Virtual Reality Entertainment Centers Looking To Be Setup Around The Globe Via The Void

arcadehero May 8, 2015 5

[Thanks to the DNA Association for the tip]

Lately I’ve had some lively debates with some random people on the internet over “the next big thing in gaming”, virtual reality.  That is because I am skeptical over it being the biggest thing since the Wii in consumer gaming, or as some put it, bigger than the TV display(to the point of replacing them entirely). By not embracing such a stance I have not won any new friends but there are various issues that some of these VR faithful blow off as not being a problem at all, to their own detriment. I believe that it has a much better chance of gaining traction in the commercial entertainment space than it does in living rooms. I’ll refrain from the reasons why for the sake of the story here, but feel free to ask in the comments below 😉

A while back we reported on a new venue looking to open their doors in Washington State that was going by the name of VRcade. Now there is news of another company looking to provide VR in a commercial setting by the name of The Void. Going beyond a single store, this Salt Lake City-based company is hoping to launch a chain of Virtual Reality Entertainment Centers (VRECs) around the world, where consumers will be able to enjoy a holodeck-like experience, assuming that this video below stays accurate:

It looks pretty cool, I just hope that their hype version doesn’t fall into the same trap as VR found itself in the 90s, which made it seem like direct TRON whereas the reality was the exact opposite. Fortunately for this attempt, the technology is vastly improved and as you see in this video above, this demonstrates what it is about VR that gives it better standing in a situation like this – the facility offers the tactile hardware needed to enhance a gyroscopic display and that will not require the end-user to shell out the cash for every additional product to make an experience work and being an out-of-home entertainment experience, it has the social aspect covered.

It is noteworthy that they are not using the famous Oculus Rift technology (which I have been told is not being allowed for commercial use) but their own HMD tech called RAPTURE HMD. It offers cruved OLED displays, built-in audio options and both global and head tracking sensors.

raptureHMD

It is interesting that this company is found right in my back yard so I will see what I can find out directly, perhaps making a visit to them and getting some info straight from the source. I remember growing up that there was a VR-centric arcade in downtown SLC but I never had the chance to make a visit so this could make up for it.

What are your thoughts on the potential of VRECs?

[The Void Website]


5 Comments »

  1. Alfred May 8, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I would love to read your reasoning on why it won’t work. I have similar feelings. The Wii was about friends getting together, and playing. So every Wii sold had about 3-4 players. Where as the VR set up is all about a single person having a singular experience, and have enough time to enjoy it. A lot fewer people could fit into that scenario.

    • arcadehero May 8, 2015 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      My reasons start of similarly – most display tech can easily be experienced by a group. VR would require every family member to have a headset. That might not be considered a big issue when VR is $50 a headset but it is not the only thing to consider.

      Wearable gaming or display tech has a lousy track record, be it stereoscopic 3D or Google Glass. True, each of those have their own faceted issues. But no matter how you cut it, VR must be on your face to enjoy it. That is an instant barrier to more people than might be affected by watching fast moving images on a flat display. My experience with Oculus Rift so far induced dizziness and nausea. I never had that issue with a TV (I’m fine with the 3DS or 3DTVs) and I’m hardly alone. Some consumers simply will not touch VR because you have to wear it. The mere addition of looking around doesn’t instantly improve content, much like objects appearing to have depth doesn’t inherently improve storytelling.

      Commercially speaking that is a big problem in that you have to have an attendant to oversee the experience. The Void looks like they have a good setup but there is one major issue that you cannot avoid in these situations – people in social out-of-home situations tend to be rowdy and not terribly considerate of expensive property. Actors in demonstration videos are not going to behave like some people will when they are out and about for public entertainment. VR equipment is going to be more sensitive than something like a laser tag vest and likely expensive to maintain.

      For commercial and residential applications, there are a lot of developments in progress. The dilemma of the developer is: Do I focus on just the core hardware of the gyroscopic display with a PC/game console or do I branch out and get creative by seeking to use additional hardware – omnidirectional treadmills, Kinect, a sensor vest, a smartphone, an exerbike, a balance board, a motion seat, etc. Back to commercial out-of-home for a second, that is where venues have a distinct advantage since they can do all of that and roll it into the admission price. Expecting consumers to buy up that extra stuff or to have that already is unrealistic from a mass market point-of-view, only making sense for the early adopter crowd with the disposable income to snap up everything they can.

      So the questions are (from gamedev standpoint): Do I limit my market appeal by going the creative route or do I just use the vanilla hardware and risk the less appealing tacked on experience (I used the tacked on phrase and one VR defender flew off the handle)? The hype of VR is that it is the closest thing we have to a holodeck – VR shovelware using tacked on features will ruin that perception very quickly. That is a major factor that ruined VR back in the 90s and while the tech now is great, if consumers feel that there is nothing special about it because the content doesn’t live up to the hype, they will not embrace it. I look at the games available for something like the Samsung GearVR and there isn’t really anything that screams “wow this is VR only!”. VR films are going to have limited appeal as the point of a movie is to tell a story. The moment you start cramming it with distractions you end up with Star Wars Episode I instead of Citizen Kane.

      To top it off, you need to then provide good VR exclusive experiences consistently to get people to buy. Can that be maintained after the initial wave of big names in 2016 (which also overcome the aforementioned issues)? I have my doubts, more on the consumer side. This is all a difficult balancing act to maintain. Not impossible but tough. Something like The Void has a good chance of succeeding, assuming that the maintenance costs don’t overcome what consumers are willing to pay.

      I’m not anti-VR, I just don’t think it is a flawless technology that will replace TVs after 5 years.

  2. Alfred May 8, 2015 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    How does The Void compare to VRCade and Survios? Which one seems to be doing the best?

    • arcadehero May 9, 2015 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      The Void looks like it has more detailed environments but the overall idea is the same. So far I have not heard of these locations making a big success out of it so far but it is still early in the VR game.

  3. Aaron May 10, 2015 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    It’s an interesting idea, but ultimately VR is the wrong way to go. It restricts your vision too much, especially if you’re going to have games involving multiple players. From what I see here, there won’t be a 1:1 representation of player characters in the world, so it will be hard to avoid unintended physical interactions without strict spacing rules. This could also cause issues with environmental elements that aren’t as solid or unintended objects, like garbage, that may cause liability issues since you’re essentially asking people to run around an environment blind except for the information supplied through the headset.

    I could see stuff like this working better with real set pieces and AR devices, but even then, you still have the overhead and maintenance problems mentioned above, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe when the tech is brought down in scale to the point where people are wearing simple glasses or goggles that can be made more durable for more physical play. More limited virtual elements are also a bit better at not causing nausea or headaches in the player and more solidly ground the player in the real world so they are aware of what’s in their surroundings.

    Anyway, that’s an idea I’ve been mulling over ever since Microsoft showcased the Hololens. Certainly, devices aren’t there, yet, but we’re getting closer and being able to accurately pinpoint the position of objects and players in a space would greatly improve immersion in these types of games. Setup may be a little more expensive due to the need for more detailed physical set pieces, but overall, the setup wouldn’t be that far removed from what we’re seeing with the Void.

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