Mention the phrase ‘virtual reality attraction’ and most people will instantly think about the VR headset, controllers, and headphone – a combination that has in the last few years come to dominate the world.
Some major brands come to mind, companies like Oculus Rift (recently bought by Facebook for $2 billion), or the HTC Vive or the Sony PlayStation VR, have revolutionized the industry. With these technological offerings, one can play thousands of various genre type games and have a social experience playing with friends or online. Overall, the players enjoy the world of alternative realities in a more vivid way than ever before.
Still, even though VR provides awesome entertainment, reducing the world of virtual reality attractions to just these three components is a gross underrepresentation of the booming out-of-home industry. There are several reasons why there is much more going on here:
- The biggest reason is the cost (as much as $2,500 for the 3-unit combination). People are simply not buying VR-headsets, at least not as much as would have been hoped for by the manufacturers. VR attractions offer a reasonably priced way for players to enjoy the VR experience without having to incur the large initial cost of purchasing the latest VR equipment.
- The next reason is the level of immersion – the ultimate advantage of virtual reality over other entertainment technologies. People try virtual reality because they want a new experience such as diving into another world, having a superpower(s), or feeling themselves in the real world (example, flying a small airplane). In that sense, the home virtual reality experience would not provide such a deep immersion as that of an out-of-home attraction.
Attractions can foster the immersion experience with physical factors: Providing wind, rain, and/or earthquake simulation; Imitate motion like racing and flying or even combining VR immersion with real-world physical activities (go-carting). Free roaming technologies give the opportunities to wander through new worlds, fight dragons, orcs, and alliances. All of these offerings are extremely expensive for private home use, especially if one is searching for different options.
For example, looking for the proper boxing workout in a realistic boxing ring without the discomfort of having to receive punches from an overzealous opponent. One can enter a free-roaming virtual reality attraction with a VR-suit. Here the player can experience the thrill of going up against a stubborn opponent, albeit one that does not go down easily, sometimes not at all. All the VR-headsets and VR-suits mimic the feeling of receiving punches or giving them, chasing the opponent around the ring and at the same time physically getting a good body workout.
Another example is a virtual reality roller coaster. This basically combines the roller coaster infrastructure with virtual reality technology, enriching the whole experience without necessarily diluting or having to physically enhance any aspect. It combines computer generated image (CGI) and film, opening up an infinite number of new possibilities.
Attractions can also provide amazing multiplayer experiences. Perhaps the best example of these is ‘Hologate’ (currently a 4-player attraction) which offers the next level in immersive virtual reality entertainment. Basically, when players put on their headsets, they are transported into a new world where they either work together or individually compete for the high scores. The game has intense graphics making the motion feel as real as possible, while there is no lag, thus minimizing the possibility of motion sickness.
Actually, virtual reality attractions have an elaborate menu of adventures and experiences one might want to participate in. These range from an interactive film experience, to racing games, to fighting zombies. One can go as far as examining virtual tumors inside brains with medical virtual reality equipment or take part in a flight simulation. The possibilities are endless!!!!
By Frank ‘the Crank’ Seninsky & Yaroslav Sobko (Alpha-Omega Amusements, Inc., East Brunswick, NJ)