Whether you’re a maestro or musical novice, virtual reality is a great way to experiment with sound. And now, you can unleash your creativity in PatchWorld—a new ever-expanding library of tools, toys, and wild instruments you can use to make your own music on Meta Quest 2. PatchWorld combines a playful interface with production-grade sound so that everyone gets a complete, rich musical experience. You can join an underwater reggae jam, blast some hard techno beats, make polyrhythms out of rainfall, and more.
Here’s what you can expect with today’s launch:
- Three unique ready-to-play worlds (“EPs”) to explore or remix and make your own
- Block-based custom world creation
- Over 30 instruments, with more on the way
- Whimsical sound toys like rubber duckies, glass bottles, skulls, frying pans, and more
- Powerful studio-quality tools, including recreations of acid synthesizers, vintage drum machines, loopers, and chord synths
- Playable, physics-based sounds based on wind, rain, marbles, gravity, and more
- A microphone so you can record samples or sing along to your creations
- Built-in bands and characters
- Avatar customization
- 3D spatial audio and stereo mixing
We sat down with PatchXR Co-Founders Mélodie Mousset and Eduardo Fouilloux to learn more.
What was the inspiration behind PatchWorld? How (if at all) has the app changed over time?
Mélodie Mousset & Eduardo Fouilloux: We wanted to push the boundaries of what could be possible in terms of creativity. Our goal was to bring together the magic of Disney’s Fantasia, the simplicity of LEGO®, and the electronic sound exploration and craftsmanship of Pink Floyd in a universe of playful interfaces with audio-reactive spaces expanding the reach of imagination. We wanted to create fantastic worlds that come alive with music and be like the magician in Fantasia—to be at the center of the experience or the star of the show and then to let you take that world beyond just your own room.
To make this possible, we built a toolkit of blocks in VR designed to connect sound, visuals, and playful interactions in real time. The exciting part is that everything that you experience in PatchWorld is built entirely with the tool itself. This allowed us to play and tweak frequently and quickly. That original concept is still there, but there have been major iterations and explorations in our creative journey. PatchWorld represents our most accessible and stable tools after fully testing and refining with our community. We’re in the process of building even more advanced tools in PatchMaker Early Access via the same engine—that’s the bleeding-edge channel, available to testers in our community. But PatchWorld is already launching with a big set of tools; everyone can create the instruments and worlds they imagine right inside their VR headset. They can experience or remix other peoples’ creations as they search for their own personalized expression.
Because Patch users create what happens inside the platform, we expect PatchWorld to keep evolving over time—now powered by the imagination of a community.
How long was PatchWorld in development? Any favorite anecdotes you’d like to share?
MM & EF: We’ve been playing with art and music in VR for a long time. Our philosophy and toolkit have a longer story, but we really kicked off the idea and wrote it down in September 2020. We dove into full production in January 2021.
Since our team works 90% remotely (even before COVID), we decided to do the concept development in-person. We picked Lanzarote, an island in the Canary Islands. It’s a very surreal place—it’s the closest you can feel to Mars while on Earth. The magic and surrealism of that place gave us a lot of ideas and details that you see all over PatchWorld today, like the musical flowers you’ll encounter in Fluid Echoes, which were inspired by a cactus garden we used to visit a lot.
Of the three ready-to-play worlds (EPs), which is your favorite and why?
MM: I really love them all. I love how simple it is to make techno music in EP2 and how creative the Rainmaker EP can be. I’m especially into the next updates, where we’ll enable any mesh to become an instrument. That said, Fluid Echoes remains my favorite. The mechanic of these instruments swallowing bubbles is super satisfying and addictive. It’s also great to record your voice into a bubble and play with it. And I love the Nudibranch. They’re soooo cute! I still want them to be much more responsive in future updates.
EF: Building a beat with rain, sausages, and frying pans is great, but also making music with underwater flowers and bubbles that can capture sounds is magical. And playing techno in a futuristic world that dances to your beats makes me happy—I use it to jam with traditional musicians, but my favorite is to mix them into new worlds where you can have an underwater flower drum with a futuristic bassline and a beat made out of rain. It brings me back to playing with LEGO® bricks and childlike wonder about what’s possible.
How, if at all, does PatchWorld build upon your earlier work in VR? In what ways is it a departure from what came before?
MM & EF: It’s funny because the whole team comes from different backgrounds that give them unique insights into PatchWorld.
We started our official collaboration as a team with The Jellyfish, a beautiful VR experience where you can see your voice and sing out colors, all in an underwater world. Here, we began to push the ways to connect sound and visuals while putting the player in the center of the action. This was our spark to produce tools for making creation like this fun and easy. This vision has attracted a very diverse set of talents and backgrounds.
To name a few on the team side, we have people who have been dreaming their whole life of making music-related games, and now they’re really making those visuals dance. We’ve got a sound artist who’s built an operating system, sonic installations, and music instruments. Our lead engine architect was writing rocket guidance systems and gave us a huge edge when we had to port our whole engine to Meta Quest 2 while squeezing maximum performance out of the device. Our network lead was making an app during COVID to jam with friends over a network without annoying latency issues that normally plague musicians. Now, he’s solving our multiplayer and social features.
Mélodie was working on the multiplayer VR artwork HanaHana—a persistent sandbox where the player can sprout trees made out of linked hands (Inspired by Nico Robin from One Piece). It all happens inside a Dalí-esque desert, a world that hosts people around the globe and lets them co-create these surreal sculptures. We’ve taken a lot of our current style and insights from what we learned on HanaHana.
In parallel, Gad Hinkins has spent his life and career finding ways to let people create music—he’s brought a lot of immediacy and fun into the instruments. Also, his background as a musical performer has given him an unfair advantage in making the “ghosts” for the tutorials (live walkthrough performances that show how the environment works). Joel Sadler who joined the team most recently worked on making kits for kids to create computers. He believes in building great things by combining small ideas together. We can’t wait to see how he adapts the building blocks we’ve used to make PatchWorld for a broader audience. And Edo’s last project MuX built the original blocks and creative philosophy that was the starting point for our whole engine and workflow.
How did you settle on the art style for PatchWorld?
MM & EF: In our team, we’re all artists, and PatchWorld reflects that mix and liberated attitude. In the first three EPs, you can already see a range of styles. Ultimately, PatchWorld will not have just one idiom or look and sound—it’ll be a playground for creative freedom with as many visual and music styles as we have creators. That’s what patching is about: making something completely new and unique by connecting things together. It’s making something personal, something that’s really your own, even with building blocks to start with. That said, we think the common denominator will be synesthesia (the experience of multiple senses at once). There are different approaches but one bottom line. Blending dynamic sound and visuals with gestures in real time to make a full body experience—this is what XR is about, it’s native to this medium.
What kind of response have you seen to PatchWorld thus far?
MM & EF: People haven’t seen anything like this before. The mixing of fantasy with a really powerful tool is rare. We get that reaction even from people who have never played music before. Surprisingly enough, they needed to be underwater playing with fantastic instruments to get started. The thing that surprises us over and over again is the range of the creations people end up making and all the ideas they bring to the table. That’s a big part of the beauty of sandboxes, I guess!
How do you think XR will continue to change the face of music and the arts moving forward?
MM & EF: We strongly believe that we’re at the beginning of a paradigm shift. The possibility to step into your creation and create from within will open up new ways of thinking, collaborating, communicating, and inventing. Even at this early stage, it’s already possible to imagine a next-generation medum. It’s the same as how adding motion to pictures created cinema—we see a new format for creativity that is socially immersive and responsive in real time .
Imagine growing up and seeing it as totally normal that you’d join a drum circle with people from around the world or create virtual castles with your friend from across the Atlantic. Your definition of what’s possible will be much different from what we know today.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
MM & EF: With our future updates, we’ll start releasing blocks and features from our “building tools” that we call PatchMaker. If anyone is interested in playing with the full toolset, you’ll soon be able to apply to our Early Access creator program and join our community of super-creators who have been helping us to shape the building blocks for sound visuals and interaction and what PatchWorld is today.
You can also join our Discord channel and let us know what you would like to play with next in PatchWorld and talk to our community of creators.
We’d also like to thank our existing community and supporters. We look forward to keep patching with you.
Check out PatchWorld on Quest 2 today.