Virtual Arena: Get Inside the Box – Part. 2
The Application of XR into the attractions and amusement landscape is covered by industry specialist Kevin Williams, in his latest Virtual Arena column – in this second part we continue to look at the new technology trend of “Immersive Enclosures” that hopes to open a new door into immersive entertainment.
Author: Kevin Williams
Read the first part here: Virtual Arena: Get Inside the Box – Part. 1
In this second part of our feature in MIXED – charting the application of immersive technology, and we look at the next generation of applications in the Out-of-Home entertainment landscape that places the players into the heart of the experience without the encumbrance of VR head-mounted displays.
Exploring New Engagement
Not all the immersive systems use the base station tracker but have carved out their own solutions. While most of the Immersive Enclosures we have outlined are standalone systems – expected to be deployed alongside other entertainment in a venue, there is the use of the technology as its own complete entertainment attraction.
The latest example is ‘Immersive Gamebox’ – the company has created a standalone entertainment installation based on their unique laser-trackers, with targets worn on the players' hats. Developed by Immersive Group Gaming, the company has launched their facility operation, as well as franchised the system as part of other entertainment venues, (such as in movie theaters), as an attraction offering. Having some 13 US and six EU/UK installations, with two in the UAE. The six-player, 12-ft-square gamebox system is supported by their own created game content, but also has licensed popular IP including a game based on ‘Angry Birds’ with Rovio, and a deal with Netflix, to develop a game based on the hit streamed series ‘Squid Games’. These are some of the 12, 15-to-60-minute games currently available on the platform.
An example of the digital enclosure approach has been seen permeating the mission room and escape game scene. Developer X-Corp has released their ‘X-Cube’ – a fully digital escape game platform, the cube enclosure offering giant touchscreen displays, along with lighting-effects and audio, all retained compactly in a 4 by 4-meter enclosure for up to six players. The system offering between 30- and 60-minute game sessions – one of the first games available on the system being ‘Spy Training’. With over 18 locations across the Netherlands and EU operational, the company has started to fully roll out the platform.
The Active Environment
These immersive enclosures see a lot of fast movement and active play – proving a part of their attractiveness to the gaming audience. Some developers have created dedicated “Active Entertainment” experiences that see players get a real workout from their game.
Manufacturer ValoMotion has been working on physically active entertainment systems since their start. And recently launched their ‘ValoArena’ – using specially developed content that supports up to six-player experiences, tracking their movements in a full Mixed Reality (MR) playground, using computer vision. The players see their avatar representation on the screens, their physical movements represented in the game.
The company has released a brand-new experience called ‘Astro Blade’ that has up to four players wielding double-sided blades and shields, in a two-player vs. two-player combat game. Placing the players in their own combat arena. Their movements represented on the screen in a virtual gladiatorial battle. The tracked interface and high-speed action of the game creating a player workout in this science-fiction-themed fighting experience.
Constantly offering innovative software experiences based on the technology, Valo Motion has released their fifth and latest game, ‘Operation: Money Grab’. The group of players attempting to grab the money on screen, avoiding the security and traps, and then escaping with their swag via helicopter.
Let’s Get Physical
The immersive enclosure, beyond the CAVE approach, has gained new interest in the entertainment sector – the added physicality of these spaces, using tracking to represent ball and player movements in the game adding to the appeal. This active entertainment also touches on “exergaming” – the physically active and exercise-based game experience.
One such system, is developed by NeoXperiences – who have released their ‘Neo-One Multi’, an interactive playground for players of all ages. The company deploying a configurable projection screen environment, with tracked ball throwing, and a selection of games aimed at all ages – this includes ‘Angry Birds Smash’ developed with Rovio. The company having placed some 125 systems internationally.
One of the companies that has built on the sports and training aspects of the immersive enclosure is Sports Simulator – the company developing a range of projection screen training aides. The company has now moved into entertainment systems, launching their surround 270-degree projection and object tracking immersive enclosure. With a selection of some 60 sports, and 1,500 “Game Challenges” tournament experiences. The system deployed not in just entertainment locations, but in over 3,500 sports venues – for both entertainment and training.
Immersive sports entertainment is being rolled into the “Social Entertainment” scene, as seen with ‘TOCO Social’. Developed by soccer training simulator system manufacturer TOCO Football, the company has developed a social entertainment venue based on the technology. Players able to book immersive enclosures where special ball launching tech offers them a soccer skill experience, supported by cocktails and sharable meals. A more physical version of the “Competitive Socializing” entertainment craze sweeping the Western market, TOCA Football announcing a major investment round to roll out their social concept internationally.
We have also seen other competitive socializing venues using immersive enclosures based on golf (with ‘Five Iron’ and ‘Swing Suite’), baseball (with ‘Home Run Dugout’), and even clay-pigeon shooting and archery (with ‘Clays’ and ‘HeroPlay’). As we touched on in our previous coverage on the re-development of the Japanese amusement venue business, and we have seen the opening of new style venues. This includes ‘RED TOKYO TOWER’, that populates the iconic city landmark, and adds a multi-floor immersive entertainment space to the mix.
The Japanese site operated by TEG comprises the latest Immersive Enclosure technology, along with VR and MR developments. Including the latest active sports style games, such as projection mapped wall climbing, as well as immersive sports experiences ranging from golf, archery, and soccer. All with a competitive atmosphere, including eSports.
With ‘RED TOKYO TOWER’, TEG has started plans to roll out the concept overseas, recently announcing the raising of 4 billion yen ($29m) in a series A round of investment. With plans to announce the second opening of their chain. One of several entertainment projects opening using the latest technology. The creation of a hospitality entertainment, with a highly active game experience, growing in popularity for the social entertainment landscape.
The full exergaming experience is also employing this immersive enclosure technology. Developed by Sphery AG, their ‘ExerCube’ is the full gamified fitness experience. The three-sided projected surfaces enclosure again using HTC VIVE Lighthouse tracking, achieving a full-body functional workout. What the company calls a state-of-the-art training experience – this is just the latest adoption of this immersive technology in a leisure fitness entertainment package. The future of fitness needing to include a gamification element to keep it relevant with the modern audience.
This concludes the snapshot of the explosion in “Immersive Enclosure” development for out-of-home entertainment. But this small selection of technology is only the tip of the iceberg regarding immersive projection experiences that are being developed. The creation of “Artainment” applications seeing what some are calling the next generation of museum and gallery art appreciation. Embracing the use of high-end projectors, and specially created visual experiences that place the audience directly into the artwork.
While at the same time, new technology in the VR and MR landscape, hope to move beyond just conventional projection technology, to create all new, and compelling, digital environments. Watch this space!