It’s not every day that you get to step into one of the biggest movies of the year. With trembling hands and knocking knees, I stepped over the threshold of Madame Tussauds wax museum. Today, I would come face to face with the undead with only a proton pack and a steady shot separating us. Sometimes you have to wonder how someone would get into situations like this, but then I remembered that busting ghosts makes me feel good.
Coordinating via mics, seeing one another moving and shooting beams in VR, we made our way through a haunted apartment, a creepy elevator ride where we were slimed, a rickety scaffolding being attacked by gargoyles, an apparition attacking us in a loft, and finally, crossing the beams to burn Stay Puft marshmallow man. For 10+ minutes, I was busting ghosts with friends in a way that wasn’t possible when the original films came out.
Ghostbusters Dimension is a new attraction at the Madame Tussauds wax museum in New York City. Produced by virtual reality company The Void, you walk through a multiplayer VR experience you can’t have at home.
“There is a lot of demand for what we are doing. People don’t have to buy equipment. They don’t have to worry about setting it up. They can just step into worlds,” said Ken Bretshneider, CEO of The Void.
There is a lot of tech behind Ghostbusters Dimension. A VR headset is used, in conjunction with a 3.5-pound “backtop” computer that is part of a vest with haptic vibration, with a vibrating proton pack “gun” — all of it tracked optically. Such untethered VR isn’t possible at home yet, as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both require you to be wired to a desktop. And having four players in an experience together in the same space is not possible. You would also completely run into each other. If you ever afraid of running into a wall with a headset on, try running into another person as you try to chase down a ghost.
Also unlike home VR, the actual space was designed to fit the virtual one. You open real doors between sections. Mist hits you when you get slimed in the elevator. Air blows at you when you step outside the virtual apartment. The floor shakes to mimic the virtual scaffold you’re swaying on. And in the end, the smell of roasted marshmallow fills the air. These sensory elements help you become immersed that much more in the world around you.
“It’s really critical. It’s the combination of being able to interact with the physical environment, and also the 4D effects that are developed into the environment. The haptics in the vest or the gun are completely interactive to the actions within the game. It’s really significant when you feel hot or cold, feel wind, or feel vibration and movement. It makes it feel real,” said Bretschneider.
Some free experiences will promote films, such as Dreamwork’s from a few years ago where you ride a wooden dragon with a built-in fan to help sell that you’re flying in VR, for the How to Train Your Dragon franchise. Perhaps you will walk around replicas of sets from your favorite shows, interacting with the characters you love.
As home VR evolves over the next decade, public VR will also grow more intricate and grand. The Void uses a combination of off-the-shelf tech and equipment they design themselves. The company is already working on better headsets, better tracking systems, and more powerful computer vests to be released within six months. But evolving means more than gear.
Picture a building similar to a movie theater, but it instead holds multiplayer VR experiences. The Void is working on such a deluxe center with 8 stages that total almost 100,000 square feet. The company’s technology will allow up to 10 people to walk around together in a virtual world. These larger stages with newer technology will allow less linear experiences and more complex stories. This could lead to theme parks with “rides” that are a combination of virtual and real-world interactions.
Bretschneider said, “We are going to see a continual evolution of the technology in various ways, and we will be one of the first groups to implement those. There will be annual or semi-annual upgrades. That allows us to create these really amazing experiences and stay ahead of what the home market. This is just the beginning for us.”
Which film or TV show would you like try as a deluxe virtual reality experience? Tell us in the comments below.
Image Credit: The Void
Feature Image Credit: Colombia Pictures