6 Interactive Virtual Reality Experiences
If you want to really feel what virtual reality (VR) is like, you can’t do it with one of those cheap imitations for $99 or less. You need to throw down some dollars and get yourself an Oculus or a Rift and take it for a spin. Sure, it’s not that user friendly yet. When we picked up a full Oculus package last Christmas, it took hours to get the thing working and there was plenty of buggy behavior in general. Nonetheless, it was incredibly eye opening. There will be a time when we wonder how we could have ever managed to play video games through the small glass window of a television, in much the same way we wonder today how boring it must have been to play games in black and white. For those of you who don’t want to shell out for a VR system that isn’t yet mature but still want to see what VR can do, you need to check out an interactive virtual reality experience (also referred to as an immersive virtual reality experience).
What’s an Interactive Virtual Reality Experience?
When you buy an Oculus or Rift, one of the challenges is not stepping on pets or small children while you try to navigate your way around a virtual world in your living room. The idea with an interactive virtual reality experience is that you have a large space to navigate through without worrying about stepping on your loved ones. Think about how much fun this could be in an abandoned warehouse for example. You can also start integrating other props into the environment such as:
- Wind (fans)
- Temperature (AC and heaters)
- Touch (haptic gloves, haptic vests, human touch)
- Props (swords, guns, knives, etc.)
- Smells (smoke, perfume, forests, etc)
- Spider webs, moss hanging from trees
Just to get an idea of what this might look like all put together, here’s a demo from the Void which should get you pretty intrigued:
Now after watching that demo you should start to see how this stuff all fits together and more importantly what incredible potential this has. Just imagine what sort of environment you could create in an old abandoned factory complex as an example. You could create role playing games that people could play for days on end 24/7 with little oversight required.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need to see what’s on the market today. We’re going to stick with interactive virtual reality experiences that let you run or walk around freely. This means we won’t consider stationary hardware like the Virtuix Omni or this virtual reality exercise bike you can pick up for $400 on Amazon right now:
While that is one helluva way to make your workouts more exciting, in this article we’re sticking to proper stationary immersive virtual reality experiences that contain all the different types of props we discussed earlier. Here are 6 startups around the world where you can go experience just how cool virtual reality is without having to splash out for a top-of-the-line headset and the new computing hardware you’ll need to run it on.
Los Angeles, California
If we were going to pick one virtual reality experience that we’re most excited about seeing, it’s Dreamscape Immersive which was founded in 2016 and recently came out of stealth mode. According to an article in Variety, this startup has taken in $11 million in funding so far from the likes of Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), IMAX Corporation, Westfield Corporation, and Steven Spielberg. The CEO was previously the Chief Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering and Hans Zimmer is going to be involved in the sound tracks. Dreamscape’s innovative technology is an outgrowth of work in medical imaging and body mechanics which Peter Diamandis described as “the future of entertainment”. The profile of the people involved all but guarantee that this virtual reality experience will be nothing short of speculator. Dreamscape Immersive will launch their flagship VR Multiplex in Fall 2017 as part of the reopening of Westfield’s Century City Mall.
Another L.A. based startup is Two Bit Circus which has taken in $21.5 million in funding so far from the likes of Intel and Foundry Group. The company “lives at the intersection of technology and spectacle” and the team is made up of visual artists, roboticists, engineers, and story tellers. Browse their website and it has a “Cirque Du Soleil feel” to it which makes you wonder how long it will be until Cirque debuts an interactive virtual reality experience (they already have some content). Two Bit Circus plans to develop a next-generation micro-amusement park that will “blow your mind”. When they say things like “we build big games, tell stories with technology, and make liberal use of lasers, fire and robots“, you can’t help but be intrigued. They also offer high tech games that can be rented for kid’s parties or maybe to make that next corporate social function more tolerable for the attendees who would rather be at home watching TV but feel compelled to attend because it’s a work function. The circus is coming in 2017 as well.
Yet another virtual reality startup based on the edges of L.A. is Spaces which has taken in $9.5 million in funding from Comcast and Chinese firm Songchen which is one of the world’s biggest theme park operators. The startup claims to have assembled one of the most accomplished teams in the VR industry which will “bring to life immersive experiences on a grand scale” through the use of VR-enabled parks and attractions. They also have a $30 million joint venture with Songcheng which we can only assume will open in China. The company was launched in 2016 by VR pioneers from DreamWorks Animation and there is no indication as to when they plan to launch their first interactive virtual reality experience.
Dubai – New York – Lindon Utah
We first talked about THE VOID back in April of 2016 and, being the nerds that we all are, thought it looked like one of the coolest gaming experiences we had ever seen. Fast forward to today and it looks like they’ve used their undisclosed amount of funding to open interactive virtual reality attractions in 3 different places that are open now. The most notable would be THE VOID’s first public installation at Madame Tussauds in New York where the entrance ticket of $55 gets you the VR experience and the ability to look at wax people. VR sure sounds a whole lot more fun than taking pictures of fake people, many of who actually pretend to be fake people in real life.
Groups of up to 3 people can go in at a time and the whole thing lasts about 10-15 minutes from the time you put the suit on to when you take the suit off. In the FAQ people are asking how they can take selfies and apparently you can only take selfies with boring wax people and you can’t actually use your smartphone in VR yet so that might deter some of you
Asians die hard selfie takers out there.
Founded in 2014, Tick Tock Unlock has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to provide real life, interactive escape games throughout the U.K and is now venturing into interactive virtual reality experiences. The UK’s first ever virtual reality-powered game experience launches in Leeds this week with London next on the list and 10 more locations planned to be opened by 2019. Here’s a look at the demo:
While the gameplay looks nothing short of solid, we’ll have to wait until we actually try the experience before getting too excited. The launch centre in Leeds will be 664 sq. ft. (future centres will be a minimum of 2,000 sq ft per game) and up to 8 players will have 15 minutes to complete their missions. Kind of a small space, innit? The cost is small too at just 15 quid a pop (that’s $19.18 USD).
Around the Globe
Founded in 2013, Australian startup Zero Latency has taken in $8.95 million in funding to develop an interactive virtual reality experience that is now open. They have 400 square yards of game space, but the virtual space is much larger. They reuse the space with some nifty tricks. (Did you know if you have a big enough space you can trick a person in virtual reality to walk in a circle and they think they’re walking straight the whole time? You may have experienced this before – it’s also referred to as “climbing the corporate ladder”.)
There are 4 different games you can choose from and presently you need to book sessions 4-6 weeks in advance. Here’s a look at your bog standard shoot the zombies with a laser gun in a giant warehouse with 5 of your closest friends game:
Tickets are $88 a pop ($66.57 USD) and you get about 45 minutes of play time for that. Zero Latency is not just in Melbourne Australia but also in Orlando (FL), Wisconsin Dells (WI), Pocono Mountains (PA), and a few are on the way in Boston and Philadelphia plus three more about to be announced for the United States. You can also find them in Madrid and Tokyo.
So there you have 6 interactive virtual reality experiences to look forward to. The successful ones will move quickly to establish as many locations as they can and you can expect lots of additional players entering the market as well as themes and props only limited by the extent of people’s imaginations. If you’re opening such a venue then please add yourself in the comments section so we can continue to compile a comprehensive list of interactive virtual reality experiences.
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