Hong Kong Startup ‘Sandbox VR’ Building Hyperrealistic Virtual Reality Games
Hong Kong-based startup Sandbox VR made news early this year when it raised $68 million in Series A funding from some of the industry heavyweights such as Andreesen Horowitz, Stanford University, Floodgate Ventures, Alibaba, Triplepoint Capital CRCM. The new funds were to be used in launching new virtual reality centers in New York, Tokyo and other global cities.
The startup already operates location-based virtual reality centers in Hong Kong, San Mateo (CA), and Vancouver where it provides users with an opportunity to explore the stage and play together in taking on zombies, aliens and undead pirates through its various location-based virtual reality experiences.
The company expects that its VR technology will usher in a new era of storytelling as well as interactive and immersive entertainment once the Sandbox entertainment has hit the critical mass. Some of the company’s content will be more like VR games while others will be along the line of VR films, documentaries or music. The startup is also planning to explore other revolutionary VR-native genres that are likely to emerge in the future as virtual reality begins to take the centerstage in the entertainment world.
Sandbox is going head-to-head with other players in the industry seeking to bring location-based virtual reality experiences in the malls and movie theaters across the world. These include players such as The Void which has partnered with Disney for location-based VR along with Nomadic and Dreamscape.
Location-based VR involves players going to a bricks-and-mortar location to experience the VR game rather than buying or borrowing a virtual reality headset for at-home use. It’s a huge factor in VR accessibility as it opens the doors for a broader audience of users to access VR.
Sandbox VR has already created some hyper-realistic VR experiences such as the Sandbox VR game Amber Sky 2088 where the player is perched on a tall building and shoots at hostile creatures trying to mount an invasion on the earth.
Sandbox has seven VR locations in Asia and North America that offer end users the same setup for virtual reality experiences. The setup includes a room that is completely painted green, haptic vests, backpack computer along with sensors which the gamers can trap onto their wrists to ensure that the motion trackers are able to capture all of the player’s movements in the games.
The typical consumer virtual reality games are connected to a computer or other processing units such as smartphones or gaming consoles. The Sandbox VR platform on the other hand leverages powerful backpack computers with very high-definition graphics thereby reducing the feeling of motion sickness after players have immersed themselves into the experience.
According to Sandbox VR founder and chief executive Steve Zhao, the aim of Sandbox VR is to create a fully immersive virtual reality experience that will transport players into a complete new reality, something akin to the Star Trek’s Holodeck.
One of such games created by the team is Deadwood Mansion which casts players as SWAT team members that have to fend for themselves inside a dark and zombie-infested mansion. The game was geared at tapping into the mass appeal of the zombie themes.
Sandbox’s current repertoire includes games in the zombie mansion experience, sci-futuristic games and pirate-themed games. The Hong Kong virtual reality startup is currently working on some new concepts and is even contemplating the option of licensing third-party IP to develop its new virtual reality games. The company is also considering games in which players can fight each other within virtual reality, something along the lines of Street Fighter within a virtual reality environment.