VR Arcade Pioneer ‘The VOID’ is Making a Comeback

Out-of-home VR attractions were among the worst-hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which put many fledgling startups on the ropes. Now, one of the early pioneers in location-based VR entertainment appears to be making good on its comeback after it briefly slipped into the void.

As reported by MIXED, it appears pioneering out-of-home VR destination The VOID is getting ready to reopen.

Before The Void closed up shop—or was rather summarily kicked out of its dozen-or-so locations after it defaulted on loans back at the beginning of the pandemic—it was a premiere mixed reality destination that promised a real taste of immersion. Starting back in 2015, it combined warehouse-scale VR and realistic 4D effects that brought to life some of the most well-known franchises worldwide: Ghostbusters, The Avengers, Star Wars, Jumanji, and more.

Due to COVID-19 safety measures, The Void suffered immediate losses in revenue which were further outstripped by its inability to secure additional funding. The company’s last video before its website went dark featured a pop-up in Westfield San Francisco Center… back in April 2020.

Then, nearly a year and a half later, a report by Protocol broke the news that The Void’s patents and trademarks has been acquired by Hyper Reality Partners, a company headed by Adrian Steckel, a previous investor and board member of The Void. At the time, it was reported that Hyper Reality Partners has already raised $20 million to get The Void back on its feet.

Now The Void’s website is back up, with its creators saying that it will include “upgraded VR technology,” and “a flexible platform designed to evolve with the latest in innovation.”

“Our vastly expanded destination approach makes possible longer, more deeply immersive experiences. And our broader vision takes virtual reality into a wider spectrum of application and entertainment,” the company says.

Its also hiring several full-time engineering positions, which may signal The Void is already retooling its approach, and getting closer to relaunch.

The Void was undoubtedly an expensive operation to run. It not only nestled its attractions in high-traffic locations like Mall of America or The Venetian in Las Vegas, but also included a good amount of extra equipment outside of the VR headset, peripherals, and backpack-mounted computer capable of running the experience. The Void included elaborate. purpose-built spaces that included 4D effects such as wind, sound, and heat to enhance the VR experience.

The company’s choice to adopt “a flexible platform” may point to a remarkably different strategy moving forward. If it wants to stay nimble and re-expand quickly, it may be aligning more with how Sandbox VR (another near victim of the COVID-19 pandemic) is doing things. Sandbox VR was able to rebound from the pandemic and open 17 locations worldwide fairly quickly based on large, but less complex room-scale-style VR experiences.

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So when will The Void come back to malls near you? There’s no telling, but it’s good to see at least that one of the founding pioneers of location-based VR entertainment is still alive and kicking.

The post VR Arcade Pioneer ‘The VOID’ is Making a Comeback appeared first on Road to VR.

HTC Vive Focus 3 getestet: Besser als die Meta Quest 2?

Die HTC Vive Focus 3 ist eine autarke VR-Brille von HTC, welche sich speziell an Unternehmen und Arcades richtet. Um diesen Anspruch gerecht zu werden, sind einige Funktionen enthalten, welche die Verwendung in einem professionellem Umfeld vereinfachen sollen. Wir haben die VR-Brille ausgiebig getestet und verraten euch in diesem Beitrag, ob die Focus 3 anderen autarken VR-Brillen den Rang abläuft. Bereitgestellt wurde uns die Brille freundlicherweise von Grover.

HTC Vive Focus 3

Quelle: HTC Vive

Die HTC Vive Focus 3 ist bereits die dritte Generation der autarken VR-Linie von HTC. Während die ersten beiden Versionen noch deutliche Schwächen beim Tracking zeigten, soll sich die neue Generation nicht mehr hinter der Meta Quest verstecken müssen. Dementsprechend setzt HTC auch auf ähnliche Komponenten, jedoch auf eine höhere Auflösung:

Bildschirm: Zwei 2.88″ LCD-Anzeigen
Auflösung: 2448 x 2448 Pixel pro Auge (4896 x 2448 kombinierte Pixel)
Aktualisierungsrate: 90 Hz
Sichtfeld: Bis zu 120 Grad
Audio: Richtlautsprecher + Kopfhörer (3.5mm)
Prozessor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ XR2
Speicher & Arbeitsspeicher: 128 GB / 8 GB mit Unterstützung für bis zu 2TB microSD
Sensoren: 4x Tracking Kameras, G-Sensor, Gyroskop, Näherungssensor
Akku: 26,6Wh Akku – herausnehmbar & austauschbar
Verbindungen: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 + BLE, USB Typ-C

Ersteindruck: Verarbeitung, Komfort und Einrichtung

Die HTC Vive Focus 3 ist auf den ersten Blick gut verarbeitet, jedoch wirkt das schwarze Plastik auf mich weniger hochwertig als es auf Fotos den Eindruck machte. Die Konkurrenz ist in diesem Punkt zwar nicht deutlich besser, jedoch teilweise deutlich günstiger. Ein Premium-Feeling hatte ich erwartet, aber leider habe ich “nur” einen gehobenen Standard erhalten.

Doch wichtig ist nicht das äußere Design einer VR-Brille. Also schnell alle Folien entfernen und auf in die Virtual Reality! Brille auf und los! Leider… nein.

Zunächst musste ich eine Software auf einem Smartphone installieren, um die Brille in Betrieb nehmen zu können. Das kennen wir auch von anderen Herstellern, was den Umstand aber nicht besser macht. Hinzu kommt, das die App nicht nur benötigt wird, um die Brille erstmalig einzurichten, sondern auch für den kompletten Store benötigt wird. Wenn ihr eine App im Store in der VR-Brille anklickt, dann erhaltet ihr eine Nachricht, dass ihr auf eurem Smartphone fortfahren sollt. Somit hätte man sich die Darstellung des Stores in VR auch sparen können.

Dennoch soll dies kein Kritikpunkt darstellen, da die Brille einfach nicht dafür gedacht ist, dass sich Heimanwender und Heimanwenderinnen schnell wohl fühlen. Es geht um Vorführungen, Präsentationen und Meetings mit einer zuvor konfigurierten VR-Brille. Vermutlich ist der Store deshalb noch relativ unausgereift. Erwähnen wollte ich den Umstand dennoch, da es sicherlich einige Enthusiasten gibt, die sich die Focus 3 auch in die eigenen vier Wände holen würden.

Ähnliches gilt für den verbauten Lüfter: Er ist sehr laut und das zerstört die Immersion im Wohnzimmer. In einer Arcade, wo es aber ohnehin viele Umgebungsgeräusche gibt, wird man ihn nicht wahrnehmen.

Kleine Komfortzone

Die Vive Focus 3 wirkt auf den ersten Blick komfortabel. Die Halterung für den Kopf ist steif und es gibt ein Drehrad am Hinterkopf zum Justieren. Der Akku auf der Rückseite sorgt für eine ausgeglichene Gewichtsverteilung und die Polster fühlen sich angenehm an.

Auf den zweiten Blick verfliegt dieser Eindruck jedoch schnell. Der Sweetspot der Linsen, also der Bereich, in welchem ihr das Bild klar erkennen könnt, ist relativ klein. Um diesen Sweetspot optimal zu treffen, war es bei mir nötig, die Halterung am Hinterkopf so hoch zu ziehen, dass es schnell unkomfortabel wurde. Mir blieb also die Wahl zwischen einem komfortablen Sitz der Brille und einer scharfen Darstellung. Ich gehe nicht davon aus, dass dieses Problem bei jeder Kopfform auftreten wird, jedoch kommen auch andere Reviews zu diesem Schluss. Dennoch wird die Brille bei mir nie so unkomfortabel, dass es große Auswirkungen beim Spielen haben würde. Erwartet hätte ich aber mehr.

Bildeindruck

Die HTC Vive Focus 3 zeigt 2448 x 2448 Pixel pro Auge bei einem maximalen Field of View von 120 Grad. Hierfür kommen zwei LCD-Anzeigen zum Einsatz. Das Bild zeigt sich farbenfroh und ein Fliegengitter (Struktur durch Abstände zwischen den Pixeln) ist kaum bzw. nicht erkennbar. Insgesamt wirkt das Bild feiner und detaillierte als mit der Quest 2.

Die Linsen der Focus 3 sind jedoch deutlich schwächer als die Linsen der Quest 2 oder Pico Neo 3. Sie spiegeln Licht innerhalb der Darstellung deutlich und zudem sorgt die Form dafür, dass ich einen deutlichen schwarzen Balken in der Mitte sehe.

Quelle: HTC Vive

Insgesamt ergibt sich daraus ein gemischter Bildeindruck. Zwar ist das Bild scharf, wenn der Sweetspot getroffen wird, jedoch stören die Reflexionen sehr und der schwarze Balken in der Mitte des Sichtfeldes verwirrt mich. Ich nehme an, dass man sich an den Bildeindruck gewöhnen kann. Dennoch würde ich die Pico Neo 3 oder die Quest 2 vorziehen.

Tracking, Performance, Controller

Das Tracking der Focus 3 funktioniert zuverlässig. Die Controller werden korrekt verortet und auch das Bild in der Brille ist stabil. Trotz 90Hz habe ich den Eindruck, dass die Controller einen Hauch langsamer abgetastet oder dargestellt werden als bei der Pico Neo 3 oder Oculus Quest 2.

Ansonsten lässt sich die Performance im autarken Modus für mich leider kaum beurteilen, da es nicht wirklich Inhalte für die Brille gibt.

Quelle: HTC Vive

Die Controller der Vive Focus 3 werden per USB-C geladen und liegen angenehm in der Hand. Das Gefühl bei der Verwendung und die Verarbeitung fühlen sich ähnlich an wie bei der Quest 1 oder Rift S. Auch beim Design und der Anordnung der Elemente hat sich HTC an Meta (Oculus) orientiert, was sehr begrüßenswert ist. Störend ist jedoch der Trigger-Button, bei dem ein Widerstand überwunden werden muss, bis es einen spürbaren Klick gibt.

Arcade Features

Quelle: Tower Tag Arena im VRHQ in Hamburg

HTC hat sich für die Focus 3 einige Feature überlegt, die die Arbeit in einer Arcade erleichtern sollen. So können die Brillen extern verwaltet werden und auch eine Bespielung von Inhalten über microSD-Karte ist möglich. Die Verwaltungssoftware für den Zugriff auf mehrere Brillen habe ich nicht getestet und ist daher nicht Teil des Reviews. Da ich viele Monate eine Arcade aufgebaut und betreut habe, möchte ich jedoch auf die Feature eingehen, die den Alltag in einer Arcade erleichtern können.

Wechselbarer Akku

Bei der Verwendung einer autarken VR-Brille in einer Arcade ist der Akku eines der größten Probleme. Zwar lässt sich die Lebenszeit der Brillen häufig mit externen Akkus verlängern, jedoch reicht selbst dies in der Regel nicht aus, um eine Spielzeit von 8-10 Stunden abdecken zu können. Dieses Problem geht HTC mit der Focus 3 an und hat der VR-Brille einen wechselbaren Akku spendiert, welcher sich am Hinterkopf befindet. Dieser Akku lässt sich sogar während der Benutzung austauschen, wodurch die Brille nicht neu gestartet werden muss. Generell eine tolle Idee, doch noch schöner wäre es gewesen, wenn man die Brille für den Tausch der Akkus nicht absetzen müsste. Der Akku ist nur entfernbar, wenn man die Brille in den Händen hält. Somit wurde eine Möglichkeit zum komplett reibungslosen Austausch leider verfehlt. Dennoch ist die aktuelle Lösung bereits ein großartiger Schritt in die richtige Richtung.

Magnetische Frontschale und Polster

Die Reinigung von VR-Brillen in Arcades ist extrem wichtig. Und dies nicht nur wegen Corona. Auch Gerüche und Schweiß andere Menschen möchte man nicht in einer VR-Brille wahrnehmen.

Um eine saubere Erfahrung zu ermöglichen, ist die Frontschale der Focus 3 magnetisch und in Sekunden ausgetauscht. Auch alle weiteren Polster sind einfach entfernbar und lass sich dadurch schnell und gründlich reinigen.

VIVE Business Streaming

Quelle: HTC Vive

Das Vive Business Streaming funktioniert ähnlich wie Link von Oculus bzw. Meta. Ihr könnt Inhalte von einem PC kabellos auf die Brille streamen oder ein USB-C-Kabel verwenden. Damit dies funktioniert, müsst ihr eine entsprechende Software auf dem PC installieren. Bei mir hat die Einrichtung nur wenige Minuten benötigt und anschließend war die Brille einsatzbereit. Und ja: Es gibt durchaus Gründe, eine autarke Brille für Streaming in einer Arcade zu verwenden, wenn das Kabel ein großer Störfaktor ist. Beispielweise in Spielen, bei denen reale Objekte Teil der Erfahrung sind.

Da ich das Streaming nicht mit vielen Brillen parallel in einer Arcade testen konnte, kann ich leider nicht sagen, ob sich die Lösung von HTC besser schlägt als die Lösungen der Konkurrenz. Die Nutzung am Heim-PC war jedoch problemlos möglich.

Controller mit Akku

Controller mit wechselbaren Batterien sind für den Heimgebrauch in Ordnung. Teilweise bevorzuge ich sogar solche Geräte, da ich sie nicht laden muss, bevor ich sie benutze und somit direkt starten kann.

In einer Arcade ist das hantieren mit wiederaufladbaren Batterien jedoch ein großes Problem. Allein das Öffnen und Schließen der Batteriefächer ist zeitaufwändig.

Die Controller der Vive Focus bieten eine Akkulauftzeit von 15 Stunden und werden per USB-C geladen. Somit können die Controller über Nacht geladen werden und stehen dann für einen ganzen Tag zuverlässig bereit. Damit ihr für das Laden keine besonderen Stationen einrichten müsst, könnt ihr die Controller auch direkt mit der VR-Brille verbinden und sie über diese mit Strom versorgen. Ein entsprechendes Kabel, für das Laden beider Controller zu selben Zeit, liegt bei.

Fazit

Die HTC Vive Focus 3 ist eine solide VR-Brille für Arcades. Ob man sich für oder gegen die VR-Brille im professionellem Umfeld entscheidet, sollte daran festgemacht werden, welchen Support und welche Funktionen man für sein Unternehmen benötigt. Die Technik und die Software sind auf aktuellem Niveau und vollkommen in Ordnung.

Für den Heimanwender oder die Heimanwenderin ist die Brille jedoch nicht gedacht. Eine technisch gute Brille ohne Inhalte bringt euch nicht besonders viel. Zwar könnt ihr die Brille auch zum Streaming vom Heim-PC nutzen, aber hierfür macht dann der aufgerufene Preis keinen Sinn. Für alle Menschen die ihre VR-Brille hauptsächlich privat nutzen, empfiehlt sich die Meta Quest 2 (Langzeittest zur Meta Quest 2).

Neben der Vive Focus 3 gibt es für Arcades auch die Option eine Pico Neo 3 zu benutzen, welche ebenfalls als solide VR-Brille beschrieben werden kann. Einen ausführlichen Bericht zur Pico Neo 3 könnt ihr schon bald bei uns lesen.

Wir bedanken und bei Grover für die Bereitstellung der Brille. Grover hatte keinen Einfluss auf den Inhalt des Artikels. Wir würden uns sehr freuen, wenn ihr bei unserem Partner vorbeischaut. Bei Grover könnt ihr beispielsweise VR-Brillen für einen gewissen Zeitraum mieten und zurückgeben, wenn ihr nicht wisst, welche Brille für euch die Beste ist. Hier findet ihr die Focus 3 bei Grover.

Der Beitrag HTC Vive Focus 3 getestet: Besser als die Meta Quest 2? zuerst gesehen auf VR∙Nerds. VR·Nerds am Werk!

‘Men in Black’ Location-based VR Experience to Debut at Dreamscape in October

Location-based VR destination Dreamscape and Sony Pictures Virtual Reality announced they’re launching a new VR experience that puts you and five other friends in the shoes of the Men in Black: First Assignment.

Called Men in Black: First Assignment, the experience is debuting at Dreamscape’s flagship location in the LA-based Westfield Century City shopping center on Friday, October 1st, 2021.

Here’s Dreamscape’s description of the experience:

Suit up, agents! Your first assignment awaits. The Zarthanian royal family needs protection from an evil Octopoid plot that could destroy the entire universe – and you’re just the team of new recruits for the job! As a freshly minted agent, you’ll have access to our secret command center, plus a helping hand (or paw) from Frank the Pug and a team of friendly aliens. The dreaded Octopoids are in hot pursuit. So throttle up your hoverbikes. You’ll need to work together to find the space portals, keep the royal family out of tentacle’s reach, and return everyone safely to Planet Zarthania!

General admission to the experience is priced at $23.50, with the full experience slated to last approximately 35 minutes from beginning to end including check-in and fitting VR gear. Dreamscape says all participants must be at least 48 inches (122 cm) tall and 10+ years old, with those under age 13 requiring an adult.

It’s likely we’ll see the MIB experience roll out to its other Dreamscape locations; the company currently operates four locations spread across California, Ohio, Texas and Dubai.

Founded in 2016, Dreamscape has been fairly lucky to have secured a reported $30.6 million Series C financing in February 2020, or just mere days before the COVID-19 pandemic put a near universal stop to all in-person activities and events. Now nearly two years later, it seems both Dreamscape and Sony feel that it’s time to pick up where they respectively left off.

Sony has previously worked to bring its historical catalogue of IP to virtual reality, both in the out-of-home sector and direct to consumers. It’s licensed films such as Groundhog Day, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Jumaniji for VR experiences.

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Kat Walk Mini S Steps Into VR Arcades This July

KAT Walk Mini S

KAT VR has always been in the business of omnidirectional treadmills for virtual reality (VR) applications, mainly for the professional and enterprise market with devices like 2018’s Kat Walk Mini. Today, the company has announced its second generation of that model, the Kat Walk Mini S, set to hit the market this month.

KAT Walk Mini S

The Kat Walk Mini S aims to refine the walking VR experience for users with a range of improvements over the previous model. A new vibration module built into the base adds immersive feedback from events happening in their surroundings such as explosions or earthquakes, so when a player is running through a battlezone it’ll certainly feel like it.

Even more importantly, the overall walking experience is said to be easier thanks to an optimised base. The learning curve for using the device has been reduced, accommodating a user’s natural gait more effectively whilst supporting both KAT VR’s quick-boarding shoe covers – great for location-based entertainment (LBE) venues – and its own dedicated shoes which have four adjustable levels of friction.

Also on the improvement list are better ergonomics, allowing users to more easily bend down, squat or kneel if they need to reach an item low down or use the environment for cover. The overall look and feel of the Kat Walk Mini S has also been enhanced with a far more professional, eye-catching design, built-in lights to give it a nice futuristic look and a new cable management system when venues are using PC-tethered headsets.

KAT Walk Mini S

As the Kat Walk Mini S isn’t a consumer product KAT VR hasn’t released pricing information but it has confirmed it’ll be available to purchase worldwide this month. KAT VR does sell consumer products, the most recently released being the Kat Walk C treadmill which completed a Kickstarter last year and retails for $1,499 USD on Kat VR’s website.

As further details on the Kat Walk Mini S are released, VRFocus will keep you updated.

JUMP Opens Pre-sales for Tickets to Its Virtual Skydiving Attraction

JUMP, the destination-based entertainment company, exited stealth late last year and teased a unique attraction that would combine real-world wing suits, wind effects, body harnesses and VR headsets for a fully immersive skydiving experience. The company is now taking pre-orders for tickets to its debut locations, which for now are in Utah and New Jersey. 

JUMP was largely a mystery when James Jensen, co-founder of the now defunct mixed reality attraction The Void, revealed the essence of his next project: simulate a way for people to have the potentially life-threatening experience of wing suit skydiving, but in a safe and controlled environment.

Jensen left his position as The Void’s Chief Visionary Officer in 2018—well before it experienced cash flow issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which eventually saw its closure and subsequent liquidation.

With things looking up for out-of-home attractions now though, the company has opened preorder ticket sales for its mutli-sensory experience, and has also revealed debut locations situated in Salt Lake City, Utah and at American Dream, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Locations are tentatively said to start operations sometime in November 2021. With Jensen’s experience in out-of-home entertainment, we expect to see that number go up before then.

Billed as a “hyper-reality experience,” JUMP is a mix of a suspension and wind system that allows people to experience the thrill of jumping off cliffs and skyscrapers, albeit without the danger (or time investment) involved. We still haven’t seen it in action, although it certainly sounds like a very Void-esque mix of sensory elements.

The company is offering four pass tiers to the public, which can be redeemed at any of its planned or future locations. According to the company’s website, they’ve already pre-sold over $190,000 worth of passes.

Check out the four JUMP pass tiers below:

  • Duo – $99: includes 2 transferable passes, one limited-edition JUMP t-shirt, 100 JUMP upgrade credits, and an exclusive wing suit skin
  • Squad – $299: includes 6 transferrable passes, 4 limited-edition JUMP t-shirts, 250 JUMP upgrade credits, and an exclusive wing suit skin
  • Captain – $999: includes 20 transferable passes, 6 limited-edition JUMP t-shirts, 600 JUMP upgrade credits, and an exclusive wing suit skin, limited JUMP bomber jacket
  • Lifetime (limited quantity) – $11,999: include one lifetime pass (includes 3 guests) 4 limited-edition JUMP t-shirts; 1000 JUMP upgrade credits; an exclusive wing suit skin; limited bomber jacket; pre-opening launch event

“JUMP is everything that location-based hyperreality should be,” said Jensen. “We’ve envisioned an experience that transcends what’s possible for people to experience in real life. Mustering the courage to JUMP off a mountaintop and fly close to the ground has the possibility to transform people. People who have experience the demo are truly blown away.”

The post JUMP Opens Pre-sales for Tickets to Its Virtual Skydiving Attraction appeared first on Road to VR.

Sandbox VR Announces Las Vegas Location, 15 Locations to Open by 2022

Sandbox VR, the out-of-home virtual reality destination, went through a rough patch this past year as the company both filed and subsequently emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy following debt restructure. With the United States doing fairly well in terms of COVID-19 vaccinations now, the company appears confident in getting back to business as usual soon, as it plans to open a new location at the Grand Canal Shoppes inside The Venetian Resort, Las Vegas, in addition to operating 15 locations worldwide by the year’s end.

The Las Vegas location is slated to open in “the early summer of 2021,” the company says. Due to the pandemic, Sandbox VR was forced to close all of its locations and lay off most of its staff.

Its rebound strategy is one that may become fairly common in the coming months for battered (but not dead) businesses, namely Sandbox VR aims to fill commercial real estate locations that have also been hit hard by the pandemic.

Thankfully, the company is comparatively lean, as its multiplayer VR locations don’t need require elaborate 4D sensorial gadgetry like its ill-fated competitor, The VOID.

Interior of a Bay Area Sandbox VR location | Image courtesy Sandbox VR

The VOID had to permanently close all of their locations worldwide—including its flagship store at the Grand Canal Shoppes—when the company encountered similar financial trouble last year. There’s little hope of The VOID getting back on its feet either. The company’s website is down mere months after Disney abandoned it entirely, and its holding company isn’t showing any appreciable signs of life.

Sandbox VR on the other hand is portraying a fair bit of optimism now that vaccines are being administered en masse. The company says it’s seen a 30% increase in demand from before the pandemic at their current locations outside of Chicago, Illinois and in Austin, Texas since local governments lifted restrictions.

“We have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to survive such a devastating year for everyone in the retail and entertainment industry,” said Steve Zhao, founder and CEO of Sandbox VR. “The pandemic has been so isolating for everyone that we are confident once it is safe to gather with friends and family from different households they will be looking for social experiences that offer some fun and escape from the difficulties that 2020 brought.”

It may be a long time until beleaguered VR arcades see pre-COVID levels of support, but with one of the most well-funded VR startups out releasing such a broad opening gambit, others may take heart in knowing there is money to be made in the near future.

The post Sandbox VR Announces Las Vegas Location, 15 Locations to Open by 2022 appeared first on Road to VR.

VR Arcade Startup Hologate is Going Big This Year with Its First Large-format Facility

Last year saw the location-based entertainment industry grind to a halt, however now it seems there may be light at the end of the tunnel for at least one VR arcade startup. HOLOGATE, the Germany-based company creating VR arcade tech, announced it’s betting big this year with the launch of its first large-format facility.

Called Hologate World, the company announced its flagship location is set to open in September 2021 in the newly modernized FLAIR Galerie mall in Fürth, Germany. Since its founding in 2017, Hologate has licensed its turnkey VR tech and proprietary games to other facilities, making Hologate World an expansion towards a larger, more ambitious franchise model.

Taking up a 1,200 m² area, Hologate World is said to include VR games, XR escape rooms, esports arena, and “several proprietary entertainment experiences that will be making their world premieres at the opening.” It will also feature a bar, lounge with food service, and both indoor and outdoor gathering areas.

Hologate World concept art | Image courtesy Hologate

The company says its flagship location in Fürth, which is close to Nuremberg, is a “blueprint for further franchise locations looking for a modern entertainment facility to get people off their couches and back into their retail and hospitality locations.”

On that note, Hologate hopes their increased hygiene standards will help inspire confidence in patrons, something the company established back in May 2020 in preparation for an eventual reopening of its 400+ licensed venues.

It’s uncertain how well the larger LBE industry will fare this year, but it’s likely to be an uphill battle for many VR arcades, which have typically low throughput and high operation costs due to the need for prominent locations. While Hologate seems to have fared 2020’s stormy weather well enough, many VR arcades haven’t gone unscathed.

One of the most well-funded turnkey operations, Sandbox VR, found difficulties in August 2020 when its US-based subsidiary Glostation USA Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It’s since reemerged from Chapter 11 after reorganization, and the company hopes to continue operations once things get back to normal.

Another big name in location-based VR, The VOID, has also seen its fair share of troubles after late last year it reportedly defaulted on a loan and had an important IP contract with Disney terminated.

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The Virtual Arena: Oculus Quest 2 Makes Appearance In LBE

The Virtual Arena

Out-of-Home entertainment development continues, and in his latest Virtual Arena column, industry specialist Kevin Williams reveals the appearance of the Oculus Quest 2 into the commercial entertainment scene. With the launch of a brand new free-roaming platform from Scale-1 Portal, and the deployment of a brand new business model to allow the hardware into the commercial sector.

The continued development of location-based entertainment (LBE) takes place even though most entertainment facilities are temporarily closed due to local restrictions. Some of that development is towards a new generation of arena-scale (or free-roaming) platforms that allow multiple players to be immersive without the issues of wearing a backpack PC.

Oculus Quest 2

The use of the new mobileVR (standalone) headsets was seen as a logical opportunity, but there were numerous roadblocks towards this as previously covered in our feature on standalone LBE VR development. But French developer Scale-1 Portal has announced the first system that officially deploys the Oculus Quest 2 into the commercial entertainment market, and offers a brand new business model for operators.

Speaking exclusively regarding their new release, Scale-1 Portal has rolled out the finished VOXEL ARENA, previously covered last year in prototype form in our industry roundup. The first installation of this system was undertaken in Canada during August 2020, and the company now has made available the full system to operators. Now including a unique business model that allows venues to deploy multiple Quest 2 headsets in their facilities.

There are restrictions to use the consumer Oculus Quest 2 hardware for commercial business, blocked by the Terms of Service (ToS). However, the Oculus for Business program has been established for enterprise usage of Oculus hardware. Scale-1 Portal is a member of the Oculus ISV (Independent Software Vendors) Program supporting developers using their systems in enterprise. Through this relationship, they have been able to create a unique business model to deploy this hardware in entertainment.

Scale-1 Portal Voxel Arena
Multiplayer free-roam VR experience from Scale-1 Portal. Image credit Scale-1 Portal

Entertainment operators can now purchase through the Oculus Business Edition program, multiple Quest 2 headsets that also come with a mandatory yearly maintenance and support fee. The operator then has access to the Scale-1 Portal Cloud version of VOXEL ARENA, the subscription service supports up to six players. Playing one of three unique games available on the platform (including Sep’s Diner, and Guns&Dust), players compete within a 4×5 meter player space.

Scale-1 Portal Voxel Arena players
The ‘VOXEL ARENA’ in operation at the Illucity Paris facility. Image credit Scale-1 Portal

The Business Edition of the Oculus hardware does not need a Facebook login, (a requirement that has been contentious with the consumer VR community). The commercial version having a unique ToS for Enterprise. This release seems to be the only real fruit of the Capability Concept Demonstrator (CCD), that Oculus showed back in 2018 at OC5 that had promised the use of Quest hardware in locations.

The Scale-1 Portal business model is the only legal means for operators to deploy the Quest 2 hardware in their facilities and avoid action. It will be interesting to see how many operators jump at the opportunity to have a cost-effective solution to running free-roaming VR., and what other VR standalone systems follow suit.

Scale-1 Portal has also made use of their time towards looking at pivoting into the consumer VR scene. The company will be launching a home version of their LBE videogames. Announcing that the title Sep’s Diner has been released last December on SteamVR and SideQuest for gamers at home, with a multiplayer version emulating some of the features of the LBE version planned to be added. The company revealed that they will be supporting other standalone VR headsets, such as the Pico Neo series, with this consumer release.

We look forward to running a full review of the VOXEL ARENA LBE experience when the first of the facilities reopen in the coming months.  

Dragon Quest Creator Yuji Horii Teases Future Franchise VR Support

Dragon Quest is one of the most renowned video game franchises on the planet and more or less invented the entire premise of the turn-based JRPG back in the mid-80s, back before even Final Fantasy. The series’ creator, Yuji Horii, spoke with Yahoo Japan about the legacy of Dragon Quest and its future.

Dragon Quest VR

The above video is a trailer for the arcade-exclusive Dragon Quest VR game from Japan. You can read our hands-on impressions of the experience here. What he’s alluding to in the interview though, is for an official entry in the series for actual consumer platforms at home.

In the interview referenced above, as translated by Google Translate, Horii says:

“I think it’s a question that everyone wants to ask, but what will happen to “Dragon Quest” in the future? It’s a secret (laughs). It also affects what happens to the game console, and in the future, the day may come when you can enjoy it in VR, such as the world of “Dragon Quest” is there while you are in the room.

Also, I think it would be interesting if AI systems could be used in the characters and conversations of fellow characters. It would be nice if the friends who ventured together grew up with AI and became people to talk to. We hope to continue to provide new and exciting play under the name Dragon Quest.”

The most recent main line entry in the Dragon Quest series is Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age. It’s out on PS4, Switch, Xbox, and PC and is available as part of Game Pass on the latter two platforms.

Rather than simply numbering entries like Final Fantasy, the Dragon Quest series is well-known for its esoteric and fancy subtitles. Some of my favorite subtitles include Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line (NES, 1987) and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies because I’m a sucker for alliteration.

What exactly a Dragon Quest game could look like in VR is a big mystery. If the arcade adaptation is anything to go by it probably means adapting things to a more action-focused format, which could be a lot of fun. But it’s hard to know how they will adapt the heavy exposition, menu-heavy interface, and slower pace that the series is known for.

Let us know what you think down in the comments below!

The Void Co-founder Unveils VR Skydiving Attraction ‘JUMP’, Locations Coming 2021

James Jensen, co-founder and creator of VR attraction The Void, recently unveiled his next VR startup which aims to bring the thrills of wingsuit skydiving to people particularly averse to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.

The company, called JUMP, exited its two-year stint in stealth mode this past weekend. According to Jensen’s LinkedIn page, he’s been working as CEO of Jump since March 2018, or just a few months before he left his position as Chief Visionary Officer at The Void.

Not much is known about Jump yet, however the company’s website LimitlessFlight.com maintains users will be able suit up into a certified wingsuit and don a VR headset for some lifelike thrills. Promo material appears to show a tethered VR headset integrated into a masked skydiving helmet. Locations hosting Jump’s wingsuit experience are said to arrive sometime in 2021.

However vague, here’s how Jump describes the experience:

Imagine being able to perform one of the world’s most dangerous and technically difficult stunts with little to no training, no parachuting experience, no cost for equipment and setup, and no risk of death trying to pull it off. What would you do (and how much would it cost) for such an experience?

Would you dedicate years of your life, spend thousands of dollars, and practice life-threatening jumps time and time again just to risk dying in the end? Any way you look at it, this would be an unattainable experience for 99.9% of people on this planet … until now.

Jump has attracted expertise across both real-life skydiving and immersive design. Academy Award-winning designer John Gaeta has signed onto the project as an advisor; Gaeta is best known for pioneering ‘Bullet Time’ for The Matrix films, his work on volumetric capture methods, and for co-founding Lucasfilms’ immersive skunkworks ILMxLAB.

Professional skydiver Marshall Miller, who is also the co-founder and managing director at GoPro’s jump team ‘Bomb Squad’, is also listed among the company’s team.

Image courtesy Jump

It’s unclear what sort of setup we can expect from Jump, however the company has also attracted Head Rigger for Cirque du Soleil Jim Shumway, who is also ETCP Certified in arena and theater rigging.

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It’s possible Jump users will suit-up and be suspended via some sort of tether while experiencing their virtual flight, possibly with the same cadre of added multi-sensory effects that users can experience at The Void, which includes wind, sound, and heat to enhance the VR experience. Further speculation: such a single-serving experience could be deployed as a pop-up installation instead of a brick-and-mortar affair, something that potential investors may see as a boon in wooing the paying public back to out-of-home VR after a lengthy global lockdown.

We’re hoping to learn more about Jump in the coming months, as the company is well positioned to be one of the first location-based entertainment startups to emerge during what we hope to be the year of recovery for the industry.

The post The Void Co-founder Unveils VR Skydiving Attraction ‘JUMP’, Locations Coming 2021 appeared first on Road to VR.