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Music by VICE

Virtual Reality Transforms an Iconic Concert Hall into an Instrument

Now, you can make music by banging on the walls of a virtual version of the Sage Gateshead venue in England.

by DJ Pangburn
Feb 11 2015, 9:15pm

Images courtesy the artists, via

An iconic UK concert hall becomes a playable 3D instrument in this new app built by Mbryonic and Atomhawk Design, two creative technology studios known for their forays into immersive virtual realities. The result of creative partnership with digital arts commissioner and website The Space, Play Sage Gateshead allows users to enter a digitized version of the Sage Gateshead concert venue and essentially bang on the structure's interior elements to create percussive music.

To create Play Sage Gateshead, Mybronic and Atomhawk Design loaded the building's floorplans and location photos into the 3D modeling software Unity 3D, transforming its sleek, modern interior into something neon and futuristic, with a virtual London skyline illuminated just beyond the windows. Users simply point and click at areas they'd like to see or upon which they'd like to drum, and the app escorts them there in drifting fashion. It takes a bit to control one's virtual movement, but it's immersive enough on a laptop's browser, and probably doubly so with Oculus Rift.

Audio-wise, ambient music dominates the virtual Sage Gateshead's space. The app's percussion triggers are extracts and samples from “Ten Pulse,” a piece performed at Sage Gatesheads's 10th anniversary this past December, in which musicians banged on the venue to create music. So, when users hit a virtual mallet, or perform a drum roll or scrape, they channel the “Ten Pulse” performance, while repurposing towards an immersive new end.

“We are delighted to have been commissioned by Sage Gateshead and The Space to develop Play Sage Gateshead,” Tom Szirtes, Director of Mbryonic, said. “It is a fully immersive experience, which explores how digital technologies can be used to link the physical and virtual world. At Mbryonic we enjoy working with devices like the Oculus Rift headset to uncover new ways to create immersive experiences to make deeper connections between audiences, artists and brands.”

While principally envisioned for the Oculus Rift, Play Sage Gateshead can be played on an iPad, iPhone, or in a browser equipped with the Unity Web Player. Says  Adam Kent, Innovations Manager of Sage Gateshead, “Working on Play Sage Gateshead with Mbryonic has been a real joy for us here at Sage Gateshead. It is a very new form of commission for us and Mrbyonic’s expertise and creative flair has played a central role in bringing it to life.” Ruth Mackenzie, launch CEO of The Space, says, "I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Sage Gateshead’s 10th birthday than to transform the building into a virtual musical instrument that audiences can play from anywhere in the world."

Click here to try Play Sage Gateshead for yourself.


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virtual reality
oculus rift
sound design
Unity 3D
playable city
the space
sonic architecture
Atomhawk Design
Play Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead
music apps
virtual architecture