A lot of hype has surrounded the virtual reality software Oculus Rift, but few of the haphazard projects integrating the new technology have piqued our interest quite as much as the VR interface design from Byron Mallett called Pensato. Mallett’s design brings together Ableton Live and Oculus Rift to tackle the limitations faced in modern music production, and its future possibilities seem like something pulled straight from a George Lucas dream.
The possibilities that Pensato introduces have the capability to change how producers and DJs approach the entire music creation and performance process. Physical restrictions (e.g. knobs, buttons, faders, patches, controllers, etc.) would be replaced by Mallett’s custom made VR gloves. With the gloves on, users can manipulate virtual space in front of their eyes to act like a controller so that even spectators can appreciate the music process, as opposed to the commonplace and stoic DJ performances seen from behind the cover of a DJ booth or machine.
As seen below in Mallett’s demo video of the system, Pensato is still at a very early stage of development. Mallett’s hand movements are not as fluid as a DJ moving a fader or twisting a knob on a controller, but the VR system brings in an expressive element that controllers lack and in which fans can emotionally connect to the creation process.
Pensato is not the first technology to attempt to free producers from the rigid confines of computers and controllers, nor will it be the last. Only a couple years prior to Mallett’s project, English composer Imogen Heap introduced her Mi.Mu gloves. Her gloves rely solely on the movements of the artist and do not use virtual projections as seen with Pensato, but maybe the link to the next wave of live performances can be found between both of these innovative designs.