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Much of our social lives surround entertainment in some form, and with the pandemic this has been cut out of our lives in more ways than one. However, with the innovations from VR technology, our need for entertainment attractions can be remedied, with hope for the future to provide even more alternative experiences. Below features three such VR entertainment attractions that have come about during the pandemic ‘era’ - Bootshaus with their VR club, BOX Taipei’s fusion of nightlife and VR theme parks, and Illuminarium with their VR environments.
Clubbing was an unthinkable activity the past year. Partying alongside strangers while you (literally) rub shoulders with each other the whole night? Absolutely not.
However, for those who miss the atmosphere of the club, Germany’s very own Bootshaus has created virtual clubbing through the use of VR technology. Named Germany’s top club by Deutsche Welle (DW), the club’s layout and rooms have been replicated virtually to make the experience closest to an in-person one. Access is through the Sansar platform, a Windows PC and accompanying VR headset - if this isn’t readily available to you, livestreams of events are also made available through various social media streaming platforms. Attendees even get to personalize their own avatars through Sansar, to really get the most out of the experience.
It has proven to be massively popular, with a mere 2 events so far they’ve garnered over 1 million viewers from 65 countries worldwide. Bootshaus has transformed a singular clubbing experience into an international affair, which would not likely be the case had it been an in-person club.
While we’re on the topic of nightlife, BOX Taipei combines the thrill of VR theme parks and nightlife - providing both under one roof. Opened in 2019, the bar worked with more of an open-concept with the VR machines, meaning that while a user was playing, patrons around them could easily watch them and be involved in the excitement of play. According to The Tech Revolutionist, creators of BOX Taipei VAR LIVE aim to make VR more of a sociable activity, and so what better place to have VR than a bar?
The games themselves are free, which is enticing since VR is usually perceived as a costly activity. You are however subject to a minimum spend at the bar, but it’s worth it when you’re allowed free rein over the games. If you’re looking to splurge a bit more, it grants you access to premium games. Taipei Expat states that the cost is around NT$350 and NT$1000 respectively (although it may have changed with the pandemic).
Google Reviews of the place stack up to a 4.5/5 star rating overall, with several reviews complimenting the food as well as inclusion of VR into the atmosphere.
VR in gaming is already proving to be a popular option, and people seem to always be up for new and innovative nightlife experiences, so it is understandable that BOX Taipei decided to combine the two. Talk about having the best of both worlds!
Some people may not be a fan of the headsets usually needed to experience the glory of VR - Illuminarium Experiences has found a way to fix this, through their walk-through exhibits with a variety of special effects to truly immerse viewers into a foreign environment. With $100 million in initial funding, it seems like there is confidence in a bright future for them.
Their venture into headset-less VR experiences will start off with “Wild” in Atlanta, a virtual experience taking viewers through the African safari. With footage taken by production firm RadicalMedia, the aim of the experience is to bring viewers to places that may have never been before, in a setting meant to emulate the real-life environment as closely as possible. Also, it features plenty of close animal encounters - something that might be too dangerous to do in real life for most. Think of it as an exclusive front-seat guide to the safari.
Albeit still being very new, the attraction has already garnered positive reviews on Google. One user under the moniker Tyler Sugg stated that “the use of technology in this place really makes you feel like you're walking in a movie” and another Wes Holton called it a “very cool experience inside for everyone - like on a safari”.
It will not be surprising if the attraction only gets more popular, given it’s unique provision that has the ability to satisfy one’s wanderlust, without having to take a long-haul flight. It doesn’t seek out to completely replace travel, but would be an affordable avenue for those who can’t have the means to.
The combination of VR and entertainment attractions is not exactly a new thing in our society, with Headrock VR in Singapore providing a VR theme park to the public, and Sandbox VR in several locations worldwide giving a more intimate play VR experience with your friends.
What the pandemic has brought on though, is more experimentation in how VR can be further used to entertain us all, despite being a confined medium.
Furthermore, the above VR attractions had to shut because of the virus, due to its communal nature. With Bootshaus’ example though, it shows how a communal experience can still be achieved, even with individualized audiences. As for Illuminarium, space is not an issue, and likely can be still safely done according to protocol.
Steady interest in VR, particularly in the gaming consumer market, suggests that while there is a long way to go for widespread public adoption of the technology, it isn’t to be ruled out. With Steam showing signs of constant uptake of VR headsets and games, it’s fair to say there is sustained interest. According to Statista, the pandemic led to 71% of respondents in the U.S saying that they spent more time using VR in 2020.
The most viable solution to VR in entertainment attractions right now seems to be one that is able to use different technology, both new and existing (like that of Bootshaus), or one that provides an immersive experience that people have been missing. And of course, ideally not involving much physical contact between strangers.