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Using Music to Promote Virtual Media Engagings

Recently at the Metaverse U conference at Stanford  University, we heard a variety of presentations on the cutting edge of developing and using virtual worlds.

Once such presentation was given by Robert Hamilton and Juan-Pablo Caceres on the use of digital communication technologies to produce music around the physical world as well as within a virtual world.  You can find out more about these researchers and there work here.

What leads me to talk about it here is due to a new game I was turned on to last night — a Facebook application from developer Zwigglers.  Called Chain Rxn, the game is surprising easy — all you have to do is explode bouncing balls to create a chain reaction of explosions, wherein each level you have to explode a certain percentage of balls.  But if you fail, don’t worry — you can always just start that level over without any adverse affects to your utlimate performance.  All the while, each explosion is accompanied by a lovely colors and soft, tingling sound, akin to how raindrops are represented in a symphony.  This game is increasingly popular, with 1.5 million users and growing daily.

This game really doesn’t offer much challenge — what it does offer is stress release.  The game play is straightforward and without the frustration of having to start over.  If you wish, you can strategize within it to gain more points.  Or you can just play to watch the explosions of pretty colors and soothing music.

Subsequently, this game is an example of the ability for music to be incorporated into virtual worlds, as discussed by Hamilton and Caceres.  So far the game appears to have a big draw due in part to the incorpration of music in it.  The game is a stress releaser for the office worker looking for a quick break that offers more than just a quick laugh or thrill.  The music is soothing, cheerful, and always different, because how you explode the balls and the chain reactions that result are always different.  This game shows that digital games don’t have to be all about chaotic cacophonies of explosions of light and sound.  They can also be about soothing music that adapts to what you do.

Imagine adding in soothing music to common digital interactions, from checking email to visiting a website.  Imagine a 3D Pandora or Last FM. Imagine being able to walk into a room that looks like your office, only instead of the buzz of the air conditioner and the clankity-clank of the keyboards, the walls hum harmonious chords at your slightest touch.  What better way to disappear into a virtual world than through being soothed?

We tend to forget the importance of soothing sounds in our daily lives, as clogged as they are by the discordance of city life.   In our physical worlds we all cannot so easily produce such beautific noise — how many of us truly have the ability to sing or play an instrument as well as we’d like?  What digital communication technologies, and virtual worlds in particular, could provide us with is the ability to make the type of acoustic environment that we yearn for amongst the honking horns, the buzzing cell phones, the crying children, and the chaotic cacophony that is the modern world.

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