Experiencing Hyper Reality: Parks Associates Team Visits The Void

by Billy Nayden | Sep. 27, 2018

Virtual reality has been a hot button topic in the next generation of connected entertainment for the past few years, though the adoption of in-home devices has yet to gain significant adoption. Just 25% of consumers reported familiarity with VR headsets in Q1 2018, and even fewer reported actually owning and using said devices.

However, an emerging entertainment company called The Void is shattering perceptions and concepts of virtual reality, challenging consumer notions of immersion and possibilities within the VR space. Dubbed “hyper reality” The Void employs not just sight and hearing of users, but also smell and touch to create a fully enveloping experience that virtually transports users to unforeseen worlds. Users are guided through a staged space, wearing not only a VR headset that utilizes lead tracking technology to monitor hand movement, but also a haptic vest, equipped with 22 sensors for a fully immersive experience. Additionally, overhead motion capture cameras track user movement, while accessories like fans and heat lamps further enhance the interactive experience.

The Parks Associates analyst team had the opportunity to experience The Void recently, which opened in Plano, TX on September 22, its 11th location worldwide. The Void rotates its content regularly, and currently the Cinemark West Plano location is host to “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire,” though there are plans to release content related to Wreck It Ralph, Ghostbusters, and Nicodemus, an original property, in the future.

The experience split our group into teams of four, where we were outfitted by a quartermaster for our armor, comprised of a VR headset and haptic vest. From there, we were sat on a bench and encouraged to pull our headsets down, which immediately transported us to an intergalactic starship. Onboard the virtual ship, we received our mission to infiltrate an Empire base, secure a mysterious package, and evacuate.

This is where the immersive nature of the experience truly began to feel real. We stepped off the virtual ship and onto the volcanic planet Mustafar, where hot air blew in our faces and the smell of charcoal permeated the air. Though we were just steps away in a staged space, it truly felt as if we stepped onto flying platforms, creaky catwalks and cramped armories. We were outfitted with plastic blasters, and when the infiltration plan inevitably went awry, we were forced to use the blasters to dispose of virtual Stormtroopers, all while using real railings and barricades concealed with VR overlays to maintain the illusion of the Star Wars universe. Additionally, an in-game puzzle required the use of real light up buttons, while overriding elevator controls required the use of a physical switch.

Overall, this experience shattered a lot of the common complaints users have about the VR experience. No one on the team felt motion sickness, and the content felt fresh and engaging, especially compared to many VR experiences.

This certainly represents an important development in not just VR, but the overall entertainment landscape. The Void has the opportunity to disrupt consumer perceptions of VR, and develop a consumer appetite for a retail VR experience, which offers a significantly more immersive experience than in-home offerings.

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