A dead composer lives on in augmented reality

A dead composer lives on in augmented reality

An AR concert features a recently deceased pianist giving his final performance. How immersive is this experience?

Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto may have died in March at the age of 71, but thanks to augmented reality, he has yet to give his final concert. Recently, Sakamoto's digital avatar performed a 50-minute piano recital. The audience experienced him through the Magic Leap 2 AR headset.

The mirror in augmented reality

Sakamoto is not the only deceased artist to return to the world's stages as a virtual avatar. Back in 2020, Whitney Houston's hologram went on a world tour. Even live artists are finding more and more appeal in immersive concerts. Currently, Megan Thee Stallion and Zara Larsson can be experienced in virtual reality via the Amaze app in Meta Quest 2.

Sakamoto's performance, however, is different, more intimate, and was co-created by him while he was still alive. The virtual concert is called "KAGAMI" which means "mirror" in Japanese, and features Sakamoto performing ten original compositions.

Equipped with an AR headset, the audience can move freely around the concert hall and watch the virtual Sakamoto at the piano, while virtual art objects inspired by the music float around him.

Impressive but with technical flaws

"KAGAMI" was produced by the Tin Drum production company and performed at The Shed art center in New York, among other venues. Journalist Ryan Joe describes his impressions in Business Insider.


According to Joe, while KAGAMI's overall performance was impressive, it also revealed minor technical flaws. As an example, he cites the coarse-grained AR display, which is limited to a small square area. A closer look at Sakamoto's avatar clarifies that the display is an artificial, digital object.

For Max Lakin of the New York Times, the presentation fails in its attempt to reproduce the atmosphere of a real live concert and is more reminiscent of a high-quality video recording.

Dave Simpson of the Guardian, on the other hand, found Ryuichi Sakamoto's posthumous mixed-reality concert to be an impressive 3D experience. Sakamoto's presence and music were startlingly real and moving, he said, even though the image quality could be improved.

Sources: The Shed, Business Insider, NY Times, The Guardian