VR without the goggles

VR without the goggles

28 September 2021 Off By Facto Edizioni

/ The first Illuminarium, just opened in Atlanta, promises to be the revolution of immersive attractions /

What happened to virtual reality? It was poised to take the world of experiential attractions by storm, but years have gone by and the real offers are still few and far between. Why is that? “VR is a singular experience, hard to share, hard to talk to people, hard to have a ‘wow’ moment with somebody,” said Alan Greenberg, former publisher of Esquire Magazine. This lack of interpersonal exchange probably played a role in keeping VR back, and it’s all the more evident now, after the pandemic. After being cooped up for so long, people are looking for experiences that they can live in person, not through a computer, and the industry of experience-based attraction is growing. But one thing that people are looking for more than ever is experiences that allow them to connect again, person to person. “I think there’s a deep human need for places that take you out of yourself as a group,” confirms David Rockwell, architect and CEO of Rockwell Group. And that’s not really what VR is about, when you put on your goggles and shut yourself out of the real world into the virtual one.

Together with Radical Media’s CEO Jon Kamen, Greenberg and Rockwell are bringing to life a new form of immersive attraction that tries to blend the immersiveness of VR with the chance to live the experience together as a group. Their startup venture Illuminarium Experiences opened its first location in Atlanta on July 1st, with two more already in the pipeline (one at Area 15 in Las Vegas, scheduled for winter 2021/2022, and one in Miami for later in 2022): the $30 million, 2,400sqm venue offers a breathtaking cinematic walk through a space featuring 4K video on a huge screen, state-of-the-art spatial sound systems that allow for individualized sound experiences based on where each person is standing, haptic flooring that lets you feel the vibration of sounds, interactive features like dust kicking up as you walk by, and even scents to fully evoke the virtual surroundings. “We are in many ways VR without the glasses,” Greenberg says. “We’re not strapping a computer on your back and fitting goggles on your face.”

At opening, Illuminarium Atlanta is featuring a show called “WILD: A Safari Experience” that transports visitors to Africa. Content was shot on location and shows elephants, lions and zebras in their native habitats across South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, and Tanzania. Visitors can walk through the space at will, or choose a place to sit down and imbibe the whole movie; from here they can see an elephant walking in front of them, and feel the floor reverberate with the roaring of a lion. They can enter at any time, because the “movie” is looped. This is one of the innovation, and one of the challenges that creators had to overcome. “It’s a bit of a mind-bender, to be honest,” says Kamen. “You have a much bigger physical responsibility, because anybody in the room can be looking in any direction at any time. It’s a completely different discipline of film-making.” 

While the main focus is on storytelling, the new attraction of course makes use of a lot of cutting-edge technology to make the videos come true for viewers. For projection solutions, Illuminarium partnered with Panasonic, who is the provider of native 4k projectors, 4k professional displays and 4k professional camera solutions for 360-degree cinematic experience. “Illuminarium is setting up shop to become one of the best immersive experiences that you can witness,” said Panasonic Live Events group manager Joe Conover. “They’re planning on using a lot of technologies from Panasonic, as well as others that lead in the industries of their chosen spec. They’re going to put on a spectacle with a lot of technology and a lot of pixels.”

And if visual contents are key, the literal feel of the show could not be the same without another technology: the linear transducer Mover by Italian company Powersoft, which was used to design a haptic Infrasound floor to create realistic sensations such as the ground-shaking feel of an elephant’s stomp or the low-end rumble of a lion’s roar. In Atlanta, no less than 162 units of the Mover were deployed (making it the largest installation to date), coupled with 12 Ottocanali 4804D amplifiers for the best low frequency reproduction possible. “Mover was engineered to provide the best and most realistic immersive experience to users,” said Powersoft US general manager Tom Knesel. “We are incredibly proud to be providing our patented haptic infrasound technology to help reproduce realistic sensations for visitors in what is set to be…

Continue reading Games & Parks Industry September 2021, page 72

Photos Courtesy: Jordan Vision for Rockwell Group

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