Imagine VR not as passive experience, but as the ability to “play” all those immersive elements – from 3D forms and architectures to spatial sound – live like an instrument. That sums up what has made the Patchathon artist intensives with PatchXR so engaging. Here’s the newest work from late this year, made in just days by invited artists, live in VR.

We’re now on the third Patchathon with PatchXR. I’ve been co-facilitator of these three events with Patch and helped them develop the format with a lot of ideas from co-founders Mélodie Mousset and Edo Fouilloux, who each also fuse artistic and technological-entrepreneurial backgrounds. For our third installment, we were lucky enough to have Nordic Game NG21 as host, based in Copenhagen but this year fully online. (That accessibility can sometimes be critical, as we’ve learned in this ongoing pandemic.)

From “Can be reclaimed” – MOWIKUS + Savages.
Baby Machine, Phivos-Angelos Kollias.

Patch is a fully modular environment – playable for newcomers but as deep as Reaktor or Max or Pd if you want it to be. The difference is, all the patching happens inside the VR environment. That means when you wire up some sample playback or a synth or sequencer, you do it with headset on. It also means that interaction happens natively in VR, as well. Adding visuals and models works in that engine, too, so even though you benefit from building forms and architecture in your conventional 3D tools, you drop it into the engine — just like a playground.

It flips the usual workflow on its head. Instead of authoring and then deploying work, you don the headset and the creation and delivery tool are all one and the same. They’re all live, all gestural or even full-body. So yes, even though you might still script or do involved 3D modeling elsewhere, not with an Oculus Rift strapped to your face, the jam with them can be live and improvisatory. That’s really a wild possibility. Patch isn’t just a virtual model of a synth, either; it’s an open-ended environment built to work natively.

Forget all this metaverse buzz for a moment. Working in this way, even for all the challenges, is something artists have long wanted to do. The first time you see 3D visuals, you immediately want to be able to play with them. I don’t even know that it’s such a technological desire. It’s because we feel music deeply, and a lot of the 3D animation looks like what we see when we close our eyes — or when we dream.

The 3D animation looks like what we see when we close our eyes — or when we dream.

Making this work with software and headsets and whatnot remains an evolving technical challenge. The Patchathons for their part are only possible because the Patch developer team put in overtime helping artists and responding to needs.

Last month I wrote up a full tour for PatchXR of the program and each artist team’s contribution – so here’s your curatorial tour of everything the artists did:

New worlds, fresh artist visions from Patchathon #3 at Nordic Game NG21

The work can feel like live music videos – even making the music video an instrument. Check out the work done by French musician and singer Louis-Louise Kay, aka MOWUKIS, with Ted Pallas and New Jersey creative studio SAVAGES. Ted and Louis-Louise met in Patchathon #2; “Can Be Reclaimed” was an invited work also assembled by SAVAGES and team in a short period of time. Keep in mind, all of this is still happening in-engine in Patch (in turn powered by Unity):

From Patchathon #3, there was also beautiful abstract work, like Pan to Pan by Ze (Zongxian Huang), assembled from a fountain of frying pan models:

Or there’s the hyperactive, ultra-saturated tropical-colored glitchy world of St. Petersburg’s Bug by Sinbiox:

And there’s many more. Check out the full tour for a description of each work (or see the summary at top).

Ana Roman (US)
Andrés Cisneros (PE)
Arkaei (PL)
Claudia Vanesa (PE)
Debmaster (DE)
Hypereikon (CL)
Julia Cremers with Charlotte Roschkach, Daniel Viladrich Herrmannsdoerfer, and Weikang Beh (DE)
Maša Dobrina (SI)
Phivos-Angelos Kollias (DE)
Sara Lisa Vogl (DK)
Sinbiox (RU)
Tim Thompson (US)
Tobi Tokamak (ES)
Ze (Zongxian Huang) (US)

You can sign up for the beta of Patch now – with a larger beta at last launching in early January 2022. Just in case you wondered what to do with an Oculus you got for Christmas or something like that, your ship just came in:

Beta sign-up

And if you’re curious what to expect, you might poke around the Patch YouTube channel for more. So one offshoot of hosting these Patchathons has been an urgent need for video tutorials and the like – and even updated documentation and functionality to respond to artists’ needs as they push the envelope of what the tool can do. If you check that channel, you’ll find everything from demos of ready-to-play EPs – think immersive album releases – to instruments made from falling marbles and envelope followers to how to move around in space:

Dig through if you like, as I can see little bits of each of those tutorials in the work above.

And enjoy; happy holiday breaks to all!