Strumming a guitar in your bedroom or singing with a hairbrush into a mirror is one thing, but merely being asked to do the same in front of a single person can make even the most skilled of musicians a gibbering wreck. I can only imagine that for those talented enough to be among the elite of London's Royal College of Music, that sensation must be amplified.
Which is why the prestigious institute is experimenting with a virtual "concert simulator". Developed in collaboration with a Swiss conservatoire, it uses a large screen hooked up to a computer to give the musician an immersive, live-performance like atmosphere in which to play.
The simulator includes a backstage area to navigate before taking the stage (à la Spinal Tap, no doubt), an audience that slowly takes its seat, peppered with sleeping attendees, swaying fidgeting fans and idiots who forget to turn their phones off. Stage curtains and spotlights add to the sense of realism, giving performers every possible distraction they could face in a real concert scenario, triggered and controlled by Mats Küssner, the Royal College’s research associate in performance science. There's even an "Audition Mode" letting players come face to face with a panel of X-Factor style judges, preparing them for any future auditions.
Performances can be recorded (one test student noted she had failed to take a bow), while the college is also experimenting with tracking psychological and physiological factors such as breathing and heart rates. [Guardian]