Lifestyle & Culture

Childish Gambino’s AR Experiment is Making Music More Interactive

Donald Glover’s musical alter ego has created an augmented reality (AR) mobile application to let music fans discover his latest track together.

19.06.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND
Photo by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

Is there anything Donald Glover can’t do? The US auteur has written for hit shows 30 Rock, Community, and mega films Deadpool and Spiderman. He’s acted as Lando Calrissian in a Star Wars movie and voiced Simba in a new version of the Lion King. He’s won an Emmy award for directing Atlanta, a comedy-drama series he also stars in.

And then, almost as a footnote, there’s his mind-boggling musical success. Glover’s alter-ego Childish Gambino made musical history this year with This Is America, the first ever rap song to win both Record and Song of the Year at the Grammys. The video for the track built up 400 million views on YouTube in just three months.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that Glover is committed to seeking out and backing projects that test the boundaries of creativity. His latest endeavour? Using Augmented Reality (AR) in a multiplayer experience that lets mobile users listen to his newest track as they turn their offices or gardens into a psychedelic space environment.

This is entirely new ground for music. AR has been used to great effect in real-world gaming — Pokemon GO led to thousands of people roaming the streets to find Pokémon hiding in their local parks and museums, and a similar project is about to be released for the Harry Potter universe — but the typically short attention span reserved for music, worsened by the rise of music on demand, has somewhat limited technological exploration. AR, much like music, works best when enjoyed with others, but the industry has so far been unable to link together the obvious bedfellows.

That’s why the multiplayer aspect of PHAROS AR, enabled through the use of Google’s ‘cloud anchors’ to match the digital and physical worlds, is so important. Users are able to see the ‘portal’ in the same place, and enjoy the new track, Algorhythm, together.

Creative agency MediaMonks, which designed the app for Glover, is aware of this power. In a video explaining how the app was made, Creative Director Eric Wagliardo stressed that any brand that gets in early with AR will be “poised for the next step when it really becomes consumer friendly and ingrained in consumer behaviour”.

Glover evidently has his eyes set on this “next step”. Speaking to Fast Company, he outlined his ambitions for the application. “AR technology is going to play a huge part in everyday life in the future,” he said. “The idea for the app was to give people a small taste of the future”.

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