the race forward for LBE XR

Virtual Arena: the race forward for LBE XR

Image: KWP

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The application of XR in the attractions and entertainment landscape is covered by industry expert Kevin Williams, in his latest column Virtual Arena – Looking at Trends and New Technologies Revealed to Commerce at IAAPA Expo 2022 of November.

Author: Kevin Williams

In this first new column for MIXEDwe look at developments in the commercial entertainment scene, particularly with respect to continued investment in virtual reality-based experiences.

The attractions trade had exclusive access to the latest developments and trends in November 2022, at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) convention in Orlando, Florida. This incredible trade event covered 500,000 square feet with over 1,080 exhibitors – and represented the latest trends in the location-based entertainment (LBE) industry.

The Huge Orlando Convention Center | Image: KWP

One of the biggest trends in VR attractions has been “RV Kiosks“, unattended self-service cabinets that offer a fun approach to making virtual reality accessible to a wide audience. Such a developer is VRsenal which introduced its new slim “Monolith” platform. The system running VR games such as “Synth Riders Arcade” – a music rhythm game.

The system was also presented with the new Sony Pictures licensed ‘Zombiland: Headshot Fever’ – a shooter that incorporates a gun mounted on the VR headset, rather than wearing the device, making it easy to jump into the action. A similar system was originally used by SEGA Amusement International on their ‘VR Agent’ cabinet.

New style of immersive controller from VRsenal | Image: KWP

The use of well-known licensed IP in out-of-home VR experiences has become mainstream in the industry, and the VR industry leader HOLOGATE showed off their latest property on their arena-based system with “Ghostbusters VR Academy”.

Developed in partnership with Sony Pictures Virtual Reality and in collaboration with ghost body – the game has four players using tethered VR headsets battling ghosts. The company also introduced its “HOLOGATE Blitz” VR motion simulator which received its own Ghostbusters racing experience. These are unique game presentations separate from the intended consumer license release.

HOLOGATE Ghostbusters Simulator | Image: KWP

Another big trend that is gaining momentum in the LBE scene is that of “VR free roaming” experiments, and several were on display at the show. Creative works introduced their new “LimitlessVR” – gamers using the latest HTC Focus 3 helmets and special weapons, moving through an arena that includes physical walls integrated into the virtual world, in a lasertag-like experience, for up to 16 players.

Another free-roaming VR gaming platform with physical accessories has been seen with the launch of “TowerTag Battlezone” – the latest version of the popular VR multiplayer competitive shooter for the LBE deployment.

Fun on Creative Works LimitlessVR | Image: KWP

The inclusion of free movement in the virtual space and high levels of competition have made esports a major component of most new platforms launched. Phenomenon held tournaments on their ‘VR eSports Arena’ with the new version ‘Space Dance Harmony’.

The creation of arena enclosures has flourished in the industry, with new developers like Explore digitalwith their free roaming arena “Megaverse VR Theater” in partnership with HTC. While VR springboardan operation of vertigo gamesa leading licensor and content distributor for VR arcades internationally, introduced a new free-roaming gaming experience with “After the Fall: LB VR Edition”, the all-new 4-player full-length VR adventure.

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While other developers like VEX Solutions with their “VEX Adventure” platform, and VR Hero Zone and their “Hero Zone Arena” have proven the popularity of this free-roaming approach to virtual reality. While focusing on a family audience, SPREE Interactive showcased their ‘SPREE Arena’ for up to six players using the PEAK Neo 3 VR headset, experiences aimed at gamers ages 6 and up.

SPREE Arena in action | Image: KWP

Offering VR as their own standalone attraction has proven to be a powerful moneymaker; developers love MajorMega, with their “HyperDeck VR” attraction, incorporating haptic effects and an animated floor, all to play their new arcade-style shooter “Die Zombies!”. Self-driving attractions also include VR simulators like Matrix technology with their ‘ORB Game’ – a new Pod enclosure featuring four VR motion seats.

The ability to deliver simulator motion experiences in VR has seen developers like Talon Simulations are launching their ‘Talon Vortex’ arcade simulator, a motion seat that can be configured as a racing or flying experience. The entertainment industry eager to add virtual reality to its entertainment offering has created its own unattended virtual reality cabinets, Thrills showed off their “MotoGP VR” – the motorcycle rider now including a connected VR headset.

While LAI Games unveiled “Asphalt 9 Legends Arcade – VR”, an immersive version of their popular arcade racing game. LAI Games is famous for its two-driver VR experience which has seen an update with ‘Virtual Rabbids: Ultra HD’. While the amusement maker UNIS Technologyunveiled their new VR arcade shooter with an immersive pirate theme, “Sailor’s Quest: VR” – incorporating 5D motion platforming.

Raw Thrills VR Motorcycle Action | Image: KWP

An emerging trend seen at the event was that of “Immersive speaker“The technology. Removing the clutter of having to use a VR headset to observe the virtual environment and being able to place groups of players in-game without isolating them is a clear advantage for an industry looking to move hundreds of guests both through their experiences.

The latest immersive technology was used on many stands, removing the need for headsets. One such example came from Brogent Technologies, showing their F1 simulator, based on their “miRide” motion base. The system uses a unique mini-LED dome screen filling the riders full field of view (FOV). Other developers creating immersive cases included INOWIZE and their new “QBIX” – an interactive portal, using projection controllers and trackers to blast hordes of aliens into the compound. While ValoMovement showcased their ‘ValoArena’, using computer vision to place player imagery and movement in-game, creating a competitive and fast-paced experience.

In game playing ValoArena | Image: KWP

Another emerging trend defined by the show was that of “mixed reality(MR), using both augmented headsets and projection systems, superimposing the virtual world on the guest’s field of vision, (technology encompassing the XR technological revolution). AR glasses were used by the exhibitor Enklu for their “Verse Immersive” platform, employing Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets to place guests in an interactive winter wonderland pop-up experience. While developer and operator battle karts promoted their go-kart, racecourse attraction project, which saw several openings in Europe.

A surprise application of the projected augmented environment was with Axe-Throwing AR systems. Augment the game of skill, by adding projected goals and scores, pioneered by companies such as Lasertron. This approach of throwing targets and creating mini-games on traditional darts has come to fruition with the launch of AR Darts, also featured from 501 Entertainment.

AR Axe-Throwing becomes the next big hit | Image: KWP

This concludes the overview of the main VR and MR releases revealed at the trade convention. The industry will now swing into the new year with the launch of brand new entertainment experiences based on this technology, as well as the release of new IP properties, which we will let you know about soon.

About the Author – Kevin Williams is a highly respected entertainment and technology specialist who assists international clients in the development of immersive and interactive entertainment technologies and facilities.


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