With the debut of his Eminem Augmented app at Coachella last night, hip hop's not-so-merry prankster took the (somewhat revolutionary) step of embracing the machine that so many musicians have raged against -- by building an experience that actually enhances the way that modern fans see live music.
Rather than fighting the mobile phone phenomena, which has fans watching sets through the reflected glow of a cell phone's live recording, the multiplatinum megastar decided to lose himself in the moment... and own it.
"We figured, if the phones are going to be there and people are going to be putting them up in the air and looking at them anyway why don’t we provide a way to maybe change the way they’re perceiving the show," says Def Jam chief executive (and former manager for Marshall Mathers), Paul Rosenberg.
Developed by the multimedia production shop Drive Studios, Eminem's live set at Coachella introduced fans to visuals that will grace tour dates around the U.S. and Europe as rap's Duke of Detroit takes his show on the road.
The concert experience is a geo-tagged time-stamped exclusive experience that is only visible within a few hundred yards of a live show, according to Drive Studios' creative director, Rich Lee.
"Artists and bands have been freaking out about fans having this passive experience with their phones," said one person with knowledge of the artists' thinking. "We wanted to experiment with... if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Why not embrace the technology and get people deeper into the experience and more engaged in the experience if they're going to do it anyway."
The app, which launched on Thursday contained perks for festival-goers who always wanted to see rap's clown prince drop trou and dump a load of meatballs and spaghetti on them -- or view a portal to Eminem's wild world of music.
"There were ancillary pieces of content that we wanted to put into the app," says the insider. "Having fun... Joking and having this experience with his fans, that layered very nicely with the Mom's spaghetti pop-up."
The Mom's spaghetti interface took a simple image recognition feature of the universal food container used at the food stalls across the festival venue and layered Em's spaghetti tossing graphics on top of it.
For Lee, who first worked with Eminem on the "Not Afraid" video in 2010, the augmented reality app is a first step for what could become a broader portal to connect with fans.
"We started talking about getting VR and AR for a while," Lee says. "It's only recently come about that this technology has come around to the point where we feel we could pull this stuff off."
The creative team behind Eminem's events won't wade into the virtual reality vs. augmented reality debate. Rather, they say, the application that's right for the job is the one that will win out. When virtual reality can become a more communal experience, then it will have more appeal for the Marshall Mathers show.
- This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.