Drops is a new type of musical instrument, designed from the ground up for VR. It exists somewhere between a marble run and a relaxing sculpture garden. In Drops, you create compositions driven by the beat and flow of rhythmically cascading marbles as they strike multi-tonal shapes. You control the laws of physics and time, encouraging novel configurations of tempo, tone, and space.
Drops is a meditative experience, geared equally toward artists and non-musicians. Time passes quickly as your composition metamorphoses from simple beat into complex polyphonic melody.
Drops has a simple, palette based UI, similar to those used by Tilt Brush and Google shapes. Users hold a tray containing shapes in one hand, and use the other hand to grab and position those shapes in space. From the same menu they are able to save their composition, reset it, or access a short tutorial.
An advanced menu, accessed through one button on the controller, allows you to load compositions, record audio and video of your sessions to share, and tweak various audio and gameplay settings.
In addition to menu-based functionality, shapes can be stretched and compressed to modify the pitch and volume of their sounds. Many shapes twist and turn to the beat, modifying the sound of your composition as time passes.
You can also link shapes together so that when one is hit another emits a ball, creating complex chains of rhythm.
The entire experience takes place in one space – one of architectural simplicity and round shapes, inspired by the work of the great Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The center of the space is occupied by a large pool of water. The user can create and place compositions of shapes anywhere within the space. Balls create subtle ripples and splashing sounds as they fall into the water. Birds pass by overhead and sometimes come to land on the edge of the roof.
As time passes, day turns to night. Lights darken, ambient sounds change, and the sounds of the shapes shift subtly. Day and night cycles occur naturally, lasting about 5 minutes each, but can be modified to move quickly or remain frozen in time.
Drops comes with several sets of shapes, each corresponding to a unique set of sounds, and we plan to expand the number of available shapes over time. The sounds in our sound sets are designed to mix harmoniously, making it easy for anyone to create compositions that are both rich and pleasant to the ear.
Users can switch between sets of sounds at runtime to experiment with different feels for their compositions. We also plan on adding the ability for users to import custom sounds, greatly expanding the range of possible compositions and uses.
OONI is a division of Planeta, a product R&D studio based in NYC. It is a virtual reality label focusing on the fields of visual arts, music, and architecture that also makes VR viewers.