Some of the most hotly anticipated virtual reality (VR) technologies are the experiences being developed by THE VOID — fully immersive VR that puts users into an alternate reality that they can not only see and hear (as you would expect from virtual reality) but feel, smell and walk through.
Productions from THE VOID take place in a staged set complete with moving platforms, fog machines, heat lamps, water jets and scent sprayers… but users never actually see it — the VR headset overlays its own imagery using digital mapping and technology similar to motion-capture. Users wear a haptic feedback vest that both tracks their movements (and relays it back to the visuals in the VR headset) and provides physical sensations (rumbling, impact, etc) to each individual.
While the company is in pure development mode at their home in Utah and not accepting the public (yet), they have opened a single installation where anyone can experience their “hyper-reality” at Madame Tussauds in New York City. Based on the movies, “Ghostbusters: Dimension” arms you with a proton pack and sends you into the Ghostbusters universe to clear out some unwanted phantoms.
Class Five Full Roaming Vapors
Our time at the “Ghostbusters: Dimension” was nearly everything that could be asked for in a virtual reality experience. Strapping on the vest and VR headset was even excellent, each rig hanging from its own station just waiting for the user. But once the visor dropped the virtual reality simply took over — the stand-by room was recreated in VR and the image inside the headset was close enough to the real world I had been looking at that the “switch” to the VR world was nearly seamless.
After entering the game floor, I explored and found the limits of the physical set matched perfectly with what I was seeing in the VR headset. There were some small inconsistencies, but nothing that broke the illusion of the experience (for example, I reached for a cup only to find nothing there).
The rest of the experience inside the “Ghostbusters: Dimension” was just as excellent — one scene at the edge of a balcony triggered my fear of heights and I hesitated, moving ahead after grasping a handrail that (thankfully) corresponded with one in the VR world. Only then did I remember that I was standing on a solid floor and the open sky in front of my eyes was actually just a darkened room with no real building to topple from.
The “Ghostbusters: Dimension” exhibit is a fantastic example of the potential of where we can expect virtual reality to go in the near future, especially as other hyper-reality experiences become available. On the website for THE VOID, other experiences are teased (perhaps for future release, perhaps for demonstration purposes at the company’s headquarters) including “Stellar Reach Research Facility” and “Curse of the Serpent’s Eye” (which appears to be a tomb raiding adventure). THE VOID plans to open centers across North America and eventually internationally, but only the Utah and New York locations have been announced.
Whatever journeys come next from THE VOID, I cannot wait to give them a try. In the meantime, tickets for the “Ghostbusters: Dimension” at Madame Tussauds are available here: ghostbusters.madametussauds.com.