How The Emerging Tech Of ‘Mixed Reality’ Is Making Music Education Accessible For Everyone

06.29.18 3 months ago

Teomirn concept image, courtesy Teomirn

Do you know how to play any instruments? If not, what’s holding you back? Is it time? The cost of instruction? Do you find music theory too difficult? Or is music education severely underfunded in your area? As technology becomes more and more ingrained into our daily lives, the potential applications for virtual and mixed reality to advance both music education and an appreciation of the craft are increasing dramatically.

Though holographic technology is still on the verge of becoming widely available to the everyday consumer, recent efforts by manufacturers to drop the price of headsets means it’s only a matter of time before there’s one in every household. While there’s no mass market holographic music instruction app currently on the market taking people by storm, we can look to current trends in music education and technology to see that it’s only a matter of time before you’re learning piano with the help of a Microsoft Hololens.

How companies have already managed to find success in the digital realm when it comes to musical education can tell us a lot about the ways we can expect holographic technology to also meet and exceed those needs. Consider the success of YouTube-channel-turned-tech-company, The Hoffman Academy, which helped pioneer the idea of online music lessons before they were even thought possible.

Starting in their living room, Joseph Hoffman and his wife Kelly grew a small children’s music lesson company in Portland, Oregon into a proper school that now teaches 300 students, all the while giving their lessons away for free online.

A few years into the private lesson business, Hoffman explains their epiphany: “My wife and I realized that some people were getting priced out of piano lessons.” That’s when Kelly Hoffman suggested putting lessons online despite the scarcity of online education options ten years ago and Joseph’s initial hesitancy.

The Hoffman Academy channel now has over 100,000 subscribers from all around the world. In the 8 years since they uploaded their first video in 2010, their library has grown to over 200 free video lessons. Additionally, the Hoffman Academy incorporated a web app into their teaching practice, which gamifies the drilling, repetitive aspects of piano education — much like language app Duolingo — allowing users to track their progress and practice their skills between video lessons. The games combined with videos lessons further the “Hoffman Method,” an approach to teaching they pioneered which encourages students to learn the fundamentals of piano playing by using contemporary songs and gives students the space to write their own music.

At the moment, there’s no holographic component to the Hoffman Academy’s approach, but Hoffman says that his company “believes strongly in making use of all of the best available tools for the good of the students. So any time a new tool comes out, technology-wise, we want to be at the forefront of taking those tools and seeing how we can use that to have better learning.” Once virtual or mixed reality headsets are adopted en masse, don’t be surprised if Hoffman Academy are some of the first to embrace it.

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