Casey Harris doesn’t experience music videos the way most people do. The keyboardist of X Ambassadors is blind, so he can’t engage with the story, visuals, and aesthetic vision of a live concert or music video in a traditional way.
Knowing that there are other music fans who are blind or have low vision too, the band—particularly lead singer (and Casey’s brother) Sam—wanted to create a music video that was inclusive of them, while being a new, dynamic experience for all.
”We want to share with our fans what makes us who we are, our DNA.“
— Sam Harris, X Ambassadors
Using Windows Sonic 3D audio technology, the band worked with Microsoft technologists to create the first audio-only music video for their single, “Boom.” Then, using their music video as a starting point, the band brought the app to life as part of a VIP experience on their Orion Tour.
Bryan Manning of Two Blind Brothers caught up with Casey to talk about accessibility, inclusion, and how technology helps them both.
As someone who’s been blind since birth, it was really important to me to make a video that the blind community could enjoy as much as the sighted community enjoys our visual content.Casey Harris, X Ambassadors
The app features two different “videos” for fans to experience. Choose between an urban ramble that takes place in Bushwick, Brooklyn—on the streets outside the band’s former rehearsal studio—or a more rural one, through the roads and woods around Casey and Sam’s childhood home in Ithaca, New York. Field recordings from each location help create a visceral sonic environment for the listener. These have been spatialized with Windows Sonic (tech that’s also used in Microsoft’s Soundscape app) to place the listener “in” the various locations, alongside Sam as his feet go “boom boom boom…”
It’s an entirely new way to approach and experience a music video.
If you’re lucky enough to score tix to X Ambassadors’ VIP pre-show experience, you can enjoy a multi-sensory version of the app, where you’ll choose from two unique experiences: a crackling woodland bonfire in Casey and Sam’s hometown of Ithaca, New York; or a lively bodega, near the band’s former rehearsal studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Both journeys feature tailored spatialized audio and a myriad of fragrances and props that evoke each location. The result is an experience that fully immerses fans in the song like never before. Experience it for yourself by getting a VIP ticket to the X Ambassadors’ Orion Tour.
The "Boom" app comes alive on tour for VIP fans.
Fans can explore Bushwick or Ithaca, New York in sets inspired by both settings and featuring real personal items from the band.
Custom fragrances evoke a campfire in the woods of Ithaca and the urban environment of Bushwick.
Fans use Surface Go tablets to explore the app.
Is it the future of accessible fan engagement? The band hopes so. According to Casey, “The app is for everybody. I hope that visually impaired people enjoy and get a lot out of it, but I’m also really excited for sighted people and everyone else to experience the world and experience the music video in a totally different and new way.”
Ambassadors of inclusion
Rock band X Ambassadors teamed up with WE Schools and Microsoft to teach high school students about inclusion and accessibility.