The VOID brings the future of VR to the masses

The VOID

The Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is an unlikely place to find the most state-of-the-art virtual reality entertainment experience. But here I am, in absolute awe after what I experienced at The VOID. I’ve been a fan of VR since the early days of the Oculus. Of course, I could never afford to buy an Oculus and the expensive computer setup required to run it. So I sought to experience VR through various media experiences. Yet each experience left me a little bit empty afterward. There’s something that seems to be missing; an element or two that could potentially push the format from novelty to mainstream.

The closest thing we have to the future of virtual reality was the Jack Ryan Fan Experience at San Diego Comic-Con last year. Yet that was an experience set for a limited number of attendees. Even then, there was still some trial-and-error with the various peripherals that they attach to your body. Then, just this week, I tried two experiences at The VOID that finally gave me everything that I want in a VR experience.

What is The VOID?

The VOID is a virtual reality experience that combines state-of-the-art hardware and an interactive physical environment to tell a fun and entertaining story. At The VOID location at Third Street Promenade, the first thing we tried is the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire experience. After signing a digital waiver, we were led into a room where Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) tells us that we need to go undercover as stormtroopers and steal a piece of cargo that the Empire currently possesses.

After our briefing, we were led to a staging area where we equipped ourselves with the VR equipment. We put on our haptic vest and our VR helmet and I’ve come to the sudden realization that we didn’t have to put anything else on. No tracking gloves nor tracking socks—just our vest and helmet. The equipment is, however, a bit heavy. But I guess that’s the trade-off for the lack of additional equipment.

Fighting for the Rebel Alliance

Secrets of the Empire starts off like any other VR experience. You look around and see the avatar of the people in your group. Yet, once K2-S0 shows up, that’s when everything changes. Everything in the virtual world matches the physical world. In other words, almost anything that you see is what you can physically touch. It made us feel like we were at Mustafar. IT MADE US FEEL LIKE WE WERE IN STAR WARS. However, it does take a minute or two for your mind to adjust. It’s a little disorienting at first since you don’t know if you’ll accidentally run into a wall or not. After a while, you begin to trust in the system. You begin to move through the experience without worrying about running into a wall.

The VOID

 

After a while, you’ll grab some guns and begin to start shooting at some stormtroopers. If you’re wondering, yes, you can shoot your friends. Mine did. I felt that shot through the haptic vest too. If you’re a video game veteran then getting through these battles shouldn’t be a problem at all. The toughest challenge, though, is playing a version of Simon while stormtroopers are shooting at you. Can you imagine trying to memorize colors and buttons while your haptic vest is going crazy?

For the climax, you’ll get to see Lord Vader himself. I know it isn’t real, but I still had that sense of dread that Darth Vader is going to kill me. I mean have you seen Rogue One? In the end, we escaped and we were sold. This is the greatest virtual reality experience ever. Not bad for an experience that’s two years old.

Wrecking that high score

Now, it’s time to take part in the other experience, Ralph Breaks VR. Once again, we enter the briefing room where Ralph and Vanellope tell us that we’re going to sneak into the Internet and play the latest and greatest video game. This time around, we actually get to choose our avatar. Out of the set, I chose the nerd and my friend picked the musician. As soon as we made our decision, we put on our equipment and went straight into the room. The biggest difference between Star Wars and Ralph is that you’re competing again your friends here.

Ralph Breaks VR lets you walk into different parts of the Internet and experience a lot of “mini-games” on a grander scale. At one point, you’ll have to hack your way out of your unfortunate predicament. In the process, you will be “zapped” and your haptic vest will let you feel it too.

The VOID - Staging Area

Another section has us shooting pancakes and milkshakes towards the bunny and kitty from the trailers. As you shoot at them, they toss cupcakes at you and the scent of sweet cupcakes float into your nose. “Oh my god, I’m starting to get really hungry now,” I told my friend.

The future of social VR

Virtual reality has always been such an isolated experience. It’s true that you can play with other players online through multiplayer but it’s not the same. You’re still by yourself. The VOID is a shared bonding experience. The experiences based on IPs have all the cinematic elements you need to be transported into that world. This level of immersion is what virtual reality should be. It’s what I thought the future of VR would be. I never imagined that the future would be found at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

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