Augmented reality allows a dead pianist to give a final performance

Augmented reality - Piano concert

The experience was meant to be an immersive way for Ryuichi Sakamoto to play for an audience again.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, a Japanese composer, died in March at 71 years old but was still able to give a final concert recently through the use of augmented reality technology.

This tech made it possible for the composer’s digital avatar to perform a piano concert for 50 minutes.

The audience was able to experience the concert in augmented reality using the Magic Leap 2 AR headset.

Interestingly, Sakamoto isn’t the only artist to have given a performance posthumously by way of a virtual avatar. In 2020, Whitney Houston went on a world tour in the form of a hologram.

Augmented reality - VR

A growing number of living artists are also finding the appeal of using technology for immersive concerts. For instance, Zara Larsson and Megan Thee Stallion both have virtual reality experiences available in Meta Quest 2 using the Amaze app.

That said, Sakamoto’s concert was somewhat different than those performers have already released in that it was designed to be a more intimate experience for the audience.

The augmented reality concert was called “KAGAMI”, which is Japanese for “mirror”.

The performance involved Sakamoto playing ten original compositions. Since the audience was wearing AR headsets, they were able to move freely throughout the concert hall to watch the virtual version of Sakamoto as he played the piano. Moreover, additional virtual objects were also added to the space. Each was inspired by the music and was allowed to float around Sakamoto.

According to Ryan Joe, a journalist who reviewed the experience in Business Insider, though the overall performance of KAGAMI was impressive, it wasn’t flawless. According to the journalist, the augmented reality display was coarse-grained and therefore restricted to a small square physical space. Moreover, by taking a closer look at the avatar that was performing, it showed that the display was artificial and digital.

New York Times reporter Max Lakin wrote that the AR experience didn’t quite achieve the same feeling of a live concert, but instead provided a feeling more comparable to a high-quality video recording.

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