On the road to the metaverse and virtual reality (VR). VRrOOm and its founder Louis Cacciutto they have a clear idea of where they want to take us. Launched in 2016, the company is today a reference in VR and special effects entertainment. This year, VRrOOm is turning two: after a fundraiser in May, it recently announced the development of its own metaverse, with a first prototype coming soon. Here again, the course set by Louis Cacciuttolo is clear: to become the YouTube of the metaverse.
Impossible not to mention. You have worked closely with him for several years Jean Michel Jarre, one of the legends of French electronic music, to offer extraordinary artistic experiences, where tangible reality and virtual reality merge. How did it start?
It all started with Covid. For live performance, the closure was a disaster: there was no more stage, festivals were stopped, everything was frozen. This is what led me to create the first social virtual reality festival on the VRchat platform. Since the event was going well, I called the Ministry of Culture and said: “Covid is not a fatality for artists. Look what we can do.” Teasing them, on May 31st they called me to ask what we could do in VR for the 2020 music festival, as they still didn’t know how it would unfold. I asked them for two days of reflection, but when I hung up I thought about what we could do and, above all, with whom. It took a unifying, transgenerational, innovative artist at heart to agree to play the virtual reality game.
And here rightly think of Jean-Michel Jarre….
I got the email from his agent. The same evening we exchanged, the next day Jean-Michel gave the deal. It was crazy. Neither Eve nor Adam knew us and we had three weeks to put together a concert in the metaverse. He played from his studio, while in the courtyard of the Palais-Royal, guests equipped with headsets could participate in virtual reality. The recording was shared at the same time on social networks. We still had 600,000 viewers that day and more than 1.2 million in replays in the space of 24 hours. We bring back the New Years cap with Welcome to the Other Side. This time we broke the world record for the most streamed concert with 75 million views. All the elements were there to make it work. It was already the new year. Afterwards, the virtual concert took place in the heart of Notre Dame, in a capital under curfew. The city hall of Paris was behind us, the diocese too. The Vatican even tweeted…
Virtual is especially important in this type of situation, it allows you to escape the constraints of the real world…
This is exactly what fascinates me about VR. I created and then directed for 20 years the Théâtre du Minotaure, in Beziers. It had a gauge of 200 seats. I immediately saw in virtual reality the opportunity to break the limitations that prevented me from reaching the public and making profitable productions. For a small enterprise, it is especially complicated. Social virtual reality blows away all of that while adding something else. Before, I did not see a medium capable of transcribing the emotion that can be felt in a physical place, when it is side by side with the rest of the room, facing the artist. We are not in front of the screen, we are on the screen. It’s something that only virtual reality or Web3 can offer today.
You’re just working in your own metaverse. What will it consist of?
The idea is to create a kind of YouTube metaverse. At the moment, most of the platforms that exist are not designed for live performance. Every time we have to hack the system to achieve something. And the result is always a little strange. That’s why we’re building our platform to integrate tools tailored for artists. Artists will be able to create their own universe with a few clicks, and have at their disposal all the sets of stage effects, light and sound effects, to create the show they want, whether they are professional or independent, beginners or confirmed. Priority is given to accessibility. It is important to democratize these tools, to create, but also to earn money, through tickets, trading or NFT.
Emmanuel Macron makes it a point of honor for Europe to have its own metaverse. You subscribe to this process. Why is this so important?
Clearly there are issues of sovereignty. We’ve seen what happened to the Internet. We are ultra dependent on very large foreign platforms and this should no longer happen with the metaverse. The stakes, certainly financial, but also of freedom of expression, are huge. The problem is that to build a sovereign European metaverse, VRrOOm will not be enough. Platforms will have to work in interaction, be robust and above all adapted to the needs of artists. At the moment, this does not happen anywhere.
You’ve branched out with concerts, but what other art forms could benefit from virtual reality?
During the NewImages festival, in 2020, a hybrid contemporary flamenco performance was proposed. On stage, a dancer held a Quest headset and two controllers. Behind her, a screen displayed a scene that evolved with the music. For those who participated in virtual reality, the dancer was represented by moving particles. The device was also very simple, because technically limited and very beautiful. We also worked on a stand-up, with an actress who gave a show on VRChat. She really captured the situation, the lack of expression of the avatars, to make something funny. Like the dance company, it relied on the limitations currently burdening virtual reality to create a relevant show. Of course, facial expressions, movements will gradually gain fidelity and realism, being easier to produce. These advances, along with public adoption of the technology, are a step in the right direction.
Exactly what is missing today for virtual reality headsets to penetrate more into French households?
The technology itself. Wearing a virtual reality helmet remains a pain, even for me who loves it. After two or three hours, we can’t take it anymore. We are all waiting for augmented or virtual reality glasses, in short, lighter devices. There is also the issue of price. In terms of content, broadcasting hybrid shows, which can be distributed on different platforms at the same time, is a very powerful evangelistic tool. On the “Welcome to the otherside” facebook live, we could read many comments from intrigued netizens who wanted to try a more immersive experience.
Speaking of which, Jean-Michel Jarre will accompany the release of his next album “Oxymore” on October 21st with a virtual reality experience, OXYVILLE. VRrOOm is once again in the works. What can we expect?
The experience lasts forty-five minutes, like the album. Each part corresponds to a neighborhood of the city where you can freely roam. Jean-Michel Jarre appears on giant screens. Everything is black and white, in a graphic mix between SinCity and Metropolis. We wanted the experience to be very easy and fluid for anyone and playable on the Quest headset. After all, this city, where there are many things to do, to explore, surprises but also eyeballs for fans, weighs only 30MB. Both technically and creatively, we took things too far.