IAAPA 2016: Final Coverage
To finish our IAAPA 2016 coverage, we will close with what many in the video game industry as a whole is betting on being the ‘next big thing’. Thanks to that, a lot of money is being poured into the R&D of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality products that work best for Out-Of-Home Amusement. While previous IAAPA events had VR/AR concepts, this year there were enough that they could create a whole area dedicated to nothing but these products.
Unfortunately I did miss a few of the VR setups there which I will cover below.
For other IAAPA 2016 stories, check these out:
Flat Displays Still Have A Place
While most of this post will focus on HMDs, flat panels aren’t going away any time soon. This was taken at the Speedy’s One Stop Repair Services booth, where they continue to develop drop in LCD mounts for older JAMMA cabinets. With some of the headache’s I’ve been having this year with old CRTs, I’m certainly looking into more professional solutions like this. Now to get a LCD drop-in replacement that can work with old CRT-only light-gun games 😛
Quick Personal Note On HMDs In General
My use of HMDs at IAAPA did confirm something for me that I suspected after going to The Void last year – I belong to that small segment of people who cannot really use any HMD without some negative side-effects. That includes some light vertigo which was manageable enough that I did not need to quit any game early. However it does prevent me from seeking out any long VR experiences (say 10 minutes or more). The worst effect I experience are the migraines afterwards that tend to last for the rest of the day. I used headsets with and without glasses and that doesn’t seem to affect it. For all of the VR at IAAPA, I did not hear of anyone else who had used an HMD from suffering from anything similar.
With that out of the way, onto the games.
Omni Arena VR (Virtuix & Universal Space)
One of the biggest and most popular VR setups at IAAPA was by Universal Space and Virtuix for their new Omni Arena VR. This was previously mentioned on the site as UNIS’ 2 or 5 player solution for bringing VR into the amusement space. On hand at the show was the 5 player model, with each station fitted with a VR HMD set, a harness and an omni-directional treadmill. White face masks were given to each player to prevent the need for wiping the HMD down between each use (I saw these being used at other VR setups). In a way, these remind me of the old Virtuality pods from their appearance, now with a modern setup and style.
The treadmill is the main hardware component that helps this stand out from the many VR Arcades out there who are just buying an HTC Vive and calling it a day. With it you can navigate 3D environments by walking or running in place. This allows the arena to be able to feature first-person content that other out-of-home solutions cannot do in quite the same way. The user has to wear special shoes with a sensor on each and the surface itself is fairly slippery so you have to take care to hold onto the harness sides while entering. This does not require waxing for maintenance though so that is a plus. The treadmill overall is a safer and less cumbersome alternative to ideas like the Virtusphere.
Suited up, I gave their arena shooter demo a go and for the most part found it fun. It took some getting used to, especially if you are used to a keyboard/mouse or dual analog setup to play your first-person shooter games. A few times I did misjudge where my rockets were aimed but the normal gun was easy to aim with. The gun they give you is a bit lighter than it looks so that helps too. One of the Virtuix staff members shot a video of me giving it a go which I integrated into this overall video:
With the right content, I could see a few places springing for one of these arenas. It does require a much larger investment than buying off-the-shelf VR hardware but it is offering something better developed with both hardware and software tailored for a specific experience. This one in particular was difficult to get onto without a wait for most of IAAPA and certainly was the star of UNIS’ booth.
Futuretown VR (Futuretown & InJoy Motion)
Taiwanese developer InJoy Motion was on hand at IAAPA with their new motion based designed for residential and commercial VR experiences. To begin, the company is mainly focusing on home use of these designs, considering amusement applications for them down the road. At the show, InJoy was mainly reserving time to show it off for interested buyers, with open time limited to about two hours every day.
There were two “flavors” of the hardware shown – a horse riding base and a ski boot foot base. I tried the horse riding one first. This had an appropriate horse riding simulator for the software – it wasn’t a game in any sense of that word so simulator fits best. You ride through an exotic environment, checking out a variety of animals on your safari. This goes on for a few minutes until you reach a stone door which gives way to a mystic portal. Entering that, your horse transforms into an eagle and you fly back the way you came. The hardware piece does have a leather rein attached to it, which you can pull to speed up or turn your horse slightly.
The next part was the balance board type platform.There are a pair of foot latches like you would find on skis that you attach your feet to and then by shuffling your weight you can adjust your position in the game. When I tried this, the InJoy staff served as my railing to hold onto – I was surprised that they didn’t have a metal railing or pod but that will be available for the release candidate. I filmed one of the developers for the video who didn’t need any of that since he’s familiar with it and it shows that you don’t necessarily need that. But it will be useful for safety reasons and it does help to hold onto something when it is your first time. As you will see with one VR experience below, it’s important to consider the safety factor, especially when dealing with equipment that is elevated off the floor.
The second experience was more of a game, featuring a surfboard on a river. You move your weight or foot position around to move the surfboard in the game, grabbing the balloons in your path. I was surprised by how long this was, expecting it to finish after a minute or so but it went on longer than that. At the end you fall under the water and can relax looking at the tropical fish swimming around you.
There are other tailored game experiences that uses this hardware but these two programs are the ones shown. This is intended for a release in 2017…I think it will be interesting to see how InJoy can adapt it for amusement use and whether that will involve a railing or a harness system.
HADO AR (Meleap)
One nice surprise that I heard about on the last day of the show was coming across Meleap’s booth. We’ve covered this Japanese company before, they have designed an Augmented Reality HMD system that lets you live out your Dragonball Z style fantasies. I was unable to get video of this one as I was rushing around the last day to check out anything I had missed and when I was over there it was rather empty. But I did get to try it out for myself.
You wear an HMD and a wristband sensor then stand in an open space. For the game they had me play, it was Real Monster Battle; they also have HADO PvP Battle and HADO KART. In Real Monster Battle, you cast fireballs by throwing your palm outwards and when charged, you can raise your hand in the air then make a downwards motion to do a large fireball strike. You can also move forward to grab items. The game itself displays various monsters that you have to eliminate before the final boss battle. It was cool although the resolution of the display needed to be a little higher and the hand sensor vs. latency in your movements needs some improvements. It can do multiplayer however, where you play in an arena with other users. The company had a sign posted that they were looking for a US salesperson…not sure if they found them but perhaps you will be finding this at a theme park or FEC near you before too long.
Here’s the game I played from their official Youtube channel:
Motorbike VR (Cesys)
Adapting VR to racing platforms isn’t exactly a new idea but with this show we’ve been seeing some of that R&D coming to fruition. At previous IAAPA events, I came across a professional motion simulator company by the name of Cruden. This time, they launched a new division that focuses on amusement simulator applications called Cesys and Motorbike VR is their first big product.
Where Cruden’s specialty has been reproducing realistic motion, the first thing you notice when coming across their setup is the attention to detail in the bikes. I’m no expert on motorcycles but these looked like the real thing to me with realistic controls and other fine details that complete the experience. The motion wasn’t wild but their systems also reproduce subtle “bumps” in the road that you only really notice when you play.
Generally pro simulators attempt to immerse the player through the motion and two or three flat displays bolted together. But to be honest, having the seams between the displays and the show noise around you made it weird. So in this instance, a VR headset does help with the immersion in a way that flat displays can’t.
I had captured a video of a full race from CXC Simualtors but when transferring files from my laptop to my computer, something happened to the file and it is lost. I feel bad about it but things like this seems to happen every show (that or there’s some audio feedback that makes it unwatchable).
CXC had the latest version of their sit-down professional racing simulator, now with VR headsets and single displays instead of the large triple display units that they had last year. Because they took up less physical space, their booth was able to fit eight racers together for some fun head-to-head matches. Like last year they had a leaderboard where every player put their name up for all to see and a live commentator to describe the action as it happened. The software looked top notch and the motion was very good according to a couple of players that I asked about it.
I did grab a brochure from their booth but it did not appear to have been updated with info about the VR headsets. Fortunately, Kevin Williams grabbed a quick video of this one:
REACTIVr & MX4D Pods by MediaMation
MediaMation is one company who has been bringing VR to IAAPA for the past three or four years now and this year was their biggest setup yet. They did showcase their ATV motion+VR system last year but this year they went big by showing two of those units plus enormous 3D LED billboard screens.
Called REACTIVr, this system incorporates their immersive “4D EFX” seats (which have integrated ‘rumblers, seat poppers, back pokers, leg ticklers, air blasters, wind effects, neck ticklers and scent’) into 3DOF motion based simulators that have a realistic ATV type quad vehicle on the motion base. The users wear VR headsets and the pods are linked so that the teams can play against each other. According to the brochure, up to 8 players in 4 pods can compete with each other on their custom designed game experiences. I nabbed some footage of this one but didn’t have time to wait in line to try it out:
The other big item that MediaMation brought to the show was their new MX4D Pod. Billed as a “total immersion” device as well as the “ultimate marketing tool”, most visitors saw this at the Coca-Cola booth that always is situated right in front of the main entrance that most people use to get in (the Southeastern doors closest to the parking lot). That booth showed the marketing tool aspect of it as it was all decked out in Coke theming and I want to say that the round portion on the outside had a curved LED billboard type display but I didn’t look close enough at it to be sure (someone correct me on that if I’m wrong). As a pod, it provides two of their aforementioned 4D EFX seats and users can play a game using either VR headsets or you can go for a more traditional flat display.
MotionMagix Virtual Playground
This is one that I unfortunately missed at the show but you can read up on how it operates here or watch this:
Motion Theaters Go VR
Even as of last year, large motion theaters for 4-8 players were still a big thing but this year, not so much. Trio Tech did have announcements for a Ghostbusters 5D Dark Ride and was showing off their “Flyer” ride. Unfortunately I was unable to get a chance to check out the latter.
For everyone else, the focus was on converting over to VR headsets. Here is DOF Robotics and Simuline with new VR versions of their theater rides:
Voxel – HMD-Free VR w/ Kinect (Scale-1)
I covered this one last year when I stumbled across their booth on the last day of the show and was impressed with it. They have improved it some more and had a much nicer, flashier booth this year. They also had a brand new exclusive games that included a pirate battle game and one where you had to avoid a stampede of dogs. The Kinect sensor still needs some adjustment – I was finding myself wandering outside of its view area too often – but the effect is neat and doesn’t affect me like HMDs do.
Here’s a video that the company posted to show off the IAAPA setup:
A Concept That Needs A Bit More R&D As Well As Liability Insurance
When walking around on Thursday, Kevin Williams and I stumbled across this setup. It was certainly based on the idea that Namco had in Japan of walking on a plank but did the unwise thing of elevating that plank off the floor. That combined with not providing a safety harness or railings to protect the user and the attendants equals a very bad combination. That does make me wonder when someone with a rope course is going to attempt to add a VR element to it
One VR item I learned about on the last day but was unable to come across them in time was Holocube. According to their website: “Holocube has been painstakingly designed to be the perfect turnkey VR solution for commercial entertainment venues. With a compact footprint of only 200 square feet, Holocube’s innovative design allows for four players to simultaneously enjoy VR while requiring just 50 square feet per player.”
They also have developed their own force-feedback vest and unique gun peripheral. Fortunately AH contributor and long time friend of the site captured this one in action; I also saw a video of a unique rhythm VR game that they were running but I have not found that one online yet.
I was paying a little more attention to bowling this time around and came across a couple of booths that piqued my interest.
Imply had their new Green Bowling system which has user friendly touchscreen options, a fast ball return that is below the lanes (saving width space) and smartphone options for up to 12 players. It is going to replace their full-sized bowling options in the near future.
US Bowling created a fully themed mini-bowling alley based on pirates. Every piece of the setup is themed from the backdrop that has a pirate flag blowing in the wind to the ball return that is designed to look like a cannon. When the ball returns, the cannon lights up, makes a ‘boom’ sound and flashes red.
Last But Not Least
Perhaps the weirdest surprise of them all – an inflatable climbing wall
— Arcade Heroes – The Saviors of Coin-op Newsblog (@arcadeheroes) November 14, 2016
Thanks for following us on our IAAPA 2016 coverage but don’t forget – we’re always looking to report on the latest arcade news. There usually is a slow down after trade shows but we will find what is out there. I do hope to have some more info on Daytona 3 and Cruis’n Blast soon so stay tuned!