The Virtual Arena: The New Drive for Out-of-Home VR (Part 2)
Kevin Williams continues his look at how DOE is on the rise.
In June a cacophony of announcements regarding major LB-VR projects and new commercial entertainment VR hardware came out – so we conclude this two-part feature with more observations on developments in the Digital Out-of-Home entertainment VR (DOE) scene; with industry specialist, Kevin Williams ending his latest observations of this defining market for VR technology.
As we reported in the previous part of this coverage; companies like The VOID have recently opened VR attractions in Las Vegas – feeding off the casino and tourist industries hunger for immersive entertainment.
The second Future of Immersive Leisure (FOIL) event, organized by KWP, took place in Las Vegas during the previous month and charted many of the new immersive entertainment developments seen on the Strip – and well as the emergence of VR technology internationally as a major draw of new investment into the interactive attraction and amusement scene. During the conference opportunities to see the latest development were made, including visits to the new Level Up amusement venue within the MGM casino, including the installation of a Zero Latency free-roaming experience.
Leading industry specialists from the commercial immersive entertainment supported FOIL’18, including presentations from Schell Games, DreamScape, Ubisoft, LAI Games, VRstudios, Dave & Busters’, IGT, Springboard VR and many other pivotal speakers. The event was also able to gather some interesting exhibits that changed not just the immersive attraction scene, but the penetration of VR in the market. Amusement developer and manufacturer LAI Games came to the FOIL conference with their new Virtual Rabbids: Wild Ride amusement VR entertainment ride system. Offering a gateway for venue operators to evaluate how VR can best suit their audience’s appetites.
Other developments, seeing major brands marrying themselves with immersive attraction projects included Merlin Entertainment, partnering with UK based IMMOTION, to develop The Great LEGO Race VR Experience. This motion-base VR attraction installed at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Boston. IMMOTION using their access to cutting-edge motion simulation, and a commercially proven VR platform (running on the Deepoon headset) – married to a compelling experience that was based on LEGO IP, and is driven by Merlin Entertainment.
This development, coming a few weeks after LEGOLAND Florida announced the launch of their ‘The Great LEGO Race’ – a VR coaster experience based in the LEGO minifigures universe, seen by riders on their rollercoasters using special Samsung Gear VR headsets. This VR ride developed under the supervision of Merlin Magic Makers, by Figment Productions – the experience combining a prominent IP with an exciting VR experience.
The combination of unique motion platforms and virtual reality systems has continued a paced with several new visitor attractions opened that comprise this approach. Most recently the European park Futuroscope launched their Sebastien Loeb Racing Experience – developed by French based corporation E-Virtuality, comprising their new e-Motionseat6 platform – guests enjoy an immersive thrill ride in the passenger seat as the famous rally driver puts his vehicle through its paces.
In this 360’ film that employs 6K resolution – the riders sit on the 6DoF electro-dynamic motion base, but also have a level of interaction. With an auditorium comprising 108 simulators, with each rider wearing an HTC Vive, this is the latest large-scale VR attraction to open in recent months. The theme park industry warming to the unique opportunity that VR offers their audience.
Still in France, but on a reduced scale; the FlyView visitor attraction recently opened in Paris. Using a unique motion platform that emulates a futuristic quad-copter, that the riders stands on as their view the tourist spots of the grand city, from the unique perspective of soaring above the ground. This entertainment experience uses hardware and content developed by CL Corporation – who have a number f promotional VR experiences under their belt and employs HTC Vive HMDs to capture all the action.
Creating a standing VR experience that also employs a dynamic motion-base is a trend being seen from several developers. Only a matter of days ago, Korean robotic and motion platform specialists Sangwha launched their brand-new offering in this genre. The company launching the Flying Jet – a highly dynamic standing motion system, players hold on to their grips as the motion platform tips forward and back and rotates in synchronization to extreme 360’ ride films they view using Samsung Gear VR’s. Sangwha are famous for their Gyro-VR ring-based VR motion experience that wowed so many during CES last year
One of the most unusual of the dynamic motion platforms find a home in the commercial entertainment scene is from ICARACE, pioneers in virtual reality locomotion. The ICAROS platform, using human powered movement, was created to achieve the full physical sensation of flight. Most recently this system has been deployed in a few museums, but the developers have now started to look at the pay-to-play business and even considering their system for fitness and even being seen as a new sports experience.
The development of VR entertainment experiences that fulfil the needs of a wide selection of operations continued. Out-of-Home entertainment seeing great investment in theme parks, but also the deployment of VR in more traditional Family Entertainment Centers (FEC) and the new generation of Social Hang Out’s (#SHO). These social entertainment venues thrive on the group party and socially inclusive entertainment experiences – in many cases aiming for a young adult audience (compared to the more traditional younger visitors).
As reported in our China AAA’18 show coverage, a couple of trends have started to emerge that are proving popular in this latest phase of VR entertainment deployment. One of those being “Tethered VR Enclosures” – four player enclosures with tethered VR headsets suspended from the framework of these enclosures. These systems offer a strong group play dynamic, and offer a strong audience draw, as players compete as a team. Several manufacturers have entered the development of their own platforms in this genre, and we can expect to see offerings that comprise the fundamentals of this genre, employing new software that building on the experience. Canadian studio Minority Media has developed their own new attraction Chaos Jump – a highly competitive four-player experience that will be soon available as a VR arcade title, and a stand-along tethered enclosure.
Another platform in this genre that is about to burst onto the scene is TOWER TAG – developed by German based VR Nerds Gmbh, the product has already been taken up by CA SEGA JOYPOLIS – the Chinese amusement operation of the popular amusement and game company SEGA – the first TOWER TAG systems were installed at SEGA VR AREA location in Japan. Emboldened by this success the German developers have started the arduous process of conceiving their own tethered enclosure platform that they can sell to other operators in the West.
These two editorials have hoped to illustrate the growing momentum in development of this unique market. Interest is growing for more information and consumer VR development concerns now pivot their investment towards working in this market – most recently we saw the successful developer SURVIOS open their first VR arcade and have already started to promote other new commercial VR projects. We can expect continuing major announcement from influential players in consumer game, movie and attractions regarding their new concepts in this direction.
Another example, illustrating the continued growth in interest for the commercial entertainment sectors engagement with VR; sees KWP, the author of this column, invited to present the keynote at June’s Bristol VR Lab Out-of-home entertainment afternoon seminar – BVRL’s sixth afternoon seminar will be focusing on the topic of out-of-home VR and location-based entertainment.
Expect to see even more coverage of the explosion of LB-VR and VR arcade projects in the coming weeks, especially as more details of the changing consumer VR landscape emerge following this year’s E3 convention.