World’s first voice-interactive digital portrait lets you chat to music legend Nile Rodgers
The pioneering project has been developed by digital sound archive Forever together with Universal Music, the National Portrait Gallery and Abbey Road Studios.
- Jenny Brewer
- 24 March 2021
- Reading Time
- 2 minute read
In the Room with Nile Rodgers is sort of like the Bandersnatch of music journalism. Billed as the world’s first voice-interactive portrait, through an online platform viewers can voice a question to the Chic legend via their microphone, and watch him answer in real time. The project is created by Forever, a tech company that aims to bring audiences closer to historical figures via its sound and film archive projects, in collaboration with major institutions including Universal Music, the National Portrait Gallery and Abbey Road Studios.
The video portrait is the result of two days of interviews, 350 questions and two 8K 3D film cameras, aiming to create an experience as close to actually meeting Rodgers as possible – albeit from the comfort of your sofa/desk chair. In a statement about the project, Forever pitches it as a “rich new form of voice-interactive content” that aims to boost audience engagement in culture “at a pivotal time for the creative industry”.
There are more than five hours of high definition footage of Rodgers possible to discover, and depending on what question you ask, you could find out more about his big break, his work with Bowie, Lady Gaga or Daft Punk, or his wider thoughts on the music industry. Having said that, the free experience only allows for three questions, while the full content will cost you £20 with 5 per cent going to the National Portrait Gallery. Later in 2021, the experience will be available as a physical VR exhibition in London.
Rodgers says the project “gives people I might never get to meet the opportunity to ask me questions and share thoughts in a completely new way. I love this because I believe that at the foundation of music are human connections and a human story that needs to be told.”
Sarah Coward, CEO of Forever, comments that voice-interactive media “will completely transform audience experiences across global industries including music, film, sport and education” and that organisations will increasingly be looking to build “powerful connections” through content such as this in a post-Covid era. This goes some way to explaining the institution’s involvement, with the National Portrait Gallery’s Denise Vogelsang adding that the gallery hopes to “harness the benefits of the latest digital technologies to inspire new audiences and explore innovative forms of storytelling.” Universal Music’s Jennifer Hills also says that, with live shows still halted, this type of project is “a new tool for artists to connect individually with the fans worldwide who support them.”
Rodgers is the first musician featured in one of Forever’s one-to-one encounters, promised as the first in a series of “new media experiences” from Forever. Its first project was with the UK National Holocaust Museum, where visitors could “meet” Holocaust survivor Steven Frank and ask him questions about his experiences.
Forever: In the Room with Nile Rodgers (Copyright © Forever Holdings, 2021)