Emerging technologies are taking interactivity in music visualisation to new levels. Through mobile technology, HMTL5, movement tracking, Augmented Reality and other digital means, music video is transforming from a passive viewing activity into an immersive, participatory experience.

Bjork, a musical icon renowned for pushing boundaries in basically any creative industry she ventures near, has added “creator of the first ever album-app” to her accolades (with the help of some of the world’s best scientists, technologists and Apple itself). The launch of her eighth album Biophilia as a suite of apps for the iPhone and iPad is a milestone in the history of music video and format development.

While Bjork is not the first to launch music as an app, the complex, multi-dimensional Biophilia brilliantly illustrates the multiple dimensions of experience and interactivity possible with today’s mobile devices. Designed to be a “multimedia exploration of music, nature and technology”, the esoteric Biophilia journey begins in a 3D universe–the master app–where songs are visualized as constellations and can be downloaded as an app-within-an-app.  When users choose a track’s interactive mode, they can access an animated score, tinker with the song themselves, record themselves karaoke-style, play games, and read essays about music and science.

Apps are not the only area in which new technologies are bringing forth innovative music videos. Using HTML5, Google Chrome has partnered with musicians to create fun and interactive clips, thanks in part to writing and drawing tools that allow the viewer to control parts of the video or embed their own messages.

The Wilderness Downtown is an interactive film by Chris Milk accompanied by “We Used to Wait” by Arcade Fire and it’s a fairly personal affair. Not only is the faceless person running throughout the video supposed to be the you, it asks for your address and incorporates Google Street views of your own neighborhood, overlaid with 3D flying birds and animated trees, and has you write a note of advice to your younger self. For the Johnny Cash Project, over 250,000 people used the drawing tools to draw frames in a tribute video to singing legend Johnny Cash.

Most recently,  Chris Milk directed the interactive, online video for OK Go’s new single All Is Not Lost, featuring the Pilobolus dance company. Taking advantage of  HTML5′s canvas technology, which allows multiple custom-sized windows pop in and out of the screen in different spaces, the dancers choreographed movements that, in the various windows, emulated a kaleidoscope. And it is all synced perfectly with the music.  At the beginning of the video, viewers are requested to type in a message that, at the end of the video, the dancers spell out using their bodies as characters. Go to the website if you want to enter a message.

Twitter can’t really be called emerging, but let’s mention Swedish pop star Robyn’s catchy song “Killing Me” anyway, not only because it’s stuck in my  head, but also because it’s a fun example of interactivity. For “Killing Me”, a lyrical ode to everyday hardships, L.A.-based Blip Boutique created an online 3D interactive video that invited fans to share what was “killing” them by tweeting it and adding the hashtag #killingme. In the second half of the video, key words from those tweets appear in the video.  The video morphs into a kind of bonding session as the source of angst is transferred from Robyn to her fans.

Not intended as a music video, but easy to imagine as one, the new Hugo Boss commercial can be controlled with a nod of the head. Turn your head left and the narrative goes into movie mode; turn your head right and the narrative takes a theatrical direction. It’s almost reminiscent of  the “Choose your own adventure” books. Below is a taste, but you’ll need to go to the Hugobosstv YouTube channel to experience it.

The engagement promised by Augmented Reality often falls short. Holding a piece of paper up to the webcam just to view a 3D scene, for example, can hardly be called enthralling. The use of AR in the following couple of music videos stands out, however, because users are given control over what happens, making for true, real-time interaction. An early example comes from Sydney-based band Los Valentinos who, for their single “Nightmoves”, created AR markers for each of the band members. Users could set the markers/band members up and move them around in places and positions of their choosing, which often made for amusing results. The original video could then be shared online.

Talking Dogs allows users to create their own fireworks displays by  hitting certain keys on the keyboard, each of which triggers a burst of color on-screen that originates from the AR marker. Skip to 2:00 in the video below for a demonstration.

Music and innovation go hand-in-hand, and music video is at an exciting crossroad. Musicians, music videographers and their many talented collaborators play an important role not only recognizing and amplifying the potential of  new technologies, but also in making that potential accessible to the masses.