AmazeVR “Hottieverse” concert review
A few days ago I was given a free key to experience the virtual reality concert of artist Megan Thee Stallion on the platform AmazeVR. And of course, I watched it.
Amaze is a company that is in the VR field since a lot of time. I remember reviewing its application when it was a catalog of high-quality VR videos for Gear VR. I loved it and I also had a great time interacting with the team.
The old Amaze logo
Then, a few years ago, they pivoted towards virtual reality concerts. In this field, they took a hybrid approach: instead of just letting people enjoy VR concerts at home, they proposed at first something like a moving truck where people can go and watch them, and then later also the possibility of enjoying them in physical theaters. I remember seeing a few weeks ago a Linkedin post by Joanna Popper where she showed herself in a theater full of people wearing a VR headset, all together enjoying an AmazeVR concert experience at the same time. She reported having had a lot of fun.
The concert that AmazeVR is proposing now is the one shot with award-winning singer Megan Thee Stallion. Since she calls her fans “Hotties”, the experience has been dubbed “Hottieverse”. I work with virtual concerts, I tried a preview of the experience at SXSW, and since now it’s on the Quest Store (via App Lab), I was very curious to try it. That’s why when I was proposed a free key, I immediately accepted it.
Before continuing this review, let me do a quick disclaimer: I’m collaborating with Vrroom, which is a company working on creating virtual events, so technically a competitor of Amaze. But I’m more for collaboration than competition, so don’t think even for a split second that my review is going to be influenced by this.
The choice of the artist
I would like to start this review by commenting on the bold move of choosing Megan Thee Stallion as the star of this performance. I think it’s been good and bad at the same time.
I love that Amaze went for a bold move. They haven’t called David Guetta, like all the other 3478 virtual platforms where he had a concert (I think that all the “metaverse world creator” applications should add an “add David Guetta” shortcut from now on), nor they went for some easy artist. They went for someone pretty explicit, and even the name “Hottieverse” is a bit strong. I love this, they showed courage, but at the same time, this can also “scare” part of the audience.
I mean, while I was watching the concert, I was a bit puzzled by seeing the singer half naked half of the time twerking while repeating the N-word once every 5 seconds (a bit as much as marketers say the M-word), saying continuously that she’s a bitch or a toth (she has a long list of synonyms for that), or talking about her boobs or her ass. The highest moment in the concert for me was when she sang a song whose lyrics were like this “PUSSY PUSSY PUSSY P-U-S-S-Y” and whose dance was Megan rubbing her hand between her legs. I mean, I’m happy that she and I share a common passion, but honestly, this is not the first thing I expect when I’m attending a virtual concert. But on the bright side, now I’m sure I’ve learned well how the spell the word “pussy”. Education in virtual reality proved effective once again.
Find the clothes (Image by AmazeVR)
She is very explicit, and in the song that is given as a free preview on App Lab, she has spared a lot of money on the fabric of her clothes, so a lot of skin is visible. Ben Lang commented on Twitter that this is probably the closest to adult content you can reach on App Lab now. And I confirm that the experience has anyway an intrinsic erotic value (even if it never crosses the line).
I found all of this very interesting, and as I said, on the one side I appreciate always who does something above the lines, on the other side, since this is the first experience that Amaze is launching on the stores, probably I would have proposed something less explicit. Like David Guetta.
A little sample of the concert
The application works as follows: you enter it, and you find yourself in front of a sort of gaming console, with around you a few cartridges. Every cartridge is a song of the experience (for a total of four), with two exceptions: one plays the full concert, and another one is a video of the behind-the-scenes. The problem is that nothing explains this, so I watched all the cartridges of the songs believing they were extras, and then when I played the concert, I found myself re-watching all the songs. A bit of explanation maybe would have helped. By the way, the idea of the cartridges is nice and works very well. Only one song is available on App Lab for free, the others can be purchased for like $7 as in-app-purchases.
The console that lets you enter the experience (Image by AmazeVR)
When you put a cartridge in, you see some “hacking animations” (very cyberpunk) that tell you that you are entering the Hottieverse, and then you enter the real scene of the song. Every scene of the concert has this structure:
An animation during which you hover over an environment and you move towards your destination
You arrive at a circular stage, where you find the singer
She performs her song, dancing and singing
Then you move away from the stage, usually with an element that connects you to the next song (e.g. there is a blob of liquid matter generated at the end of a song that guides you to the next performance)
During the concert you can have very small interactions with your hands: e.g. in a few songs, you can shake your hands to generate something, like flames or liquid metal blobs. In another song, you can play some sort of small electric drums. Apart from this, the whole concert is focused on the artist and her performance, which in some songs just feature her, while in others also show some dancers that dance with her.
Me generating flames with my hands
Before the whole concert, there is also a tiny game where you can point at elements with your head and shoot them by shaking your hands. I think the purpose of this moment was to give interactivity to the experience, but it is so simple and so unrelated to all the rest that I am honestly completely puzzled by the addition.
The capture of the artist is something truly amazing. The quality of the image of her is impressive, and I would say almost unprecedented in a VR concert. When the camera is close to her, you can almost see the wrinkles on her skin: if the scale of the character wasn’t slightly wrong, you would really believe that Megan Thee Stallion is in front of you. The job that AmazeVR did in this sense is fantastic, and I hope to see more high-quality captures of this kind in VR.
For me, the representation of the singer has been truly the highlight of this whole experience and I compliment a lot Amaze for what it did.
3DOF + 6DOF
The capture is also one of the biggest problems of the concert. It has been performed with stereoscopic cameras, so it is 3DOF. It is not a volumetric video, but a stereoscopic one. This means that if you move your body, Megan moves together with you, and the magic is immediately broken. The first time I saw her amazing digitalization I wanted to go close to her, but I immediately noticed that I could not and so I started feeling GearVR vibes all again.
I started looking around, and I could see that many of the places where I was in were actually part of a video. I didn’t notice it in the beginning because the graphical quality is very high, but then I started playing attention, and I saw compression artifacts. Looking behind me, I saw that there was nothing, with a smart “disgregation” animation that was separating the world I could see in front of me from the total black I had behind me. Basically, I was watching an elaborated 180 VR video. This was a disappointment for me about this experience.
AmazeVR tried anyway to give something more to the user than just a video, so there are also interactive elements. In one of the scenes of the concerts, for instance, there are some liquid metals blob that fly around you, and you can touch them and feel vibrations. Or you can play some electronic drums that appear around you. Or you can shake your hands and see some special fx. So there are some 6DOF virtual elements you can interact with. They tried to mix the two components to obtain a cool result, but I think that there is still a lot needed to improve this mix.
The lack of agency
When we propose virtual concerts, we have seen that people usually like to have interactions in the virtual worlds, and especially they like interacting with other people. Sometimes even just a ball that people can throw the one to the others can add a lot of fun to an experience. The problem with this performance is that it has none of them: it has very limited interactions and it is single-player.
I think that probably enjoying in the theaters (like Joanna did) was better, not only because of the group energy, but also because I know that AmazeVR has the technology to let you see the people around you interact with the content because I tried it in preview at SXSW. I would suggest they try to find a way to add this also to the home experience because it can add value to it.
The experience, as I’ve said, is very focused on the artist. So if you like her performance, and her twerking, then it’s amazing for you. Otherwise, you may feel the lack of “something more”.
The good thing is that anyway since every song has its own different environment, the concert has some degree of variations throughout it, so it never becomes boring or monotonous.
The use of haptics
Playing a little electronic drum and feeling my hand vibrating
If there is something that AmazeVR taught me is the power that haptics can have for these events. I think they did a great job in that. There are some events in the concerts that trigger vibrations on the controllers and this adds actually a lot of realism. I have to make my compliments to them on that because it’s been a genius idea.
For instance, one of the songs happens in a place where it is raining, and at a certain point there is a bolt of lightning, and in that moment, I felt a strong vibration on my controller, which paired with the flash of light and the sound of the thunder, made me feel shivers. I totally loved that moment.
I would bet that the graphics for this concert have been done in Unreal Engine. The graphics are nice, but sometimes it feels like some details are missing and the environment would have needed a bit more polish. Probably the purpose was not to enrich too much the environment not to distract the user from the artist, which is the center of the experience.
Amaze VR hero image (Image by AmazeVR)
I enjoyed overall watching the AmazeVR concert, and I think that it is a good start for the company in proposing VR concerts to the masses. I loved some features of it, like the stunning reconstruction of the singer, or the use of haptics. But I also think that this concert was too focused on the artist, and that there should be something more in a VR concert, like for instance more agency, more story, or the possibility of enjoying the concert in multiplayer. And especially, to make the experience more 6DOF.
I know that AmazeVR is working on improving its experiences, and I can’t wait to see its evolution in its next concert. I hope they will keep me up to date on this
If you want to see this one, you can try it for free on App Lab, and then purchase the whole concert if you liked it. Enjoy!
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