Evaluating the effectiveness of mixed reality music instrument learning with the theremin

Research paper by David Johnson, Daniela Damian, George Tzanetakis

Indexed on: 02 May '20Published on: 05 Jul '19Published in: Virtual Reality


Learning music is a challenging process that requires years of practice to master, either with lessons from a professional teacher or through self-teaching. While practicing, students are expected to self-evaluate their performance which may be difficult without timely feedback from a professional. Research into computer-assisted music instrument tutoring (CAMIT) attempts to address this through the use of emerging technologies. In this paper, we study CAMIT for mixed reality (MR) by developing MR:emin, an immersive MR music learning environment for the theremin, an electronic music instrument that is controlled without physical contact. MR:emin integrates a physical theremin with the immersive learning environment. To better understand the effectiveness of such environments, we perform a user study with MR:emin comparing traditional music learning with two virtual learning environments, an immersive one and a non-immersive one. In a between-groups study, 30 participants were trained to play a sequence of notes on the theremin using one of the three training environments. Results of our statistical analysis show that performance error during training is significantly smaller in the immersive MR environment. This does not necessarily lead to improved performance after training; analysis of post-training improvement indicates that immersive training results in the smallest amount of improvement. Participants, however, indicate that the MR:emin environment is more engaging and increases confidence during practice. We discuss potential factors leading to the decrease in learning and provide some environment guidelines to aid in the design of engaging immersive music learning environments.