- Immersive virtual reality theme park – your one stop adrenaline fix shop
- Exploring the hyper-reality world of The Void
- Virtual World’s Fair – theme park fun from the comfort of your home
- Entertainment that’s nothing short of magical
For many people, a theme park is the happiest place on earth. You get to ride on the highest, scariest roller coasters, interact with your favourite movie characters and even go on safari. For others, theme parks are synonymous with standing in lines with thousands of others, breaking out in a cold sweat or having panic attacks. If you find yourself in the latter category, virtual reality may just give you that adrenaline rush you seek, without having to deal with the crowds.
Immersive virtual reality theme park – your one stop adrenaline fix shop
If you want to be transported to other worlds that you can not only see, but also feel, hear and interact with, you may want to check out immersive virtual reality theme park The Void in Salt Lake City, Utah. For 20 minutes, groups of up to eight visitors with custom outfits that include helmet-connected VR headsets linked to ‘backtops’; untethered laptops on their back, can explore various virtual worlds. They also wear haptic suits and gloves that provide various sensory experiences and let the wearer pick up items and feel structures. The haptic suit also tracks the wearer’s movements so that the physical and virtual environments are in sync.
The virtual theme park visitors roam around areas of a few square metres, padded with foam walls. The stages are arranged in such a way that they can be used for various virtual experiences such as walking through a research facility of the future or navigating a dark, ancient temple. Through the technology used – advanced ‘redirected walking’ algorithms, the player experiences the illusion that he is exploring kilometres of terrain and even very tall structures, without leaving the game area. Physical cues such as heat lamps, water and wind effects, fog machines and the moving podiums make for an incredible hyper-reality experience where environments respond to your movements and the choices you make, evolving naturally while you interact with them. This results in a sense of exploration and a physical connection with the virtual world that wasn’t possible until now. The Void virtual theme park concept is set to quickly expand into major cities in the US and around the world.
If you are a great fan of Star Wars, you can pay between $10-$20 dollar extra (on top of your movie ticket) to walk around the Star Wars universe and interact with the environment and its iconic characters. In partnership with Sony Pictures, The Void is launching its first experience open to the public and outside of its Utah home base – around the new Ghostbusters movie that is set to debut on the 15th July. In an attraction called Ghostbusters Dimension, fans will have the opportunity to virtually explore the Ghostbusters headquarters and other locations, figures of the Ghostbusters crew, cars, props and costumes. During an epic finale of the experience, visitors can save New York from a horrendous paranormal villain by partaking in a virtual ghost hunt.
Although The Void mainly provides immersive experiences of major video games and movies, it also creates its own, original content.
Exploring the hyper-reality world of The Void
You stand in the dark, on a small platform, right near the edge of a gray-walled maze-type environment. The gear you wear for your virtual reality experience at The Void consists of a large helmet fitted with a VR headset, headphones and gesture recognition hardware. You also get an untethered laptop strapped to your back. With a virtual sizzle of electricity, the endless blue otherworldly space with floating cubes before you suddenly opens up and reveals an exotic jungle in which an ancient and mysterious Mayan temple with long forgotten, mystical treasures is waiting to be discovered. You are spellbound and the kilos of electronics that initially weighed you down seem to mysteriously melt away. You want to take a step forward, and even though you are keen to start your exploration, you are hesitant and unsure of what might unfold. When you reach out to touch the stone wall to your right, you can actually feel it. You pick up the glowing torch that appears on the wall and use it to illuminate the dark crumbling passages in the temple so that you can explore the statues and carvings that line the sides. While holding the torch, you can actually see your hands; which feels very eerie and makes the experience very real. You get further ‘reality checks’ when you touch stones or walls. In the middle of one of the passageways, you see a fire burning and you can actually feel its warmth. While standing in a cave overlooking an incredible underground pool, the platform in front of you rumbles and rises up when you touch it. When you eventually see the area glowing with the treasure you’ve been hoping to discover, a virtual earthquake prevents you from walking across and grabbing it.
Virtual World’s Fair – theme park fun from the comfort of your home
Destination-based VR theme park developments such as VRCade, Zero Latency and The Void offer top quality virtual reality experiences. They are, however, actually counter-intuitive to the real promise that VR holds – the ability to recreate anything you want, anywhere you want, from the comfort of your own home.
The Landmark Entertainment Group, leader in theme park design, has developed a virtual reality theme park that’s not destination-based and that people from all ages can enjoy from where ever they want. The project has been in development for twelve months and is named the Virtual World’s Fair. Tony Christopher, CEO of Landmark, explains that Virtual World’s Fair enables people, kitted out with headsets, to enjoy hundreds of different virtual reality experiences. Dubbed ‘the greatest, never-ending show on the planet’, Virtual World’s Fair offers hours of immersive entertainment within four themed lands. They each have a central unifying point but are individually geared towards a different target market.
DataLand is especially developed to introduce kids to VR – an educational and entertainment wonderland, tailored to those who experience virtual reality for the first time. The first generations of headsets weren’t designed with children in mind, but this will change over time as DataLand grows up with the children.
IntenCity is unabashedly commercial. It’s a futuristic city-scape, offering grown-up entertainment with brands and experiences tailored to what adults want when they visit a theme park. IntenCity will showcase some of the world’s greatest advancements in art, design and technology, through pavilions and exhibitions hosted by major organisations, countries and brands.
In the PassPortal, the world is only a couple of virtual steps away. The user can enjoy exotic destinations and visit capital cities, international festivals, national parks, wildlife and even experience sports and different cultures, all in a safe environment. The PassPortal is a virtual passport to the world.
The Tower of Humanity
In the Tower of Humanity, people can find out about important global issues and conservation initiatives. It will show you how human actions affect society. It’s a celebration of our planet, with global debates taking place in virtual reality.
Entertainment that’s nothing short of magical
People who have experienced destination-based virtual reality such as in The Void, agree that it is much more than a video game and infinitely more entertaining than watching a movie because you are partaking in the experience. It is impossible not to be exhilarated by what it represents; the birth of an entirely new era in entertainment that is all about immersing oneself in an artificial experience that, in real life, would either be too dangerous or even impossible. This type of virtual reality, and particularly The Void, enables you to walk around virtual worlds built over physical environments, giving you the illusion that you are present in your own adventure instead of merely observing from a stationary position. How quickly virtual reality experiences such as The Void will develop is yet unclear. The current developments could however be the vehicle that brings virtual reality to the masses; offering incredibly innovative and accessible entertainment that’s nothing short of magical.