While the price of home Virtual Reality systems have proven to be prohibitive to many, it makes sense to look towards VR arcades offering a free roaming VR experience.
IMAX opened the first of their “IMAX VR Experience Centres” in Los Angeles last month which comprises of 14 VR pods incorporating HTC Vive and StarVR headsets. On offer are titles including Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine where you can wield a lightsaber. That is all the convincing I need. A further five pilot sites are planned by IMAX this year in the US, UK and China. Clearly Australia forgot to RSVP or something.
VR start-up company, The Void, is set to open 20 “Hyper-Reality” centres this year in the United States, based on the initial success of their flagship title, Ghostbusters Dimension, that attracted more than 40,000 visitors since it opened in New York. The Void employ a principle of overlaying a physical environment with a virtual landscape, turning a seemingly empty warehouse into a ghost busting delight, complete with interactive environments employing textured surfaces for touch and wind machines to add to the effect that a ghost just flew straight through you.
Dreamscape Immersive, another VR start-up, is planning to open a VR Multiplex in LA this September. While this will be a cinema rather than an arcade, the fact that Dreamscape secured $US11million in funding from sources including Warner Bros., 21st Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), IMAX, Westfield Corporation, and Steven Spielberg means that there is genuine interest to continually support VR entertainment into the future.
So what about Australia? We shouldn’t forget we have Zero Latency, who really started the VR arcade trend with their Melbourne-based zombie survival game back in August 2015.
And alongside these free roaming VR endeavours, researchers are busy lookin to make the VR experience even more realistic.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore have developed Ambiotherm that allows the VR user to feel wind and changes in temperature. Perfect for those games set in the fiery bowels of a Hell-inspired landscape or in the same room as myself and my ex.
The same team previously demonstrated face electrodes that allow you to experience different taste sensations, and are also looking at ways to incorporate vibrations and smell for a more realistic environment.
Because it won’t be a real arcade until you can master the overpowering stench of adolescence after 3pm.