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EMA's 'Satellites' realizes our dreams of the future with the Kinect and Oculus Rift

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ema album art crop
ema album art crop

EMA's latest music video could have been ripped out of '80s dreams of our cyberpunk future, but its reality is a lot closer to our hacked-together, messy present. With an Oculus Rift strapped to her face and a Microsoft Kinect filming her movements, Erika M. Anderson — who performs under the moniker EMA — was able to turn the music video for her noisy, gothy single "Satellites" into a modern display of our past's digital dreams.

"All the past '80s ideas of what the future would be [are] always set in a future age, 2013 or something," Anderson tells The Verge. "And it's like: we're here."

"The future looks like a shitty apartment room ... and a blocky, unflattering Oculus Rift."

That our once-idealized future has already arrived is an idea that runs throughout both her new video and her much-anticipated upcoming album, The Future's Void. In "Satellites," Anderson uses the Oculus Rift to dive into an 80s-style sci-fi fantasy, complete with trippy colors, broadcast noise, and an unlikely outfit. But the reality, as Anderson puts it, is that a white suit and rainbow glasses aren't the future.

"I'm in the future in real life with a blocky Oculus on and sweatpants on a couch," Anderson says. "The future looks like a shitty apartment room with trash all over it and a bunch of screens all over it and a blocky, unflattering Oculus Rift."

The video's creation echoes that surprisingly low-tech approach. It was a total DIY affair, put together by Anderson and bandmate Leif Shackelford, who's also a programmer with the game developer Chroma. Aside from toying with a Kinect to create an artifacted digital world, Shackelford also set up the wall of displays using a series of Raspberry Pis. He and Anderson shot the video too, with some of the footage even coming from an iPhone 5S' slow-motion camera. In the end, very little about it is necessarily high-tech. "The technology we ended up using," Anderson says, "it's around."

Even Anderson's new album cover, which portrays her as something of a cyborg, is really little more than what it looks like for someone to wear an Oculus Rift. Anderson worries that it could be alienating to her listeners — who are likely expecting intimate and folky punk tracks, not songs about surveillance and Neuromancer — but the imagery isn't too far off from what today looks like. As Anderson puts it, "It's not super sexy." But at least we're here.