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This virtual reality game lets you punch your music in the face

Audioshield is like Guitar Hero for your hands, and it’s making me want to own music again.

Virtual reality is still pretty much where it was a year ago: Geeky, expensive and too hard to set up for most consumers. That will probably change, but until it does, you should find a friend or co-worker who has an HTC Vive and get them to show you Audioshield.

Audioshield works sort of like Guitar Hero, except played with your hands. You pick a song and have to “play” it by matching the beat of the song as its notes fly toward you.

Instead of tapping on a plastic instrument, however, you use the Vive’s included motion controllers to wield two virtual shields: One blue, one orange, held in your left and right hands, respectively; each blocks notes of its corresponding color, and bringing the two shields together creates a temporary wall to block purple notes.

Here’s a video of what all that looks like in action:

I’m one of those foolish geeks who went ahead and bought an HTC Vive and was not expecting to fall in love with what is essentially an interactive music visualizer (we’ve come so far since WinAmp!). But after more than 12 hours of play time, I’ve realized that Audioshield is a total delight and it’s changing the way I think about owning music.

For several years, I’ve gotten most of my music from radio and streaming services like SiriusXM, Amazon Prime Streaming, YouTube, Spotify and (the now-deceased) Songza. Now, thanks to Audioshield, I want to own music again so that I can load it into the game.

(That might not always be a requirement, of course. Audioshield already works with Soundcloud, so one day it might be able to talk to Spotify or Amazon.)

Unlike Guitar Hero or Rock Band, which have carefully controlled libraries of music that are made to be played just so on their instruments, you have to take the good with the bad in Audioshield. Good: You can play any song, because the notes are automatically generated. Bad: The notes are automatically generated, so not every song feels quite right.

However, discovering which songs do and do not pass muster is part of the fun if you have the right attitude. The algorithm that determines which notes fly at you seems to get tripped up by the likes of Daft Punk, but does surprisingly well with most classical music and movie scores, a genre that you would never find in Guitar Hero.

Now all the old CDs I ripped to iTunes a decade or more ago, after years spent gathering digital dust, have taken on new life. It’s one thing to think you know a song because you’ve heard it a hundred times. Experiencing that same song as a form of shadow boxing is entirely different.

(My most embarrassing Audioshield experiment to date? That’s a toss-up between “Crank That” by Soulja Boy and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the soundtrack to “Mulan.” Both fun!)

The other thing this game brings into relief is the physicality of virtual reality. If you play a fast enough song, especially on one of the harder difficulty settings, Audioshield can easily make you work up a sweat. Just search Twitter if you don’t believe me:

Gross. But 100 percent accurate.

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