Chat with a music legend: voice-interactive digital portrait of Nile Rodgers informed by SODA research

Project launched by Forever in association with Universal Music UK and the National Portrait Gallery

The world’s first voice-interactive portrait, IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS, has been informed by research and innovation from a wider project involving the School of Digital Arts (SODA) at Manchester Metropolitan University.  

The portrait, launched today by lead partner Forever in association with Universal Music UK and the National Portrait Gallery, with the involvement of Abbey Road Studios, features a rich new form of voice-interactive content to enrich audience engagement in culture and entertainment at a pivotal time for the creative industry.

The result of two days of interviews, 350 questions and two 8k 3D film cameras, this innovative and compelling experience enables fans to virtually ‘meet’ Nile Rodgers on multiple platforms, including mobile and desktop, from the comfort of their own homes. Audiences will be able to interact with Nile, asking questions and receiving answers from him in real time.

SODA involvement

Innovation and research leading to the project was funded by the Audiences of the Future programme, which includes SODA researchers Professor Toby Heys, Dr David Jackson, Marsha Courneya and Roger McKinley. They worked with Forever Holdings and Bright White Ltd to provide insights into immersive experience design, conversational AI storytelling, fan experience and market intelligence in the out-of-home and cultural sector.

This builds on SODA’s expertise in expanded documentary and new forms of digital storytelling. It also highlights its commitment to working with cutting-edge UK creative technologists and the world’s finest storytellers and artists. Future VR outputs from this project, including a physical exhibition, are planned for later in the year.

Professor Toby Heys, Head of SODA, said: “It is incredibly exciting to have played our part in the consortium which has help lead to the development of IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS. Projects like these provide opportunities to influence the future of storytelling. At this project’s heart is an engaging and thought-provoking storyteller who has something to say to the world.

“The role of the digital arts in this project is to connect Nile Rodgers with his audience in meaningful and exciting ways. SODA sees the advances in AI showcased in IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS as central to the future of media production and the exciting new formats we will see audiences engaging with in the future.”

In the Room with Nile Rodgers

 The multiple Grammy Award winning composer, guitarist, singer, songwriter, record producer and arranger who co-founded Chic in the 1970s and has gone on to work with iconic recording artists has become the first musician to be available for a one-to-one encounter. IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS allows fans to delve deep into the life and works of this remarkable man, including more than five hours of exclusive high-definition footage with Nile, as he chats intimately about his journey in music. Combined with proprietary technology and methods to create a seamless encounter, IN THE ROOM gives audiences an experience that is as close as possible to a real meeting.

It is incredibly exciting to have played our part in the consortium which has help lead to the development of IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS. Projects like these provide opportunities to influence the future of storytelling.

Available to the public at hereintheroom.com, as well as through the National Portrait Gallery’s website, the experience will enable an audience to ask Nile questions about his unique contribution to the music industry such as how he came to work with David Bowie on the classic Let’s Dance, or what it was like working with superstars like Diana Ross, Madonna , Lady Gaga or Daft Punk.

Nile Rodgers said: “Who I am as a person is really the essence of most of my songs. So I hope this experience will help people understand more about my journey, my life in the music industry, and what I have been trying to say through my music. It 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 the foundations of music are human connections and a human story that needs to be told. 

“I hope people who know my work really well enjoy some special moments, and people who are new to my work can get a peek into a life in music. If I can share some hope and optimism along the way, then even better!”

Audience with a Hero

IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS is the first in a series of powerful new media experiences set to enrich audience engagement with culture and entertainment as part of the wider project involving SODA.

SODA sees the advances in AI showcased in IN THE ROOM WITH NILE RODGERS as central to the future of media production and the exciting new formats we will see audiences engaging with in the future.

Operating at the intersection of technology and creativity, the experience pioneers a new form of ‘conversation’ for audiences everywhere. It is led by Forever, a tech start-up that creates voice interactive digital encounters between people of note and the audiences who love them, allowing people to have rich, conversational experiences with remarkable individuals, one to one, 24/7, wherever they are.

The Audiences of the Future programme is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, pushing forward best practice in digital and immersive innovations in the UK.

Sarah Coward, CEO Forever Holdings Ltd, said: “Voice interactive media will completely transform audience experiences across global industries including music, film, sport and education. Forever and its partners are excited to be at the forefront of this new approach to bring remarkable moments to fans and communities.

“Organisations of all types know that delivering truly engaging new media that can build powerful connections with audiences remotely will be essential to future success in a post-Covid world. Our voice interactive content creates compelling experiences with authenticity at heart.”

24 March 2021