A skull, a globe, a violin, a book, a candlestick, and some other assorted props bounce around merrily to the rhythm of some blippy-sounding synth music. Today this primitive attempt at a virtual reality music video seems campy and dated, but 20 years ago, this is what the future looked and sounded like. Over at The Verge, Adi Robertson has an affectionate look back at ’90s VR experiments and the visionaries behind them. Robertson’s particular focus is on the VR music videos created by a company called Fakespace, now known as Daydream VR. Founded by tech pioneer Mark Bolas and continued by his brother, Niko, the company may hardly be remembered in 2016, but Fakespace was “a major ’90s VR player,” according to Robertson. Fakespace’s immersive work was innovative for the time but simply not practical to bring to market, with headsets costing thousands of dollars and computers costing up to $100,000 to run the simulations. And yet, there is no denying the charm of a vintage Fakespace production like 1996’s “Still Life.” This particular music video begins with an explanation of what makes the technology so special: “Music is the driving force behind a continuous stream of stereoscopic 3-D graphics.” Here’s what that amounts to:
Another Fakespace creation, “Vacuii” from 1995, lacks the documentary preamble but is equally surreal and engaging in its own strange way. This one is even more abstract than “Still Life,” but it also features figures and objects moving to the rhythm of computerized, artificial-sounding music. Little purple dancers gyrate from within what appears to be a very fancy bathroom, while spotted cubes (not exactly dice) soar over their heads. Who wouldn’t cough up a few thousand dollars to experience something like that in immersive 3-D?