The Virtual Arena: LBE VR Gets The Microsoft Treatment (Part 2)

Kevin Williams concludes his report on Microsoft's Location-Based Entertainment summit.

Continuing the coverage of the development that rocked the Out-of-Home entertainment scene with Microsoft and their partners move towards entering the Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) sector. In this second and final part of the coverage from the Californian summit and Kevin Williams, reports on the final intelligence revealed for VRFocus. You can read part one here.

Continuing the coverage of the two-day Microsoft LBE Summit held in San Francisco, and we report on the concluding panel sessions, and commercial tech demos.

One of these panels looked at why traditional venues are investing in LBE – and gathered social entertainment chain Dave & Busters, cruise line and resort operation Carnival Corporation, land-based gaming giant MGM Resorts, and shopping mall magnate Westfield, along with developer VRstudios, this session moderated by HP – who have an extensive involvement supporting many of the new LBE installations with their commercial hardware.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: Dave & Buster’s Kevin Bachus, Carnival Corporation’s Kyle Prestenback, MGM Resorts’ Scott Wessel, Westfield’s Vance Garrett and VRstudios’ Chanel Summers, moderated by HP’s Joanna Popper
Dave & Buster’s Kevin Bachus, Carnival Corporation’s Kyle Prestenback, MGM Resorts’ Scott Wessel, Westfield’s Vance Garrett and VRstudios’ Chanel Summers, moderated by HP’s Joanna Popper. (Credit: KWP)

D&B were clear to define the opportunity for virtual reality (VR) being deployed in their operation, with over five-years of research in utilizing this latest phase of the hardware – the company has now developed their own system, which has become one of the leading VR installations with some 128 units of the four player Jurassic World – VR Expedition system across their chain of facilities. Easily becoming the most played VR experience in the international market and receiving strong praise.

The land-based casino sector has been investing heavily in Social Gaming initiatives to attract ‘Millennial’ gamers to the casinos, and already MGM have created their own special entertainment areas on property, the MGM Las Vegas site promoting their LEVEL UP area, that includes a Zero Latency installation.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: The LEVEL UP location at Las Vegas MGM casino resort, promoting its VR attraction.
The LEVEL UP location at Las Vegas MGM casino resort, promoting its VR attraction. (Credit: KWP)

Other casino operators in Las Vegas have embraced VR (as reported in our FOIL 2018 coverage), and along with the new VOID opening, The Rio casino revealed that they had installed in their The Wall eSports Gaming Lounge, the new Modal RKD2 commercial VR system for LBE – one of the only VR entertainment systems that has partnered with HTC to use their brand new Focus mobileVR headset – as part of their enclosure. Rio owners, Caesars Entertainment having revealed their intentions to enter LBE, as reported in our FOIL’18 coverage.

In winding down the presentation component of the LBE Summit, Microsoft executives confirmed their commitment to enter the Commercial Entertainment market, seeing this as a perfect incubator for their Windows MR Enterprise initiative. The value of the LBE sector was charted, with the repeating of the Greenlight Insights projection of the LBE markets worth at some $12 Billion (USD) by 2023.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: Microsoft’s Nancy Li, lead of Global Partnerships, revealing the calculated value of the LBE sector
Microsoft’s Nancy Li, lead of Global Partnerships, revealing the calculated value of the LBE sector. (Credit: KWP)

Beyond the stage presentations, and the Hololens was representing augmented reality (AR) (with demonstration units on display), while the Windows MR partnered with numerous manufacturers towards fielding six different VR headsets – examples of all were on display – with several live demonstrations of new VR amusement systems running during the summit.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: Microsoft Mixed Reality Academy lead, Nick Klingensmith outlining the variety of supported VR headsets
Microsoft Mixed Reality Academy lead, Nick Klingensmith outlining the variety of supported VR headsets. (Credit: KWP)

Demonstrations included one from Asian-based Reality Magiq – who presented their VR Magic Park platform with several VR experiences using Windows MR, including tracked weapons and Samsung Odyssey head-mounted display. This is one of the first times that the Windows MR system has been seen running this kind of VR free roaming experience, with the distinctive tracker interface mounted to the game gun. During the Microsoft Mixed Reality groups presentations, the use of Windows MR for multiplayer deployment using Inside-Out Tracking, was touched upon.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: Player gets to try out the Windows MR game experience created by Reality Magiq
Player gets to try out the Windows MR game experience created by Reality Magiq. (Credit: KWP)

In another area of the facility and StarBreeze came to the Microsoft LBE Summit with their new VR experience The Raft – running on HP Omen X VR backpack PC’s, with HTC Vive headsets, four-player take part in a supportive zombie shooter set on a floating raft – battling the hoards of undead and working as a team to survive as the raft travels upstream. A fun experience for those that got the chance to “get their feet wet”.

Players working as a team to survive in the StarBreeze game ‘The Raft’. (Credit: KWP)

Other demonstrators included Thirteenth Floor (Cinematic VR Creative Group), who showed Matric Gate a VR based experience and STUMPER a VR rhythm game. This was just one of the demonstrations that underlined the importance of the cinema scene in establishing LBR VR. Other demonstrators included D-BOX Technologies, who brought their cinema motion seat, combined with VR experiences synchronized to the action – one such experience was Space Flight from developer Forcefield. D-BOX’s motion platform technology finding favour in the LBE VR scene, most recently used in the successful LAI Games Virtual Rabbids – Wild Ride.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: D-BOX’s cinema seat put through its paces with the latest VR experiences created for this sector
D-BOX’s cinema seat put through its paces with the latest VR experiences created for this sector. (Credit: KWP)

Another demonstration that harked back to the importance of the cinema business was with the partnership between Universal, AMC Theatres, RealD 3D and HP Inc., showing Skyscraper – The Impossible Leap VR Experience (powered by HP) – launched in July for used to promote the latest Dwayne Johnson blockbuster. This approach has been seen a number of times with Hollywood studios’ keen to associate themselves with specially created VR experiences, as unique movie promotional tools.

Zero Latency’s Tim Ruse tries out the crane top action in ‘Skyscraper – The Impossible Leap VR Experience’. (Credit: KWP)

But not all the demonstrations were of new games at the LBE Summit; Noitom showed their unique peripheral for haptic feedback with their Hi5 VR Gloves – Business Edition. A variant of their new platform and developed for the needs of the Enterprise entertainment sector. Another prominent manufacturer that made the trip to Frisco was Tactical Haptics, demonstrating the production prototype of their innovative reconfigurable haptic controller that allowed for a combination of weapons and virtual objects to be represented.

The first appearance of the new ‘Hi5 VR Gloves’ – Business Edition’ using the unique Windows MR tracking. (Credit: KWP)
Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: Tactical Haptics demonstrates their reconfigurable controller to attendees
Tactical Haptics demonstrates their reconfigurable controller to attendees. (Credit: KWP)

In support of the corporations Mixed Reality group, the Reactor venue also hosted the Microsoft Holographic Capture Studio. A presentation was given of the work that the teams capture capability is undertaking in Enterprise and consumer entertainment – and a chance to see the holographic-capture system located at the site was given to attendees. Graphics technology that is expected to be essential part of VR & AR development.

In conclusion, overall, this LBE Summit was a momentous first step in defining a new initiative by Microsoft, and their partners, towards supporting the LBE industry. The organizers were very happy with the reception and support to this first gathering and confirmed that they would be collecting information towards arranging the next event.

It is expected that other corporations looking on at Microsoft’s entry into the LBE sector will now have to totally rethink their own plans in the Commercial Entertainment arena. We look forward to bringing more information regarding the impact on the LBE sector in coming reports, including coverage of the launch of Mario Kart VR and the new Paradrop VR experiences, and much more.

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