Does This Video Give You Synesthesia?

As for me, I’m still waiting on my multisensory superpowers.

I’m not above admitting that I’m jealous of bros with six packs, parents who pack those adorable bento boxes for their kids, and anyone with synesthesia. And not in that order. Because who wouldn’t want to live life with the ability to see the flavor of food, or taste a song’s melody, as synesthetes do?


The studio Onformative wanted to create the feeling of synesthesia without winning the genetic lottery or taking lots of drugs. Its new installation, called Collide, is a 62-foot long ribbon displaying colors and textures, all to the backdrop of a 54-channel speaker system (the piece was commissioned by Dolby Laboratories) playing an original composition by kling klang klong.

The trio of cellists who recorded the audio track did so while immersed in the visuals of the installation–albeit on VR headsets. Spotted by Prosthetic Knowledge, Collide‘s music and visuals are meant to blend as some perceptual soup.

Few of us will take the trip to San Francisco to experience the installation for ourselves, but anyone else with a VR headset can actually try it out, thanks to this 360-degree YouTube video. Testing it on a Samsung Gear VR, it felt like I was standing inside some generic modern art exhibit (in a good way!): a perfectly round room, the lights low, with all of this color and sound around me. It’s downright neat, pretty, and most of all, tastefully restrained!

But as is common with VR, the lack of fidelity can limit the immersion. The sharpness of that virtual projected screen is murkier than you’d like. The audio can’t replicate the sounds of real speakers bouncing off concrete. And “letting go and losing oneself in the creative process,” as the installation would like me to do, never really happens. As the installation fades away, the video codas with a view of three cellists wearing their own VR headsets. I, sadly, cannot suddenly see or taste their notes. But it does occur to me that they look pretty silly playing the cello in virtual reality. And likewise, I must look even more silly as the guy standing there watching them.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.