Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

How to get the best seat in the house at Auckland City Limits

Virtual reality trial at Auckland City Limits is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The VR headsets at Auckland City Limits will give fans a sense of being on stage with their musical heroes. Photo / Supplied
The VR headsets at Auckland City Limits will give fans a sense of being on stage with their musical heroes. Photo / Supplied

When Kendrick Lamar hits the stage for his headlining slot at Auckland City Limits tomorrow night, you can be right beside him. Virtually, at least.

Thanks to new virtual reality technology being trialled at the festival, punters will be able to experience exactly what it's like being on stage next to the acclaimed rapper - or any of the acts performing on the main stages.

The hook-up between Samsung and Auckland-based tech company Augusto means the performances of all major acts at the Western Springs festival will be streamed to 16 VR headsets set up in a tent away from the main arena.

With a 360-degree camera mounted on stage, fans can wear headsets that allow them to get the best front-row seat in the house, allowing them to watch the artist and their band, or to swivel around to look at the crowd's reaction.

"There will be people who want to experience Kendrick Lamar from the mosh pit, and there will be people who want to experience it up on stage," says Augusto managing director Leon Kirkbeck.

The technology has been used at overseas festivals - including Coachella and Lollapalooza - but it's believed this is the first time it's been trialled on this scale in New Zealand. The concept of VR has been around for decades, but is only now entering mainstream popularity. Samsung has had its Gear VR units out for more than a year, while Sony this week announced an October launch date for its Playstation VR units.

At this week's SXSW festival, everyone from the New York Times to McDonald's and Google showed off their products using VR technology.

Kirkbeck says he's seeing more and more people use them to watch movies on flights, and believes VR technology is moving faster than most current tech movements.

"There are a lot of companies out there doing a lot of development very fast," he says. "In a year there'll be 360-degree cameras being held up like selfie sticks."

But he still enjoys seeing people put on the headsets on for the first time and "buzz out" at how immersive they are.

"It's really memorable," he says. "In 20 years time when VR is a normal thing, they'll be able to say, 'I remember the first time I put one of these things on at this ... festival'."

Festival info

When: Saturday, 11am-11pm.

Where: Western Springs Park & Stadium, Auckland.

What: Reimagined Big Day Out featuring Kendrick Lamar, Fat Freddy's Drop, Modest Mouse, Naked & Famous and Cold War Kids. It also features a children's stage and boutique food tents.

Getting there: Free bus and train services available as well as Uber discounts. Aucklandcitylimits.com for more info.

Also: Festival-goers are advised to buy tickets, get wristbands and top them up with credit for purchases today at the festival's main gates from 12-6pm, or from 9am on Saturday, to avoid queues.

- NZ Herald

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