TL;DR. The Slashers are ambitious to create Otherwards - a multi-perspective experience involving sonic, visual and physical inputs. It is a mobile app that reshapes music in your surroundings, with ‘Cook’ - tools for creating musical AR spaces, and ‘Drift’ which places songs along random walking paths to engage fans. With nearly 100,000 daily uploads, artists need to activate listeners with unique, rewarding experiences now more than ever!

The backbone of the idea is to create personalized music experience and offer audiophiles a more exciting and engaged listening session. By extracting information from a listener's physical surroundings such as built-in sensor data and GPS readings, the software will use the information to trigger changes to a pre-loaded track in the background, and the output serves as a personalized "remix" for a particular listener in a particular environment.

Etymology of Otherwards -feat. Devin 😈

"The only thing is, I picked the word, not knowing it was a word at all.

The album is tentatively titled "In Other Words" so I was thinking to call the app "Otherwords" ...to make an inside joke (You listen to "in Other words" in "otherwords") get it ? But then found that SEO-wise, "other words" is all over the place, so misspelled it to "otherwards" which is an old version of "otherwise", interestingly enough, I moved back to NYC from an area called 3rd Ward Houston, so I thought it was fitting as well, thinking about direction: backward, forward, toward, etc. Going to other wards is like going to other areas, which is something that the app could potentially lead to, like on a dérive."

However, no matter how complex the sonic experience becomes, the essence of these sin-waves is their prescribed sequentiality along the dimension of time. Although it is absolutely not necessary to feast every single type of senses, we could appreciate that an ensemble of non-linearity could create much more fantastic and exciting serendipity.

Otherwards provides an opportunity for people to be physically active in the outside world or in their own homes on AR adventures by placing an artist’s music in unique augmented spaces, arranging and manipulating music spatially. Our application provides an accessible way for fans to interact with an artist’s content: transforming a passive experience into a fresh, surprising, and active engagement.

Inspirations and Inception. Drawing inspiration from the concept of "dérive", we design the music experience to be further coupled with a "walk tour" around the city. The software generates a random route by prompting the listener a random direction and distance to follow along. Considering our brain's incapability of complete randomization, the prompted route helps the listener to break out of "the path of least resistance" and encourages our rebellion against the increasingly predictable and monotonous experience of everyday life in advanced capitalism. (In the meantime of rebellion against the grid system of urban geography by leveraging computer-assisted randomness, we choose to comply with the rules and the virtual authority set up by the software. A listener could also explore this thought provoking undertone. Is anarchism even logically possible?)

In addition, the spontaneous change of ambient in the streets in return serves as new triggers to change the music, thus creating an "infinite album" to stimulate even more explorations. The change then surfaces the background soundtrack into our active consciousness and transforms the day-to-day walking activity from a procedure into a whole achievement of its own. This can be quite magical; even turning around at the same street corner could bring different little discoveries to our attention. After that we could all appreciate how many interesting details of our surroundings are filtered out by our numb, boring and utilitarian consciousness. With each component feeding into and reinforcing each other, a subtle but incredible experience is born.

A 2004 poster announcing a large-scale dérive in London, led by a psychogeographical society (wikimedia)

Previous attempts on the "dévire" concept include applications such as Drift and Dévire App, both of which merely incorporate textual instructions for the route that could be seen as hard interruptions of the overall experience. Our proposal will instead try to merge and coerce the variety of inputs into a wholesome Unity of sensual delight (pun intended).

Technologies. The AR application uses GIS, Computer vision for AR, and spatialization for audio to create a guided listening experience for the user to go beyond one-dimensional listening into a three-dimensional sensorimotor experience. Technically, Unity game engine would be a volatile platform for the development, as it has great advantages and is fairly easy to operate for the visuals, and it supports multiple operating systems for both desktop and mobile devices. In addition, to introduce more assertive interactions, we are exploring the area of augmented reality to enable the input from a user themselves. The go-to AR library for Unity -- AR Foundation has many advanced features such as plane detection and face/body tracking for us to draw ideas from for user inputs, and will generate incredible fun for both the users and the developers.


Placing designer artifacts in physical space


Sensor triggered manipulation on a audio track

Strategy and Business. We could see the emergence of the need for such experience in an ultra-modernized and technology-coated world, when human beings are reduced to a sedentary entity in display with all the portals to the virtualized humanity. With remoteness and isolation becoming the new norm under the pandemic, experiencing live music is highly curtailed, there is a real need for musicians to create new ways to connect to people. We wish to re-establish the connection between artists and listeners, and between us and the real world in a safe way.

Therefore, we are also considering adding a social component to the functionality, by creating a multiplayer mode where users could share an interesting session and invite a friend to join the walk with them in person. For artists' part, the application could serve as a great elicitation of new collaborations within the music industry, as well as those between visual artists, designers and musicians. Coupling the sharing functionality, it might as well become the new norm of experiencing live music!

Further elaborating on the interaction perspective, we are thinking of gamification through interactable game objects such as pick ups. For example, when a listener walks past Carnegie Hall, place a violin object on the screen and change the reverb of the music to make it chamber-like when the listener grabs it.

A possible model for revenue is to create a tiered experience on listeners' side. For the premium tier, we could offer themed walks accompanied with curated choices of music. This in certain degree transforms the software into one less experimental but with longer life time. As users grow out of the novelty phase, curated walks can offer a denser experience with more knowledge for them.

The team is currently experimenting with all the possibilities of the AR magic and further instantiating the details of the functionalities and use cases. Please check out more October-December's blog posts for detailed technical architecture and loads of demos!