In 2017, VR has never been more mainstream - even if it’s not quite at the smartphone-style critical mass its proponents hunger for. The once-experimental technology is quickly calcifying into a new pillar of the wider entertainment industry.
It’s become more and more common for major film, TV and other entertainment properties to launch alongside a ‘VR experience’ rather than a video game or mobile tie-in. Especially if we’re talking about genre films. Spider-Man: Homecoming did it. Ghost in the Shell did it. Over in The States, even Star Wars is doing it.
Now, in Australia, you’ve got venues like Sydney’s newly-opened Virtual Reality Rooms offering up a new, easy-access avenue for VR experiences.
Despite smartphones like the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy range helping get Mobile VR into the hands of consumers, the best way to experience VR continues to be using a high-performance PC and a dedicated headset. However, the investment of time and money involved with that setup likely remains a turnoff for almost just as many.
That’s where businesses like Virtual Reality Rooms come in. It puts high-spec, clean and comfortable VR equipment and experiences into the hands of those who for whom it is often out of reach.
Virtual Reality Rooms co-founder Christal Ho says that “virtual reality is an exciting new space and is the future, allowing you to experience and do things you never could in the real world. Most people have heard of VR and are intrigued by it, but haven't experienced VR themselves, or it's been very limited to basic VR equipment or experiences.”
It helps that the two experiences offered by the business - Cosmos and Mind Horror - are so multiplayer centric. Solo VR definitely has its charms - and it can make for a great starting point for learning and exploring what the technology is capable of. However, sharing the experience with friends makes for a much more memorable experiences.
Working together, you don’t just learn how to interact with the virtual world - you develop an ever-evolving and collective vocabulary for your relationship with it. The first experience (Cosmos) sees players travel into space and work together to save the earth from destruction. The second (Mind Horror) sees players travel into the subconscious of a serial killer in order to discover the location of his next would-be victim.
There’s a sense of direction to the experiences on offer here that isn’t always found in the tech-demo-drenched landscape of VR content. What’s more, Christal says that there’s more to come.
“We'll also be developing new VR escape games and already have many ideas ranging from a Jurassic theme to having superpowers. Regardless of the theme, the adventures will be even more immersive and likely to be stand up experiences, with lots of great thinking puzzles and that wonder and delight factor to be enjoyed together as a team.”
With both virtual reality and escape rooms experiencing a growth spurt of popularity, the business is hoping to combine the best of both worlds to create an experience that helps not only introduce audiences to VR but give them a reason to want to come back and introduce their friends.
According to Christal, “Merging VR with escape rooms means stacking on the wonder and delight factor in being immersed in fantastical locations and doing amazing things, with the interactive and challenging aspect of escape rooms to create an even more fun-filled experience that's really immersive so you feel like you're in a completely different world.”
Sydney is the first branch of the franchise which aims to be positioned In central locations in all major cities across Australia and globally. The Sydney branch is located in the city centre and has 6 rooms, accommodating up to 36 players at a time (2 to 6 players per room).
You can find out more about Virtual Reality Rooms here.