Amsterdam-based interactive designer Jonathan Puckey and Studio Moniker’s collaboration with Google’s Data Arts Team has produced a compelling experience called Dance Tonite, which runs from a single website and offers something for everyone from mobile to desktop to VR. Users with VR headsets can view and participate in an ‘ever-changing’ interactive performance of LCD Soundsystem’s single Tonite.

If you’ve tested any multiplayer VR experience that displays direct headset and motion controller movements of users in real-time, you’ll know how effectively this simple form of motion tracking brings life and personality to an avatar. Despite using just three points of reference (head & hands), our brains have the remarkable ability to interpret these animations as ‘human’, even if the avatars are nothing more than basic blocks. Dance Tonite takes full advantage of this, simplifying the avatars down to two cylinders for hands and a cone for a head.

“Normally, if you want to experience something in VR you download a giant app. But with Dance Tonite, you just click a link,” says Jeff Nusz at the Google Data Arts Team, summarizing the beauty of WebVR in a nutshell, in the ‘Making Of’ video for the project. Whether you have a VR device or not, the performance can be viewed in WebVR-compatible browsers; those with mobile headsets like Daydream or Gear VR can enjoy an immersive trip through the VR experience, and if you have a high-end headset and controllers with ‘roomscale’ capabilities you can even join in, contributing your own eight second performance which others will see.

The experience is carefully designed to engage viewers on any device, with those on 2D browsers getting an isometric viewpoint (see in your browser here), with the ability to switch to a first-person view of the performers as they turn their attention to the yellow orb (representing the viewpoint of those passively watching the performance in VR) moving through each room.

What’s particularly cool is not only how each medium offers a different experience, but also that we’re essentially looking at responsive web design which spans from mobile to desktop to VR, all from a single website.

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Extensive platform compatibility was at the heart of Dance Tonight’s development, as creator Jonathan Puckey explains in the detailed technical breakdown on Google’s developer site.

“Whatever we came up with should work on all types of VR, from the VR headsets that work with mobile phones such as Google’s Daydream View, Cardboard, and Samsung’s Gear VR to room-scale systems such as the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift which reflect your physical movements in your virtual environment,” he writes. “Perhaps most importantly, we felt it would be in the spirit of the web to make something that also works for everyone who does not own a VR device.”

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The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • Lucidfeuer

    Very interesting Web VR demo. But LCDSS in 2017…give us a break.

  • Guy Sunderland

    Awesome. Built many web VR/3D demos in the 90’s. My boss at one company was the first to put user controlled mocap data characters, into online VR/3D worlds. ‘Dance Tonite’ is the next level.In fact the phrase that leapt to mind on seeing it was (to quote a line from ‘Oceans 11’), “That’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen” (from a technical viewpoint). Looking forward to seeing what aesthetics emerge.