The Virtual Arena: Immersive Leisure’s Future Dissected at First Conference

Kevin Williams goes over this year's FOIL event in a new edition of The Virtual Arena.

Along with his duties as columnist on the out-of-home VR entertainment scene, and as a consultant in the sector – Kevin Williams is also the chairman of the first dedicated convention that covers the development and growth in this market. He now gives a behind the scene view of this unique gathering, and some of the concept and trends that were charted.

The Future of Immersive Leisure (FOIL) conference held their first event during September, the gathering created by KWP and the DNA Association, partnering with Rising Media to offer an event wholly dedicated to the immersive entertainment sector, focusing on the whole elements of the industry, not just virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), but also mixed reality (MR), including 3D projection mapping and immersive projection system.

This first event saw 160+ attendees and numerous sponsors crowd into a Las Vegas convention room to both listen to two days of panel discussion and presentations, and also view the latest developments in a mini-conference area. The event also included visits to the latest developments in the local vicinity.

The first day saw industry legend Doug Trumbull, famous for his award winning special effects work on 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Blade Runner – but also create the influential Back To The Future: The Ride, and has involvement with IMAX. In a Fireside Chat hosted by myself, he discussed the changes shaping immersive attractions and the needs of the modern entertainment sector to embrace new technology – this also saw Mr. Trumbull reveal his latest work, with information regarding MAGI – an immersive theatre pod concept harnessing super high frame rates and large-scale image depth to revolutionize the cinema experience.

The FOIL’17 event continued with a number of influential panel sessions comprising leaders in their fields, and developers that are shaping the current application of immersive technology. First off, the session entitled VR Arcades – Profiting from the Resurgence saw a panel comprising executives from the operations side such as Dave & Busters, VR Junkies, Tick Tock Unlock and those representing HMD development such as HTC Vive and Sensics (OSVR). The discussion ranging from new investment into the application of this tech into entertainment venues, and the new thinking behind these sites.

Another session at FOIL covered a discussion on ‘Arena Scale VR’ as the successor to lasertag, panellists came from VR free-roaming specialist Zero Latency, VRStudios and The VOID, and for balance a representative from the leading lasertag supplier (Zone Laser Tag) sat in. A lively discussion charted the similarities of current lasertag business and the new Arena-Scale backpack based VR experiences. Information on new planned openings across the country from these developers, and a better appreciation of how this application of VR entertainment is evolving.

The following two days continued along this vein with several key panel discussions covering, Next-Generation 3D and 4D Mapping Experiences, ROI of Creating a Big Blockbuster Experiences and Licensing’s Vital Role in Successful Implementation of Immersive LBE. One of the packed panellist sessions concerned the Brave New World – the Future of Immersive LBE and comprised executives from Jack Rouse Associates, Attraktion!, Walt Disney Imagineering, 3D Live, Two Bit Circus and YDreams.

Along with a livery conference room, the events hall saw demonstrations from several exhibitors and event sponsors – companies such RAVE computers revealed the need for powerful systems to drive out-of-home entertainment applications seamlessly, while Talon Simulation brought their unique Atomic A3 motion system as a turnkey commercial entertainment solution. The VR arcade scene has blossomed in recent months and leading providers of business solutions were on hand, including VR Junkies and their Private Label service and Springboard VR. New VR attractions were also promoted such as YDreams ARKAVE VR concept (see previous coverage).

A popular element of this years’ FOIL was along with the mixer at the Polar Journey Interactive Adventure, but also the chance to be the first to try the brand-new Zero Latency warehouse scale multi-player VR attraction that had opened at the adjacent MGM Grand casino and hotel. Attendees to the conference some of the first to try this new installation, the developers arranging a special visit to the operation. Another event was organized the following day at the famous MGM Grand Hakkasan Nightclub – which played host to VR ARCADE presenting their virtual set-up for the hospitality and entertainment scene.

FOIL 2017 proved a successful first event, in what is now planned to be a regular part of the trade calendar. Following on from this great start, the organizers have confirmed that FOIL 2018 will be taking place in May 2018 at the same Las Vegas location. Plans will see a larger number of sessions and plans for more visits the burgeoning number of entertainment sites in the area. Be sure to catch all the developments in VRFocus.

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