The Virtual Arena: The Ascendance of Arena-Scale Entertainment – Part 1

The Virtual Arena

In the first of a two-part report observing the current immersive Out-of-Home entertainment scene for VRFocus, Kevin Williams latest Virtual Arena looks at the re-emergence of LBE though the popular free-roaming entertainment trend. Evaluating the pitfalls, and the early fallers, and those operations that have re-opened and hope to define the next phase of business. 

While some pontificate that location-based VR has probably taken a terminal hit from COVID – at the same time we have reports on the reopening of venues in Asia and Europe and even America, and see the return of the audience, though in tentative numbers. One aspect of the successful growth of LBE VR before the ravishes of the global health crisis closed all forms of social interaction and entertainment, was the growth in interest of “Arena-Scale”, also dubbed “Free-Roaming” or in Asia “Walking Attractions”. Players donning powerful backpack PC’s and taking part in multi-player immersive experiences. The compelling nature of these experiences were such that major venture capitalists had vied to invest considerable sums in the early developers of this genre of immersive entertainment.

But even before the global-pandemic suspended business, cracks in the business proposition of some arena-scale operations had started to manifest. Gradually exiting lockdown and the issues that impacted some business plans has been magnified, and we start to see the damage inflicted by a loss of revenue. While some of these immersive operations are facing more permanent closures, others are seeing renewed interest in their offering and a new arms race to dominate what is still seen as a lucrative opportunity.

Bandai Namco VR arena
The “Next Gen” virtual playing Arena: Image credit: Bandai Namco

The Landscape Ahead

Seen as one of the first exponents of the concept of immersive, free-roaming experience – The VOID tantalized the investment and operations community with a dream of transporting groups of players into a magical virtual environment, (what the company labelled “Hyper-Reality”), powered by their claimed unique “redirected walking”, with physical effects and props. Seen as one of the prominent representations of the growth in interest in free-roaming immersive experiences – the company had high profile investment, initially from the Disney’s Accelerator fund, including business mentorship that saw development resource through ILMxLab.

The VOID has been heavily dependent on the development resources of ILMxLab for most of their content, with only Ghostbusters, and horror-experience Nicodemus developed internally (in partnership with Ninja Theory), receiving mixed reviews. It was however the draw of the big IP and crafted VR experiences based on blockbuster movies that drew the attention. Much of their hyped original design hardware would have to be scaled back to reverting to off the shelf hardware, such as their tracking system from OptiTrack or their headset, in reality, being made with components from an Oculus CV1 unit, eventually under license, (after a planned in house design was abandoned). The company at its hight operating some 17 facilities offering a selection of Walt Disney movie IP VR experiences. But the sites opened seemed to offer conflicting information on their actual success, and cracks started to appear.

The VOID image1

The company had seen a churn in management, with the revolving door of top executives. Also, behind the scenes the operation had been haemorrhaging finances, plans for a permanent London site was abandoned near completion, and a total restructuring of the operation. Deals were signed with the shopping sector to place a new model of the attraction that was hoped to address the difficulties of audience retention. Things, however, had not gone as planned for The VOID operation, with numerous major executive departures and claimed venue expansion abandoned. Sources suggested that investments were being stretched and revenues were not proving as expected. By this time, the full impact of the global health crisis by March 2020, and all 17 VOID facilities had been at the time temporarily shuttered. But then things started to take a new turn, sources revealed information that one and then a second The VOID facilities on Walt Disney property had posted notices announcing their permanent closure and that all assets associated with Walt Disney were to be removed.

The Void Shutdown orders
The shut-down order posted on The VOID Disney locations doors. Image credit: WDW

An incredible silence has enveloped an operation that was once so prolific at promotion – while the US venues remained closed, with no information at this time on what the situation of their reopening will be, with only the Malaysia (Genting) venues had reopened for business since August. The VOID Malaysia site had removed all their Disney themed experiences only offering ‘Nicodemus’ and ‘Ghostbusters: Dimension’. And that was all the information that could be garnered at this time. Many will try and paint this as a bigger problem with the free-roaming VR sector, there seems to be a pattern emerging from the initial operators that expensive IP and a problematic business model has been accentuated by the financial impact of the COVID Lockdown.   

There is another recent recipient of investment and mentorship from the Disney Accelerator fund that is based in the arena-scale VR sector. Japanese start-up Tyffon has opened their own Tyffonium – Magical-Reality Theater – a backpack VR experience centre. While less well-known than the other Disney Accelerator investment in VR attractions, the operation had developed internally three attractions which they operated in their two Japanese venues. Much more aimed at a theatrical, sensory experience, looking at young couples as a key demographic, offering three game experiences that support up to four VR players for 30-minute durations. The operation would go on to raise their Series A round of funding – added to the previous investment this saw the company valued at $12 million by the end of that year. With this investment, the operation had received publicity towards a plan to open in the US. By March of this year, the Japanese operation had entered lockdown, with plans for the US operation still on the drawing board, and their 35 employees furloughed, though the facilities did reopen by October.

Tyffon image1
The unique couples focused VR game experience from Tyffon. Image credit: Tyffon

Another of the early pioneers, wanting to carve out an empire for themselves was Dreamscape Immersive. Described as a “Virtual Reality Experience Like No Other”, the company took on a movie theatre style of approach to offering their unique platform – having amassed an impressive cadre of investment from powerhouses from the movie industry. Investors also included AMC and IMAX – cinema legends looking at the concept of LBE VR, to address flagging movie ticket revenue. Along with an impressive lobby presenting the VR experiences on offer like movies – the guests in groups of six would enter donning rooms, putting on their PC backpacks and wearing foot and hand tracking devices based on the Vicon system. Then once inside the VR room, would put on their headset (originally the Oculus Rift CV1, but later the company would migrate over to the HP Reverb platform) – the environment offering physical effects within the space that mirrored the high-quality virtual experience rendered for the players.

Dreamscapes’ facility operation had opened first in Los Angeles, as part of the Westfield Century City shopping mall in the shadow of an AMC theatre, in Dallas and Columbus, and then venturing to Dubai. This UAE-based location reopened in July and has seen strong returning audiences – proving the health of LBE VR post-COVID lockdown. October will see the US chain of stores also reopening. But following the upheaval in business following the health crisis the corporation revealed the acceleration of plans for a brand new initiative. Dreamscape Immersive, partnered with Arizona State University (ASU), to launch ‘Dreamscape Learn’. The concept is for “Immersive Education” avatar-driven VR experiences being offered to both campus-based and online courses; planning to start with introductory biology and eventually expanding throughout the sciences and beyond, (vetted by top professors and learning scientists).  The plan will utilize the immersive VR story lead experience of the VR company married to the educational platform for students and explorers to create a unique learning environment (immense VR “laboratory”) which will see virtual pods created to traverse students around virtual environments.

Dreamscape Learn
A capture of the ‘Dreamscape Learn’ immersive VR laboratory. Image credit: Dreamscape

Numerous developers of arena-scale platforms had already started the process of redressing their business model to embrace new verticals. One of the front-runners in the development of IP based arena-scale VR experiences was the new operation SPACES. The company retained a wealth of experience having been spun out of DreamWorks Animation back in 2016. The corporation saw investment from Tencent and other leading players launched its first arena-scale platform with Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future, opening the first permanent location in San Jose and then a temporary installation in partnership with Cinemark. Also, SPACES had signed agreements with SEGA JOYPOLIS to install its VR experience at their Japanese sites. The operation was in the process of redefining their offering following feedback as the global crisis hit, but its innovation continued, and pivoted during lockdown to create a ground-breaking VR based video conferencing product. The interest in this product was such that SPACES announced in August that the company had been acquired by tech-giant Apple, for an undisclosed sum.

Sandbox VR had been a prominent name in the LBE VR business, coming from a meteoric rise supported by the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, and raising some $68m and $11m round of investment. With this investment, the operation focused on both improving the level of experience on offer, signing a licensing agreement to use major IP, such as releasing an experience based on ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. In total some 8 venues, split between Asian sites and their first few US locations, offering four-player backpack PC VR, using Oculus Rift CV1 headsets. But following the lockdown, Sandbox VR (Glostation USA Inc.) filed for Chapter 11 protection in August, this was on top of the previous announcement of the loss of their original CEO and 80-per-cent of their workforce. It was revealed that the company had started to reopen its venues, promoting new safety measures to ensure guests and staff post lockdown. The restructured management evaluating a plan of survival with the VR centre (single attraction) model.

Star Trek: Discovery
Players beaming into Sandbox VR’s Star Trek: Discovery adventure. Image credit: Sandbox VR

While not getting the same publicity as other arena-scale installations in the West, one of the first VR ZONE free-roaming offerings developed by Bandai Namco and being shuttered at MAZARIA is Dragon Quest VR. Developed for the original VR ZONE brand back in 2018 the videogame is based on the popular RPG property, with four-player PC backpacks (HTC Vive headset) – it’s one of the few arena scale installations that use wholly unique player interfaces representing the shields, and swords of the game. This was not the only Arena Scale VR attraction Bandai Namco developed – with a Ghost In The Shell property, (‘Ghost In The Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds’) back in 2017. Going on from the closure of their MAZARIA facility, the corporation is reappraising its approach to VR and immersive entertainment, with new plans to be revealed soon that could see new free-roaming properties.

Dragon Quest VR
Players working as a team against the bosses in Dragon Quest VR. Image credit: KWP

Other Japanese amusement factories that operate their own venues in the territory have been attempting to jump onto the arena scale bandwagon. CAPCOM with its PLAZA CAPCOM chain of sites has added the CAPCOM VR-X areas to their landscape, and with that created a unique arena-scale VR experience based off corporation owned IP. Biohazard: Valiant Raid (better known in the West as Resident Evil) launched last year, the four-player experiences negates the use of cumbersome backpack PC’s for a restricted player space using tethered HTC Vive headsets and customized controllers.

One of the largest of the Japanese amusement and gaming corporations is SEGA, and they have invested heavily into VR attractions for their facility business. Under the SEGA Joypolis VR chain, operated through CA SEGA JOYPOLIS (the co-Chinese and Japanese partnership), the company has deployed several third-party VR attractions. At this time SEGA’s amusement GM division has not created a unique VR platform of their own, favouring in representing other developers’ products as they evaluate the opportunities provided by this technology. The Asian market has seen the adoption of the term “Walking Attraction” when describing arena-scale VR experiences, the PC backpack offering freedom over tethered enclosures. Such operating systems include Mortal Blitz for Walking Attraction, developed by Skonec Entertainment. SEGA had also fielded the system from SPACES (as mentioned above), and later the Zero Latency free-roam experience in several Joypolis sites.

Zero Latency is one of the earliest to see the opportunity and unique compelling nature of free-roam VR entertainment. The company deploying their first facility in 2014, and then went on to establish and defined their unique up to eight-player immersive arena experiences, amassing a considerable library of seven popular games. Emerging from the global lockdown, the company has continued to plough a course in this sector. Developing their own backpack harnesses, haptic game controllers, along with the needs for appropriate briefing, loading, and unloading of players, staff training, all packaged in a franchisee offering operations have added to their entertainment venues. The company announced a major partnership to bring AAA content to their platform, Ubisoft – creator, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and services revealed that it would be bringing its million-selling consumer game license to VR with Far Cry VR: Dive into Insanity. This LBE VR experience for up to eight players takes them back to Rook Islands, the setting of‘Far Cry 3 for some intense action. Working in partnership to develop and implement their multi-player combative experience with Zero Latency, the game will be released across their 45 venues in 22 countries during 2021.

Zero Latency
Image credit: KWP

This concludes the first part of this extensive coverage; we will now look at the rest of the sector and the new entrants bouncing back into business after lockdown in the following coverage.

Dreamscape Launches New Location In Columbus, Ohio

Startup Dreamscape Immersive is opening a VR location in Columbus, Ohio at the Easton Town Center.

The startup’s partnership with AMC Theatres brings The Blu, Alien Zoo, and Curse of the Lost Pearl to the movie venue there. Three Dreamscape VR pods will be located on level two of the Station Building inside the AMC.

Dreamscape is planning to open additional VR destinations in the New York/New Jersey area later this year. Previously, the startup opened its flagship location in Los Angeles at Westfield Century City Mall and another in Dallas at NorthPark Center. The new Columbus location opens on February 28 and tickets are available now. Dreamscape says it is also planning more international locations following the December 2018 opening of a location at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.

Dreamscape’s three initial experiences are an “Alien Zoo” that calls back to Jurassic Park in some ways, a theatrically-themed Indiana Jones-like temple in “Curse of the Lost Pearl: A Magic Projector Adventure”, and the gorgeous underwater adventure “The Blu: Deep Rescue” produced in partnership with WeVR Studios. Dreamscape’s experiences are typically backpack-powered VR walk-around attractions with accessories you wear on your limbs to provide full-body avatars. The experiences also typically feature very compelling environmental effects.

Tickets for Dreamscape appear to be set around $20 per person but are priced a few dollars more on weekends and during the holiday season. The ticketing website also advises “travelers must be age 10+” and at least 48 inches tall.

Dreamscape plans to “refresh” its experiences on a regular basis.

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Men In Black Is Getting A Location Based VR Experience At Dreamscape In LA

Men in Black First Assignment

If you’re a Men in Black fan in or near LA, you’re in luck. LA-based location based VR company Dreamscape is launching a new experience called Men in Black: First Assignment.

This will be Dreamscape’s first experience based on a major franchise or brand, which makes it the company’s biggest move yet.

The company described the experience as follows:

You will leave your identity behind, rise above the system, as you take on your first heart pounding MIB mission — escorting the royal family of Zarthania safely back to the edge of the galaxy aboard your intergalactic hoverbikes, evading the evil Octopoid alien invaders along the way and hopefully making your way back to MIB headquarters.

The experience is being produced by Walter Parkes. Parkes was the executive producer for all four Men in Black films, as well as other major films like Minority Report. He is a co-founder and co-chairman of Dreamscape. Interestingly, back in the mid 1990’s he helped found DreamWorks, so clearly he has an interest in advancements in entertainment technology.

Our goal at Dreamscape is to combine the emotional power of cinematic storytelling with the epic thrill of amusement park rides — and with MIB: First Assignment, you will truly be the hero of the adventure”, Parkes stated.

Dreamscape Immersive

Dreamscape launched back in November with three experiences, the same lineup as today: Alien Zoo, The Blu: Deep Rescue, and Lavan’s Magic Projector.

We’ve tried all three of Dreamscape’s current experiences, and hope to try First Assignment when it launches. You can read our hands-ons here:

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Dreamscape’s The Blu: Deep Rescue Is a Tranquil VR Experience

Dreamscape The Blu

Dreamscape’s The Blu: Deep Rescue took me back to 1996. When I was a kid I made it a point to tell anyone I knew that I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was super obsessed with ocean life – specifically whales – growing up. Couldn’t tell you how many times I watched the Free Willy movies, because I’ve honestly lost count. That being said, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area and wanting to constantly be around ocean life wasn’t exactly easy.

Sure, my family would take me to Marine World (now known as Discovery Kingdom) to see the dolphins and orcas, but they wouldn’t let me sit close up. When I was twelve, we went to Hawaii and went on a whale watching tour… Except not a single whale showed up. Eventually, I gave up on my hopes of being a marine biologist. My obsession with ocean life still shows, though every so often. When Ian gave me background on The Blu and its history, I only had one question. Am I going to get emotional?

A shot of the waiting area at Dreamscape Immersive in Century City. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

Walking into Dreamscape

Dreamscape currently only has one location: the Century City Westfield Mall near West Los Angeles. When you walk in, a Dreamscape employee greets you, and helps you check in. The check in process is simple if you printed your ticket at home: Scan the QR code, fill out basic information, and sign a waiver. After signing, you get to choose an avatar for your experience. Both experiences offered male, female, and gender non-binary avatars from which to choose.

A mini-gallery of various VR headsets in the departure lounge. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

After you check in and hang a left, you enter a large, comfortable lounge to relax in prior to your adventure. If you arrive early for your booked slot, or are even waiting for an additional adventure, you could purchase a variety of beverages, snacks, and souvenirs. Merchandise includes from t-shirts and jackets as well as coffee table books about whales and endangered animals. If you don’t want to sit and enjoy a beverage before going in, you could walk around and look at the Alien Zoo exhibit they had set up (and cool photos of various VR headsets from over the years on the wall).

The departure lounge and boarding area reminded me of Disneyland’s Soarin’ Around the World. Using dark blue and copper tones, I got a retro steampunk vibe from the place. The overall space is very comfortable for individuals and families alike. I wouldn’t mind having to wait a while, as it’s a nice escape from the loud, busy mall.

This is the area where you and up to five others gear up for your adventure. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

Gearing up for the adventure

Roughly ten to fifteen minutes prior to your booked time slot, an adventure guide (the employee who assists you with gear and remains in the room during the experience) comes and gets everyone. You walk into a room with six seats, three on each side. One seat is assigned to each guest.

The employee told us to put on our equipment in a specific order. First were the foot trackers, which slide on and tighten around the center of your feet. Next was the backpack, which seemed significantly lighter than the one worn for VOID experiences. Then there’s a hand tracker for each hand, and finally, the Oculus Rift.

You’ll get to see all sorts of ocean life on your journey. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

The adventure begins

You then enter the room where the experience takes place. For The Blu, it was just Ian and myself. The employee instructed us to put on and secure our headsets, and step on a set of footprints on the ground. With our hands at our sides, the system then calibrated avatars for our bodies. Our avatars popped up in front of us, in a kind of mirror, and once we confirmed we could see them, the screen went black momentarily. Then we transported somewhere else.

Ian and I started our journey looking at a giant projected globe. We could step into the globe, put our hands through it, walk, and look around. The narrator asked us if one singular form of life was ever important enough to make risks for, and ultimately save. We then transported to a state-of-the-art underwater laboratory. The narrator briefed us on our mission. We were going to dive deep into the ocean and look for a whale in need of help.

The room’s layout as we saw it in the real world was matched inside VR. There were rails around the space, and a center platform area. After looking around the laboratory for a bit, the narrator instructed us to stand on the center platform, and hold on for the descent into the deep blue ocean.

I would love to play with seals for hours in VR, thanks. Photo provided by Wevr.

I could have done this for hours

Yeah, I got a bit emotional. I teared up a bit. As the platform “lowered” into the ocean, it really felt like we were moving, just without all the pressure building up in our ears. Loads of beautiful sea life surrounded us, including adorable seals! They were very animated, playfully swimming around us. Ian tapped me on the shoulder and pointed down, and there was another seal, looking up at us from below with curiosity. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, reminding me of when I first touched a seal in the real world at Discovery Kingdom. I forgot about the world outside of Dreamscape.

We got off the platform to restore power to a shipwreck, and some sea scooters. While searching for a power button I leaned in close to examine some of the sea anemones. They varied in color – vibrant pinks, oranges, and greens – and mimicked the movement of real sea anemones. For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to reach out and “touch” one. When my hand got close, the anemone closed up. I thought surely it was just a coincidence, so I did it to a few others, which reacted the same. I called Ian over and we both started poking sea anemones.

Once we powered up the underwater scooters, we hopped on. These scooters were visible around the outer edge of the platform when we first arrived. Hesitating to reach forward and grab the handlebars, I honestly expected them to truly not be there. Much to my surprise, the handlebars were exactly where I expected them to be.

From there, our scooters took off. I could still hear Ian next to me, of course, but we had freedom to move around on our scooters. Ian sped up in front of me, and at one point, I was in front of him. We could turn around and wave at each other. Each scooter takes a different path, so at one point we were truly separated. I think we were both low-key terrified of some sea monster attacking us while we lost sight of one another. There are no sea monsters here though. And because we saw completely different things I want to go back and try other scooter paths.

If you love the ocean, The Blue isn’t an experience you’ll want to miss. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

Toward the end of the trip as you’re raising back to the surface, multiple whales are swimming all around you. This, for me, was the most emotional part of the whole adventure. Accelerating on the underwater scooter and looking down to see a giant whale eye peer deep into my soul took me back to being the kindergartner who dreamed of having that moment in real life. I definitely wasn’t underwater in scuba gear and the whales that surrounded me singing their beautiful songs weren’t real either. But it felt real.

Dreamscape’s The Blu: Deep Rescue is an amazing experience. For $20, I dove into something that left me refreshed, relaxed, and rejuvenated. As someone who is constantly busy and generally high-anxiety, I can absolutely see myself returning to Dreamscape to unplug from the world for a bit. I highly recommend The Blu for those who are looking to do immersive virtual reality for the first time, as it isn’t intense. If you’re just getting into VR, I don’t recommend starting with Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl.

Employees at Dreamscape said there would be new adventures coming to Century City “very soon.” I for one, am very excited to see what the company has in store.

You can also check out Ian’s hands-on feature of Dreamscape’s Alien Zoo from last year by clicking here.

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Lavan’s Magic Projector Transports Better Than Any Other VR Attraction

Magic Projector Haptioscope Dreamscape Immersive Lost Pearl

There is a cinematic element to all three of Dreamscape Immersive’s launch projects.

Alien Zoo is just like a trip to Jurassic Park. The Blu grows from its origins wowing VR early adopters in Vive and Rift headsets at home in 2015 and 2016. On Dreamscape’s big stage, The Blu’s underwater encounters with giants of the deep becomes an even more grandiose multiplayer adventure. The engrossing immersive effects make for indelible memories.

Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl

Lavan’s Magic Projector, though, is one of the best introductions to VR available in 2019 — though it may not be very kid-friendly.

There was a heavy Indiana Jones theme on this adventure. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

It was 2012 when the Oculus Rift Kickstarter first promised people could “step into the game.” Seven years on most people at home only take a step or two in any direction while wearing an Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR headset. Excellent for Beat Saber, sure, but not for exploring large underground Indiana Jones-like temples.

The Dreamscape system uses five sensors. Two sensors attach to the back of the hands and two attach to the top of your shoes. A fifth is mounted to the top of the Oculus Rift headset. This system fulfills the promise of the original Rift in spectacular fashion with full body tracking. Magic Projector ticketholders take a step through a doorway much like the one Dorothy Gale took for the first time on the big screen more than 70 years ago.

Stepping Through The Screen

Dreamscape launched a trial run early last year of Alien Zoo followed by a more permanent location at one of the highest end malls in the Los Angeles Area — Westfield Century City. The Blu, Alien Zoo and Lavan’s Magic Projector are $20 per ticket and vary enough for each to feel surprising, even if you’ve seen the other two.

Here is the official description:

In 1936, American inventor Clarissa Lavan announced an invention that would change motion pictures forever – the Haptioscope, a projector that not only showed movies, but allowed you to enter into them. But on the night before its premiere, Clarissa mysteriously vanished, and her invention was lost to time. Until now. Dreamscape Immersive has rebuilt the fabled Haptioscope. Those brave enough to step into its unknown worlds, need only to turn it on.

A look at the check in booth. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

The entry to Dreamscape is a standard tablet-based onboarding process. Ticketholders need to sign the agreement and pick an avatar. Dreamscape sets an age guideline of at least 10 years old and 48-inches tall to participate. Unfortunately, none of the avatars are proportioned for children. That means a young girl joining us on our journey was proportioned and had features like an adult while bout half as tall as the rest of us.

Age Guideline

The Magic Projector’s elements are potentially frightening to those stretching the age guideline.

The little girl who joined us held her guardian’s hand and bravely followed her through the underground temple’s traps. Both avatars were represented across a chasm, even holding hands. The avatar’s size, emotionless appearance and incorrect proportions made her look like a trained monkey or hobbit. The girl’s hands gathered up beneath her headset. It became apparent she was peeking out from underneath. Then she disappeared. One minute there were six of us in the underground temple. The next there were five of us. We finished the last few steps of the journey without the little girl.

We found her after the trip concluded. She seemed pretty sad because the experience stopped for her at some point.

The Magic Projector utilizes the space incredibly well. Photo provided by Dreamscape Immersive.

Dreamscape Pricing

Dreamscape’s pricing is middle of the road when it comes to VR attractions. At one end there are VR headsets you can wear at Dave & Busters for a trip to Jurassic World, or on the back of a dragon, for about $5 per ticket. At the other end is The VOID selling $30-$35 per ticket for most visits to the universes of Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Wreck It Ralph and the haunted world’s fair of Nicodemus. Spaces, which offers Terminator battles, goes from $20-$30 per ticket with matinee times at the low end.

Dreamscape Immersive is drawing people into its worlds for the first time when they enter through the door. That’s different from The VOID, which usually depends on the lure of visiting well known dimensions for some of its appeal. Past Dreamscape’s tablets is a seating area featuring artifacts from the worlds you’ll be visiting. There are beverages and snacks to buy alongside merchandise. Overall, repeat visitors will find the atmosphere more inviting than other location-based VR attractions, with pricing right in the middle.

Dreamscape Immersive is clearly inspired by cinema but provides something entirely different from it. While The Blu and Alien Zoo are fun trips as well, Lavan’s Magic Projector is the perfect transportation device and a powerful introduction to VR for those ready for its slightly scarier elements.

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Dreamscape Immersive: Vier neue Arcade-Einrichtungen mit weiteren VR-Erfahrungen angekündigt

Das amerikanische VR-Start-up Dreamscape Immersive expandiert und eröffnet vier neue Arcades mit zusätzlichen VR-Erfahrungen. Bisher stellte das Unternehmen nur temporären Zugang zu den exklusiven VR-Multiplayer-Erfahrungen zur Verfügung, nun werden an den Standorten in Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Dallas und Columbus, Ohio dauerhafte Arcade-Einrichtungen in den AMC-Kinos bereitgestellt.

Dreamscape Immersive – Vier neue Arcades mit zusätzlichen VR-Erfahrungen in Amerika

Das Entertainment- und Technologie-Start-up Dreamscape Immersive präsentierte bisher äußerst erfolgreich die VR-Erfahrung Alien Zoo für einen kurzen Zeitraum in Los Angeles. Nun steht eine Expansion an, denn die Multiplayer-Erfahrung zieht gemeinsam mit zwei weiteren VR-Attraktionen in vier feste Standorte in die AMC-Kinos in den USA ein. So wird nicht nur in Los Angeles eine Arcade eingerichtet, auch in New York, New Jersey, Dallas und Colombus, Ohio dürfen Besucher und Besucherinnen zukünftig in die aufwendigen VR-Angebote eintauchen.

In der VR-Attraktion Alien Zoo dürfen die Gäste an einen intergalaktischen Ort reisen, um auf Tuchfühlung mit gefährdeten außerirdischen Kreaturen aus der gesamten Galaxis zu gehen. So dürfen die Besucher unter anderem mit einer exotischen Mischung aus Katze und Frosch Ball spielen oder mit majestätischen Tierwesen kuscheln. Außerdem könnt ihr auf Konfrontationskurs mit dem gefährlichsten Raubtier der gesamten Galaxie gehen.

Alien-Zoo-Dremscape-Immersive

Image courtesy: Dreamscape Immersive

Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl führt die Gäste dagegen durch die vierte Wand und projiziert sie direkt in einen Kinofilm. So gilt es Hinweise zu entschlüsseln und sich vor gefährlichen Fallen in Acht zu nehmen, um das Geheimnis hinter der herzzerreißenden Geschichte von The Lost Pearl zu entdecken.

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Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl | Image courtesy: Dreamscape Interactive

The Blu: Deep Rescue entstand in Kooperation mit WeVR und führt euch in die Tiefen des blauen Meeres, um in schillernde Unterwasserwelten einzutauchen und die Meereslebewesen kennenzulernen. Dabei stoßt ihr auf ein gefangenes Blauwalbaby, das eure Hilfe benötigt, um wieder mit seiner Mutter vereint zu werden.

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The Blu: Deep Rescue | Image courtesy: Dreamscape Interactive

Die VR-Angebote bieten euch ungefähr 25 Minuten Laufzeit. Weitere Informationen findet ihr auf der offiziellen Webseite.

Insgesamt fünf zusätzliche VR-Erfahrungen sollen in Zukunft folgen. Das Unternehmen wird von großen Investoren unterstützt, darunter IMAX, Westfield Malls, Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox, MGM und Steven Spielberg und konnte sich in der letzten Finanzierungsrunde über 30 Millionen US-Dollar zur Entwicklung von hochkarätigen VR-Erfahrungen sichern.

Ob die Arcades auch in Europa zugänglich werden, steht derzeit noch nicht fest.

(Quellen: Road to VR | Upload VR | Dreamscape Immersive | Video: Dremscape Immersive YouTube)

Der Beitrag Dreamscape Immersive: Vier neue Arcade-Einrichtungen mit weiteren VR-Erfahrungen angekündigt zuerst gesehen auf VR∙Nerds. VR·Nerds am Werk!

Dreamscape Immersive to Open Cutting-Edge VR Centre in LA Next Month

You may remember VRFocus reporting on location-based virtual reality (VR) specialist Dreamscape Immersive opening a pop-up location in Los Angeles earlier this year to showcase its brand new experience, Alien Zoo, for a month. That was just a precursor to today’s announcement, with the company announcing today that its flagship location in Westfield Century City will open this December.

Dreamscape Immersive Lavans_Magic_ProjectorThis first location will see the introduction of three original VR adventures, designed for guests of all ages to experience the magic of immersive storytelling.

  • Alien Zoo 
    • Allows viewers to travel to a larger than life, intergalactic haven where they come face-to-face with endangered alien creatures from across the galaxy.
  • The Blu: Deep Rescue
    • Dreamscape’s co-production with WeVR, a descent into the ocean to explore dazzling underwater worlds and aquatic life soon becomes an urgent mission to rescue a trapped baby Blue Whale and unite it with its mother.
  • Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl
    • Inside this heart-pumping adventure, participants will be challenged to unlock clues, escape treacherous traps, and work together as they discover the secret of The Lost Pearl.

“At its heart, Dreamscape is about merging the scope and emotional power of cinema with the pure visceral excitement of a great theme-park ride — all within a totally new VR technology that allows our audience to enter into and become part of the story,” notes Walter Parkes, co-chairman of Dreamscape Immersive in a statement.

Dreamscape Immersive TheBlu

The opening marks the start of a period of rapid expansion for Dreamscape Immersive, which includes the introduction of four new stand-alone and in-theatre venues via its partnership with AMC Theatres. Markets that AMC has identified for new Dreamscape destinations, include Dallas/Ft. Worth, Columbus Ohio, and the New York/New Jersey metro area. Plans are underway to open these locations during 2019.

What sets Dreamscape VR apart from all others are the magical minds responsible for crafting such captivating, immersive experiences, the likes of which has never been seen before,” said Adam Aron, CEO and President of AMC Entertainment. “Audiences have come to expect innovations from our company, and Dreamscape and AMC are going to deliver a next-level entertainment option.”

You can purchase advance tickets for the Westfield location starting today from Dreamscape Immersive’s website. For further updates keep reading VRFocus.

Dreamscape Immersive to Open 4 New Out-of-Home VR Venues

Dreamscape Immersive, the location-based VR startup backed by some of the biggest companies in Hollywood, today announced it will be opening four US-based locations in addition to its flagship LA venue.

Until now, Dreamscape Immersive has operated pop-up venues for limited time engagements with their multiplayer VR experiences.

The company plans to bring four stand-alone and theater-based locations to Dallas/Ft. Worth, to the New York & New Jersey metro areas, and to Columbus, Ohio.

Dreamscape Immersive’s Westfield Century City Mall location is now a permanent installation. The LA location currently features three multiplayer VR experiences; Alien Zoo, The Blu: Deep Rescue, and Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl—all available at $20 per person for a 25 minute experience.

The company says it will soon offer five in-house developed multiplayer VR adventures.

“At its heart, Dreamscape is about merging the scope and emotional power of cinema with the pure visceral excitement of a great theme-park ride — all within a totally new VR technology that allows our audience to enter into and become part of the story,” said Walter Parkes, co-chairman of Dreamscape Immersive in a press statement.

Dreamscape Interactive’s $30 million Series B financing round, announced in September 2017, was led by AMC, and followed by investors including Steven Spielberg, 21st Century Fox, IMAX, Warner Bros., and Bold Capital Partners.

The post Dreamscape Immersive to Open 4 New Out-of-Home VR Venues appeared first on Road to VR.

Dreamscape Immersive Opening L.A. Flagship Location With New WEVR Experience

Dreamscape Immersive Opening L.A. Flagship Location With New WEVR Experience

Startup Dreamscape Immersive is beginning its roll-out of location-based VR entertainment beginning with a premier location at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles followed by multiple locations in 2019 at AMC Theatres.

One of the physical props used in the entry room to Alien Zoo from Dreamscape Immersive during its trial run early in 2018.

I visited Dreamscape Immersive earlier this year during its Alien Zoo trial run and came away impressed by the sense of awe they and wonder they were able to create with an original story unconnected to any existing property — a departure from the strategy being employed by startup The VOID for its VR locations.

The Alien Zoo will be joined by an exclusive version of WEVR’s groundbreaking The Blu experience co-produced by the two startups, as well as Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl, all available starting Dec. 14 at the Westfield Century City mall. The location will ultimately house five “adventure pods featuring an array of exciting original and studio-based experiences that will be refreshed on a regular basis.”

Advance tickets to the Wesfield location are available starting today from dreamscapeimmersive.com. By mid-2019, Dreamscape representatives plan to launch more locations in partnership with AMC Theatres in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Columbus Ohio and the New York/New Jersey area.

“Dreamscape is about merging the scope and emotional power of cinema with the pure visceral excitement of a great theme-park ride — all within a totally new VR technology that allows our audience to enter into and become part of the story,” said Walter Parkes, co-chairman of Dreamscape Immersive, in a prepared statement.

Here are official summaries for the three initial experiences:

“Alien Zoo…offers guests the opportunity to travel to a larger than life, intergalactic haven where they come face-to-face with endangered alien creatures from across the galaxy. Upon arrival, travelers will experience the exhilaration of being able to play ball with exotic frogcats, pet majestic creatures, and, by working together, even narrowly escape the galaxy’s greatest predator.”

“In Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearl audiences are offered a fundamental wish fulfillment: to step through the screen and become part of a movie. Once inside this heart-pumping adventure, participants will be challenged to unlock clues, escape treacherous traps, and work together as they discover the secret of The Lost Pearl.”

“In The Blu: Deep Rescue, Dreamscape’s breathtaking co-production with WeVR, an epic descent into the ocean to explore dazzling underwater worlds and aquatic life soon becomes an urgent mission to rescue a trapped baby Blue Whale and unite it with its mother.”

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The post Dreamscape Immersive Opening L.A. Flagship Location With New WEVR Experience appeared first on UploadVR.

The Virtual Arena: VR’s Bonanza for Commercial Entertainment (Part 2)

Industry specialist Kevin Williams of KWP, concludes his report on the latest developments shaping the digital out-of-home entertainment (DOE) sector and all things to do with Commercial virtual reality (VR) deployment seen internationally. In this final part we see the drive for new investment and the realities and speculation on the market’s true worth.

With this final part of our coverage and we rush from Germany, to the Czech-Republic, and a major event in the country’s capital, underlined the influence that this new commercial entertainment utopia is having on the investment community. Held at the beginning of September, Future Port Prague was a two-day gathering of innovative technology trends and influential speakers on the subject. Along with dedicated conference events there was a showcase arena that comprised demonstrations of the latest tech-trends, ranging from Drone racing, electric-automobiles, smart home appliances and 3D printing to just name some of the exhibits. As part of this, local Czech developers were also promoting their influence on the scene, and VR made a big showing.

Future Port Prague 2018
Future Port Prague 2018 – A packed outdoor festival conference stage. (Credit: KWP)

We have already mentioned in part one of this feature Beat Games; the Czech-based company had a version of the Beat Saber VR arcade setup demonstrating to attendees in the VR Zone of the event. It was interesting to see that unlike normal VR arcade deployments of the game, this enclosure used the latest technology from new industry start-up LIV. The green-screen enclosure and specially tracked virtual camera, placed the player in the centre of the action, superimposing them into the virtual environment – but not only creating a great audience element, the LIV system has been developed to offer a unique takeaway, with the player able to download a video of their ‘performance’, with appropriate social media hooks. The company looking to deploy this platform at several VR arcades.

LIV captures Beat Saber performances
LIV offers an added element to the Beat Saber experience. (Credit: KWP)

Another local Czech-based developer is DIVR Labs – the company famous for a local Prague tourist attraction that is seeing phenomenal business. Golem VR (not to be confused with the other Golem), the attraction is one of the largest free-roaming virtual experiences operating. The basement of the local Prague Hamleys toy store transformed to accommodate a backpack-based VR experience using Oculus CV1’s. Groups of up to four guests traverse the virtual environment – in an experience that sees them transported through time to the 16th century, to discover the mythical Golem and its creator in an interpretation of the story. DIVR has partnered with Hamleys to develop this first free-roaming VR adventure that has no weapons or shooting (one of the first of its kind). The company in negotiations to open additional venues.

Golem VR
A view of the Golem VR experience at Hamleys in the city centre. (Credit: KWP)
(Credit: KWP)

Returning to Future Port Prague, and another Czech-based developer, VRgineers took an exhibition space to offer the first public demonstrations of their XTAL head-mounted display (HMD). This system offers what the company calls an Enterprise-ready solution with a world’s first AutoEye system, offering automatically aligned lenses to the user’s eyes as well as an incredible wide field of view. The system has already been taken up by the local automotive industry, and the company is now in the process of receiving additional investment towards offering the platform too interested location-based VR developers. The company running at the event the ability to fly in a networked aerial combat using the visual fidelity achieved with the XTAL.

XTAL
The XTAL headset in action. (Credit: KWP)

The next phase of high-end VR headsets has seen a shift in focus towards Enterprise opportunities (a sector prepared to pay for a technological lead). Most recently Kickstarter-funded Pimax demonstrated in Europe the production version of the Pimax 8K wide-field of view system, but also at the same time revealed a cost-reduced version. We saw at the Chinese Amusement trade conference in March one of the first Chinese attraction developers experimenting with the Pimax dev-kit on their robotic arm motion platform, and there are reports of at least one major VR park developer looking to deploy this at their site.

VR Enlightenment - Asia Amusement & Attractions (AAA) Expo 2018
VR Enlightenment – Up in the air in a Pimax back at the Asia Amusement & Attractions (AAA) Expo 2018. (Credit: KWP)

The consideration to a wholly focused Enterprise initiative was also seen from StarVR, the company’s Vice Chairman Jerry Kao reported as saying the company was shifting its operational focus to high-end enterprise applications, with the location-based entertainment market to aerospace and automotive. This was reported following the companies unveiling of the StarVR One HMD during SIGGRAPH in Canada. The new headset offering what the company calls a “100% human viewing angle” is clearly packaged to address a DOE centric business model; building on previous associations with IMAX, SEGA and the VRPark in Dubai, as well as through VR attraction projects with StarbreezeZerolight

This year’s SIGGRAPH saw a major push towards location-based VR application of the latest high-end graphics and computer power – many exhibitors showing a shift towards this new business dimension. Leading tracking specialists OptiTrack, introduced their new Active Puck Mini at the event, offering a cost effective and 40% reduced option. The company confirmed that along with conventional motion capture business the system had Location-Based entertainment offerings squarely in their sites. The company has been deployed in many of the leading free-roaming VR installations, and OptiTrak has partnered with Dreamscape Immersive, offering their tracking solution, as well as working in conjunction with several other developers.

Dreamscape Immersive, have been in the news for the tests of their own free-roaming Alien Zoo concept – and the company partnered with movie theatre chain AMC Entertainment late last year, the deal coming after closing some $20 million (USD) of their Series B funding. It is this drive by the movie theatre business to embrace the opportunities of LBE VR that has seen momentous developments in recent weeks. One of the biggest was the announcement that Canadian cinema giants Cineplex had signed a strategic partnership with VRstudios (famous for their VRcade platform and VR experiences). The deal saw Cineplex strategically invest in their VR business, with at least 40 multiplex and location-based entertainment centres planned in the Canada territory by 2021.

Group of players start their progress through VRcade’s Terminal 17 at IAAPA 2017. (Credit: KWP)

This undertaking is mirrored by other cinema chains taking the plunge. The VOID’s “hyper-reality” location-based entertainment (LBE) operation, announced the first “In-Theatre” VR installation in the States – following the signing of an exclusive expansion agreement with leading entertainment and media company Cinemark. This development also saw The VOID LBE VR venues opening across Canada. This news follows on from continuing developments in the movie-theatre sector to embrace the opportunity of VR attractions tailored for their unique audience mix. With the expansion of the operation The VOID was also linked to brand new game content building on influential Intellectual Properties (IPs) – a joint venture of ILMxLAB, a division of Lucasfilm, and The VOID, will see a “one-of-a-kind, original adventure” based in the Wreck-it Ralph films’ unique world (tentatively called Ralph Breaks VR). This is the first of several immersive virtual reality properties from the developer, based on film licenses, building on previous Ghostbusters and Star Wars experiences.

Ralph Breaks VR

Investing into the cinema scene has gained momentum as the theatre business has seen in the US a 16% decline in ticket sales, attributed to a need for a more diverse offering for the “millennially-minded” audience hoping to be attracted to their locations. Following a spate of mergers and acquisitions in this sector the market has fixated on finding an entertainment-mix to incorporate as a “in-theatre” offering. As we reported in our coverage from the LBE VR summit, manufacturers such as D-BOX Technologies had invested in their own D-BOX Cinematic VR Experience which launched earlier in the year at an Ottawa theatre.

Microsoft LBE Summit 2018: D-BOX’s cinema seat put through its paces with the latest VR experiences created for this sector
D-BOX’s cinema seat put through its paces with the latest VR experiences created for this sector. (Credit: KWP)

This also brings us to developer Nomadic, who have been developing their own location-based adventure-based, tactile VR experiences – the company has promoted heavily in the cinema industry (presenting at the 2017 CinemaCon, and reportedly raising some $6 million in seed funding). Focused initially on a in-theatre approach, the company recently announced they had partnered with Vertigo Games to deploy a turn-key, modular-based VR platform based on Arizona Sunshine LB Elite. The first installations schedule to open fall this year. How much this space will mirror the wireless VR experience seen at Gamescom, in Germany recently has yet to be revealed. But this nicely takes us full circle from where this coverage began.

Arizona Sunshine LBE at Gamescom 2018
Arizona Sunshine LBE at Gamescom 2018. (Via HTC)

In just a matter of months and we have seen a level of investment in immersive entertainment focusing on developing virtual reality – far surpassing the previously wild speculation of the consumer VR sector. We have seen colourful analysis on the worth of the Commercial Entertainment or LBE VR market – most notably the SuperData chart that looked at a $995 million valuation of Location-Based entertainment by 2021. And we have seen other charts rise the gambit as high as $12 Billion by 2023 (Greenlight Insights), hopeful speculation to be sure – but based on a growing hunger to maximise the aspirations of the audience, to the abilities of this sectors technology, where the consumer equivalent has failed to deliver (for whatever reasons).

LBE Market Forecast via SuperData
LBE Market Forecast via SuperData

It is important to understand that the VR arcades scene is still at a very early stage of development and has by no means established itself as a dependable business model. One such example of this is the IMAX pilot scheme to establish their concept of IMAX VR LBE operations. News recently broke that two of the seven opened sites had been closed (one in New York and one in Shanghai). The IMAX board had already revealed at the beginning of the year in an investor call that the sites were not all operating at the expected financial level, and there was no real surprise that the roll out was being reversed.

On a recent visit to the only European IMAX VR location in Manchester, the site was seen to be closed off for a private party – and while claimed to still be popular, it was revealed that the adjacent Odeon cinema had been giving away vouchers for free VR experiences, with the purchase of movie tickets; in a hope to drive some business. We have also heard reports of major reshufflings of executive teams and complete management replacements at some of the early LBE VR manufacturers and operators, The VOID saw the departure of their CTO and CEO, while other operations in pivoting towards a commercial entertainment business model have had to drastically restructure their executive team, unable to fathom the realities of the DOE business.

But we have not seen anything yet, and one of Europe’s largest amusement and attraction conventions is about to take place in a matter of weeks – already sources have revealed a record number of new VR attractions about to be launched. While the UK amusement trade will hold their Autumn Coin-Op Show (ACOS), taking place at Olympia London during October, and will include the first London Future of Immersive Leisure (FOIL) seminar run alongside ACOS, focusing on the business opportunities presented by immersive technology to the UK’s out-of-home entertainment industry (this event hosted by our consultancy KWP) – look out on VRFocus for the latest developments from these events in the days and weeks to come.