charity organization that supports disabled musicians, the development team went to work creating a series of VR-based music interfaces for their group of disabled performers.
“The instrument was developed with able-bodied musicians in mind, so we designed it to take into account different types of mobilities,” spoke Matilde Meireles, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Sonic Arts Research Centre, School of Arts, Queen’s University Belfast and Franziska Schroeder, Senior lecturer, School of Creative Arts, Queen’s University Belfast. “This led to one of our musicians with cerebral palsy playing a new VR instrument that was specifically designed to take into account her expressive upper body movements. It did not require her to use fine motor precision in her arms or fingers, which she does not possess.”
“Another example of our collaborative VR design was working with a blind performer. Key to this musician were his virtuosic skills on the clarinet. The idea was to build on his expertise and adapt and enhance his musical performance skills using VR technologies.”
Available now via SteamVR, EXA: The Infinite Instrument allows you to compose, record, and perform original music using custom-built expressive instruments. The software includes a slew of options for creating your very own ‘impossible band,’ such as looping, effects controls, and much, much more. Multiplayer functionality allows band mates to jam out together in a shared space and even use one another’s instruments. Once you’ve composed your masterful piece, record your session with multiple in-app cameras so the rest of the world can get down to your sick beats. You can also check out the workshop to try out other players bizarre instruments.
EXA: The Infinite Instrument is available now via SteamVR for $14.99.