A Metaverse For The Performing Arts: ImmerSphere Democratizes AR Access, Restores Creator Compensation, And Revolutionizes Virtual Performance

ImmerSphere is a new virtual realm where curators and performers can create novel combinations of musical virtuosity and inspiring settings. 

Made up of Spheres, 3D audio and video environments, ImmerSphere lets you experience a piano duet on the surface of the moon or witness an Irish folk jam under the sea. It might be a sunny day in Tuscany with music to match, a drumming session from a little-known corner of Accra, or an indie rock set from the back of a historic bar, with just you and one of the finest bands on the planet.

Each Sphere within ImmerSphere blends 3D sights and ambient sounds with a high-caliber performance. Visitors scroll through a selection of Spheres on their smartphones or tablet, and as a Sphere catches their eye, they tap on it. As their chosen world envelops them, their device becomes the window into this new environment, and the performers appear directly in front of them.

Focusing first on the performing arts community, ImmerSphere aims to empower creators and curators in the metaverse. Presenters can buy turnkey products–such as Walking Concerts, Encore Series, and AR Collectibles–to test the waters. Once they establish fluency, they can license the ImmerSphere platform itself and build out their own virtual performance venues and content collections, creating new ways for their communities to engage with artists, new formats for performance experiences, and new revenue streams.

The idea for ImmerSphere emerged two years ago, when VR/AR tech experienced significant breakthroughs, just as performers and arts centers were scrambling to find a path forward amid COVID. At the time, founder and CEO Oni Buchanan—published poet, concert pianist, and founder/director of the artist management company Ariel Artists—stared into the abyss of the pandemic, with its total collapse of in-person performances. And a new idea stared back. 

“When concerts were canceled and all of us were isolated across the globe, I began to imagine a new combination of AR experiences that could reconnect artists with presenters and audiences,” Buchanan recounts. “I had already broadcast tiny holograms of performers onto my desk or kitchen table; I had walked through shimmering AR portals that allowed me to enter a 360 space; and I had experienced the magic of geospatially pinning a virtual object to a real-world set of coordinates. To create something specific to performance, I wanted to merge all three, placing a hologram of a performer inside a 360-degree space, and have that combination pinned to coordinates in the actual world. Listeners could undertake a journey corresponding to the performance program in some illuminating way.”

The artists on the Ariel Artists roster were up for the challenge. From their individual quarantines, they began to transform apartments into green screen studios and record some live takes of repertoire. Concert presenters, with their venues shuttered, were also up for experimenting with something new. They provided 360-degree photos of the inside of their concert halls, eager to try a new way of gathering to hear a performance. They nominated their communities’ most beloved performers to the platform, broadening the types of performance and connecting their artists to new creative opportunities and revenue. Performers themselves also began to harness the capacity of the 360 environment to contextualize their music, tell stories, and take their audiences on a journey through the Spheres.

Getting visitors and arts lovers on this journey is remarkably simple. They can jump into a Sphere using the most ubiquitous AR-capable devices on the planet, smartphones and tablets, a key democratizing feature for the platform. “Accessibility is huge for presenters, huge for fans, and huge for artists,” explains Buchanan. “The app is intuitive. You don’t need any complex equipment or hardware or lengthy tutorial to get started. Billions of people already have a metaverse portal in their pocket.”

The vision running behind the Spheres reflects Buchanan’s deep understanding of what feeds creativity among artists and creators, and among curators. From the outset, paying creators fairly for their content has been an established, non-negotiable component of ImmerSphere. Artists receive a fee for their performance each time it is broadcast in a Sphere. They are compensated at a level similar to what they might receive for an in-person performance, not what they might earn in livestream tips or streaming revenue. “Creator compensation should not be an afterthought,” states Buchanan. “We’ve built it into our model.”

ImmerSphere has also differentiated itself from other virtual platforms by including performing arts presenters as key advisors and beta testers. “We’ve built our approach thanks to partnerships with high-profile presenters,” Buchanan notes, “tapping into their curatorial expertise and long-cultivated communities of arts lovers who trust their vision.” 

Thanks to this guidance, ImmerSphere is made to function as a metaverse pied-a-terre for the performing arts. Presenters access a palette of presentation formats that enhance their core live offerings, enabling them to establish new series, present more diverse content, reach new audiences, and initiate new revenue streams. “The good thing about the metaverse is that it’s inspired arts organizations and presenters to get more creative in their digital programming,” Buchanan says. “We’ve laid the groundwork in the metaverse early, to support artists and presenters in a very deliberate way.”

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