VR theme park unifies virtual and physical realities
VR fans have been closely looking on the launch of some of the most anticipated VR headsets, such as the Oculus Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus, and HTC Vive, sometime in 2016. Because of these, virtual reality tech can have its big debut and boosted demand in 2016 thanks to these upcoming consumer launches and the hype it builds. Not only VR headsets are big next year, though. A multimillionaire in Utah is currently building a theme park that makes use of high-end VR tech to power a one-of-a-kind VR experience – it’s essentially closing the gap between interacting with the virtual environment and its physical world counterparts. Taking VR one notch higher means something needs to be done to elevate virtual reality experiences from the ordinary strap-and-go concept of VR enjoyment.
The VOID, which stands for The Vision of Infinite Dimensions, is a virtual reality-themed entertainment park that uses virtual reality and physical environments to simulate futuristic, immersive, and realistic four-dimensional VR experiences, which will be primarily composed of VR games. By effectively intertwining VR and the physical world, guests on The VOID will experience entering a virtual world where every object is interactive – everything can be felt, controlled, and manipulated based on anything that is rendered on the provided head-mounted display (HMD). Think of haptics on VR, but significantly better.
The VOID’s founder, Ken Bretschneider, is a former cybersecurity business owner. Having a high interest and love of virtual reality, he invested $13 million of his own money in building what is called a Virtual Entertainment Center or VEC. The VOID will be the world’s first VEC – the only one of its kind so far – when it launches in summer 2016. The VR theme park is made up of 16 reconfigurable, 60-by-60-foot rooms that feature interchangeable physical surfaces that change their texture based on the VR content it plays with. Suppose you are touching a holographic screen that’s floating in VR space; you can feel the tactile buttons and surfaces on that screen as you move along. If the screen shuts, and you move on to interacting with other objects, you will suddenly notice any changes in surfaces and objects by touch.
A fourth-dimension characteristic of the rooms will also be an addition to the physical and virtual interactions. If the content you’re into demands you to be like a Formula One racer, motion simulators can move in all degrees of freedom to simulate your physical movement while dangerously racing on a virtual world. Rooms on The VOID will also feature open pipes which can blast streams of hot or cold air, as well as loose cords that feel like dusty webs in an abandoned room. Other 4D components that are expected of The VOID include smell, temperature changes, vibrations, and elevation changes.
One noticeable thing about The VOID is its use of a custom-built VR HMD, called Rapture. Rapture is a VR headset specifically designed for The VOID experience. It features a high-resolution display with binaural audio to fully capture VR content synced with physical interactions. It’s interesting to know that The VOID will be using a different VR headset since other high-end VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, among others, have been around for a while now. According to Bretschneider, they have no plans to use Oculus’ hardware for the VR theme park.
The VOID is set to open in Pleasant Grove, Utah in summer 2016. The pricing for the VR ride, according to Bretschneider, is “affordable”, although there are no exact pricing figures yet for the 30-minute one-of-a-kind experience. The VOID aims to become the ultimate VR playground, setting the bar in VR entertainment. The team has future plans of expanding its operations to many key areas across the globe, including Europe, Asia, and the rest of the Americas.