VIRTUAL DAYDREAMS: Those who see Shaun Oster, aka Doublehead, drum tonight with the Ben Wilmore Trio at Seven Bar & Kitchen will be certain of at least one thing: The man can drum. However, what they may not know is that he can do all kinds of things. He can heal you with water therapy, design a website, engineer a sustainable backyard aquaponic system, ride a gyroscope-powered unicycle, and brew an uncommonly good salted-caramel latte, and he usually does all these things within the course of an average day. Perhaps most impressively of all, however, is that he is also the creator of a virtual-reality world of his own design, soundtracked by his own music, and you are welcome to explore it on your own.
Enter Infinity Equals One VR, the world’s first virtual-reality album. Put on a pair of Oculus Rift goggles, and suddenly you are walking in a living room as Oster’s electronically tinged rock music plays. Knock on this door, and you find yourself on a tropical island; knock on that, and you are in a magic world where mushrooms shrink you to a tiny size, all while Oster’s music envelopes you in its Super Mario 64–esque digital world.
Oster, a spiritual techie and scientific shaman both, likes to live on the frontiers, and saw in the new Oculus Rift virtual-reality device unexplored opportunities for promotion. “What’s a creative, clever way to grab people’s attention?” he wondered, and looked toward the 200,000 people with Oculus Rift development kits “waiting for something new.” He researched the technology needed for virtual reality apps and found a programmer in Taiwanese developer Kevin Sang, who helped Oster realize the world in his mind. “I realized once you get into virtual reality, you can do anything you can imagine,” he said.
Whereas other artists have used virtual reality to simulate concerts, “they’re not pushing the limit,” Oster said. “I don’t want to just be at the Radiohead concert; I want to be in Radiohead’s mind. I want an experience where you can do the impossible by listening to music, and do activities related to the words of the music.” Eventually he envisions pay doors that could open worlds to new songs and, hence, new worlds, or live rooms where users could play virtual instruments.
Oster admits it’s still in its nascent stages, as the music (made before its virtual world realization) doesn’t always fully mesh with its virtual manifestation, and some of the frame rates are of the slightly disorienting variety. But Oster’s likely on to something with his invention, which opens up worlds of possibility for musicians. Musicians could create expansive virtual-reality experiences to supplement their music, backstage passes into the digitized manifestation of inspiration.
Though he may seem something of an Inspector Gadget in his reverence for all things newfangled and untapped, Oster’s creativity is rooted in an earthy spirituality. “Music is how I talk to God; it’s my church, getting out of the way and letting something greater than me speak through me,” he said. He credits renowned mycologist Paul Stamets for his positive outlook on technology. “Life itself created a sentient network that expands the entire planet so that certain life forms are totally capable of knowing what’s going on,” Oster said of the life-supporting networks of mycelia from which forests spring, and their digital analog, the Internet. “I have great hope we’re going to evolve into using the Internet to increasing our awareness.” (Not surprisingly, mushrooms play a big role in the virtual musical world of Doublehead.)
With his virtual world, Oster is opening doors to original possibilities, and they’re yours to explore. Infinity Equals One VR is available to experience for Oculus Rift users and can be downloaded via share.oculus.com/app/infinity-equals-one-vr. Hear Oster play with the Ben Wilmore Trio at Seven Bar & Kitchen (224 Helena Ave.) on Thursday, October 15, 8-11 p.m. Call (805) 845-0377 or visit sevensb.com for more information.