The Who have released a virtual reality app, which allows fans to explore the band's catalogue. It's available as an smartphone and tablet app now, with a version available for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset when it becomes commercially available next year.
The app was launched at the Goldhawk Club, scene of many of The Who’s early gigs, in the band’s old stamping ground of Sherpherd’s Bush. It was attended by the likes of Roger Daltrey, Who manager Bill Curbishley, turntable legend Grandmaster Flash, and the local scooter club.
Attendees were able to test the Oculus Rift version of the app, which was built by Immersive, who’ve also developed an app featuring Ian Dury’s lyrics. The Who app allows users to explore a virtual world full of familiar band landmarks, as well as purchase tickets and merchandise. As the wearer travels through a digital environment they’re able to view pictures from Daltrey’s personal archive, as well as change the mix of songs by turning their heads to look at separate instruments as they hover in the air.
Outlining Immersive’s role in creating the app Daltrey said, “I’m very proud of the guys, they’ve done a really good job. Raising money for this kind of thing is very, very difficult cos you are taking chances. Well, that’s what the Who were always about. Taking chances.”
Daltrey tested the headset while sitting astride a vintage Vespa, and admitted, “You know, I’ve never been on a bloody scooter! Everybody thinks ace faces always rode scooters. But all the serious ace faces, all the good looking ones, they all had minivans… “.
The app is the brainchild of Roger’s son Jamie Daltrey, who has access to quite an exclusive archive. “At the moment we’re putting up some unseen photos,” he says. “Then it will evolve. We’ll add video, like tour diaries from the road crew, and more music and visuals as we go along.”
A mooted title for the app had been The Whoseum. “We went through the whole range of Who puns including the Whoniverse,” says Jamie, “but we realised that we had a bit of competition there, with Doctor Who, and we don’t want to take on their fans. This app is like time machine of its own though.”
Jamie already has his next interested party lined up: hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash, who says, “This technology will give people access to my world, and how and why we did what we did. It’s from the artist to the fan, with no filter in-between.”
Oculus Rift was originally a Kickstarter project, successfully raising $2,400,000 (ten times the amount the founders were hoping for) in funding, before being acquired by Facebook by $2 billion in July. Developers are able to purchase kits to work on the platform, while the consumer version is expected to go on sale in 2015. It is expected to retail for about £200.
The free app is available for the iPhone, iPad and Android now. Daltrey appeared at a celebration of The Who’s music on Tuesday evening, while last week he picked up the Best Album award at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour show, for Going Back Home, his album with Wilko Johnson.