The Application of XR into the attractions and amusement landscape is covered by leading industry specialist Kevin Williams, in his latest Virtual Arena column – looking at the deployment of motion platforms and seating to move the players within the immersive space.
In this latest column for MIXED, we look at the continued strives to place the guest within the immersive experience. Previously we looked at the omnidirectional system to allow the guest to navigate themselves, but there is also the deployment of motion systems, especially seated platforms, to transport the guests through the virtual environments.
The use of immersive cinema platforms has revolutionized the audience movie-going experience. With the latest phase of 3D movies, we have seen successful releases such as the 20th Century Studios ‘Avatar’ series (initially generating a worldwide $2b box office for the 2009 release – followed by the sequels). Going on to define the latest “Passive” and “Active” 3D glasses revolution. Alongside this has been the motion seating experience. With the adoption of 3D, we have seen cinema motion FX seating.
The popularity of immersing the audience from their seats has grown in deployment in cinemas, with 4D effects seating seeing installations like 4D FX at multiplexes globally. These cinema motion FX seating, comprising motion, wind, and even water spray effects, were expanded for application in the attraction sector. Developers include the D-BOX motion seats, and from CJ 4DPLEX, with their own ‘ScreenX’ screens.
What some defined as EFX Theaters but more commonly known as 4D Theaters. While at the same time, we saw attraction developers scale down the big theme park experience for venues of varying sizes, achieved through new technology. This also included the development of both Passive and Interactive experiences employing motion seats.
Developers such as TRIOTECH have created their range of ‘XD Dark Ride’ theaters – as well as their amusement based ‘Typhoon’ motion seat experiences. Obviously, this motion seat technology lent itself for application in VR attractions – TRIOTECH creating their popular ‘STORM’ platform, marrying interactive motion seat VR experiences.
Motion seat VR experiences have been popularized early in this phase of VR adoption in location-based entertainment (LBE). Chinese developers were quick to ride this bandwagon, with the zeitgeist of VR in 2014 – creating the 9D VR motion seat pods.
Also known as VR eggs, these VR pods became ubiquitous in malls and entertainment venues, being franchised into the West. A hoard of operators running these machines based mainly on the novelty of VR tech at the time. For good or bad, many peoples first experience of VR was experienced riding these early VR cinema systems.
After the first flush of excitement, the Chinese amusement scene has attempted to recapture the enthusiasm for VR experiences, with the launch of the next generation of systems.
Corporations such as Owatch VR have launched what they call “VR 2.0.” – releasing their updated 9D pod simulator with their ‘VR CyberX’ platform. Motion seating also employed in their ‘VR Space Travel’ – a four rider motion simulator in VR.
The ability to use these immersive motion seat systems to draw in an audience – proven in the cinema scene – has seen not just entertainment but also “Edutainment” (immersive gallery) tech to employ this. Companies, such as IMMOTION VR, have developed their own chain of VR experiences based on their partnership with Chinese developer LEKE VR. Redeveloping the hardware to best suit Western needs.
While also looking towards immersive attractions for zoological and aquarium installation. Most recently, IMMOTION VR with their new modular outdoor zoo system comprising 12-seats within an outdoor shipping container platform, recently deploying their ‘Gorilla Trek VR’ experience.
While many will be familiar with the 9D egg-shaped VR pods that proved so popular, the level of sophistication in the VR pod approach has continued to evolve. One of the trailblazers is Positron, with their series of VR immersive chairs – comprising comfortable ergonomics, silent motion and haptic elements of the latest ‘Voyager’ system, to offer XR cinema installations.
These have been installed in their own ‘VR Gallery’, a permanent gallery space, ArtScience Museum, Singapore. Other pop-up and permanent installations across the globe have included at the Saachi Galleries London, with ‘Tutankhamun: Enter the Tomb’ – a VR experience employing the motion seats to transport the riders through the legendary tomb – 18 of the motion pods synchronized to the virtual experience.
The more traditional motion seat system, based on those deployed in cinemas, were also rolled into action for immersive attractions. MediaMation, known for their ‘MX4D’ seating system has installed this in unique theater attractions, one such being ‘EECO Voyager’, at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. With two 32 seat EFX theaters – the immersive content created by immersive CGi ridefilm specialists Red Raion and being viewed by the audience on PICO wireless VR headsets.
The employment of the proven cinema motion seat from D-BOX has seen the development of entertainment systems such as the VR attraction like the ‘Orb Game’ systems from Matrix Technologies, offering a competitive pod-craft blaster. Moving from the passive VR ride experience to a more interactive gaming offering.
For the attraction sector, the arms race to create the next brightest attraction employing this technology has seen developers pushing the envelope.
Corporations such as DOF Robotics, well known for their ‘Hurricane 360 VR’ platform with a 360’ inverted motion ride experience for four riders – offering an exhilarating VR experience. The company has also taken the simulator attraction, moving the motion seats inside a creation of a monster truck with 6-DoF (Degrees of Freedom) and spinning action with ‘Monster Jam: Grave Digger’ – six riders wearing PICO VR headsets, experiencing a special ride film experience.
The big theme park attractions of “Flying Theaters” – offering dome displays and unique suspended motion platforms – have now been scaled down for deployment into a wide variety of venues. Developer Brogent Technologies offering the first 10k flying theater attractions employing the latest LED dome screens based on their ‘M-Ride’ platform.
The corporation has also developed their own racing simulators – hydraulic 6-DoF motion-platforms for one of the largest indoor theme parks (‘Doha Quest’). Another developer in this industry is AMEGA Entertainment with their ‘VR Motion Chair’ and ‘XD Cinema’ marrying effective motion seat systems with the latest VR hardware.
We have seen the motion ride attraction scaled down to be suitable for amusement application. What are defined as “VR Ride Simulators” – these ubiquitous two rider motion seat VR experiences – have proven popular applications of VR entertainment.
One of the originators of this platform is LAI Games with their top-selling ‘Virtual Rabids’ – a fun passive experience based on the Ubisoft rascals. The system has recently been upgraded to use the new ultra HD, HTC VIVE headset.
With other examples of this VR ride sim being developed from companies such as RILIX, with other developers adding interactive game elements – either hand tracking or physical interface from developers like UNIS with ‘Salor Quest VR’, TRIOTECH and their ‘STORM’, and VR 360 Action with their ‘OMG Simulator’.
Amusement development powerhouse Raw Thrills with their ‘King Kong of Skull Island VR’ and their latest Ride Sim system ‘Godzilla Kaju Wars VR’ employing all the lessons learned from the genre, the two riders sitting on the Thrill-D NXT motion platform. While the players use their force feedback blasters – all viewing the action using DPVR headsets.
Away from their VR Ride Sims, LAI Games in collaboration with WAHLAP have launched a VR amusement racer incorporating a motion platform with ‘Asphalt 9 Legends Arcade VR’.
A VR perspective on the high-speed street racer. The game offering all the thrills of the traditional racer but in an immersive package. Players immersed in the action via HTC headsets.
VR specialist in the amusement scene HOLOGATE have released their ‘HOLOGATE Blitz’ platform, a highly physical motion racing seat system for VR.
The company launching ‘Ghostbusters Academy’ for the platform in collaboration with Sony Pictures Virtual Reality (SPVR), with players in a high-speed ghostly racer in a concept ECTO hovercraft – in an up to four player network experience.
Developers offering a compelling immersive motion simulator system that can be deployed into the harsh crucible of amusement application include motion platform specialist Talon Simulation. Who have released their ‘Talon Vortex’ – a configurable motion seat system. A versatile platform that can be applied as a racing simulator, or a roller coaster simulator at the click of a mouse.
The popularity of racing seats (also called “Racing Rigs”) has migrated from the custom cockpit setup for prosumers to advance sims for location deployment. These latest systems employ sophisticated motion platform, again seeing actuator manufacturer D-BOX partnering with many of the leading developers.
While many of these race rigs depend on displays rather than VR headsets, many are configurable to support VR if required. Developers such as CXC Simulation, ImSim, Wave Italy and Base Performance Simulation (BPS), offering immersive racing experience with motion.
D-BOX recently announced a partnership with Playseat to offer a motion solution, while we have also seen the second ‘F1 Arcade’ open in Birmingham, comprising over fifty Vesaro race cockpits with motion – underlining the popularity of the immersive racing genre out-of-home.
The development of new dynamic motion systems to move the audience within the virtual realm continues to grow. Regarding the new generation of attractions, Walt Disney recently wowed audiences with the launch of their ‘Avatar Flight of Passage’ – an immersive flying simulator experience using a unique motion seat platform and large immersive dome display. An immersive attraction, part of the Pandora themed area of Walt Disney World Resort.
This groundbreaking Disney attraction employs specially developed new lightweight 3D goggles to immerse the riders within the world of Avatar, presented on the large dome display. With a film experience in a super 10k resolution at 60 frames-per-second (fps). The four-minute experience, supported with VFX ranging from motion, spray, light and olfactory effects. A level of engagement other attractions would find impossible to match. Surpassing even what is achievable with the latest hi-end consumer VR headsets.
As with Disney’s previous ground-breaking ‘Soaring: Fantastic Flight’ flying theater attraction, Avatar’s unique motion seat system has fired the imagination of attraction developers.
Such as Simworx, who have launched their ‘Pegasus Flying Theater’ system, employing their own unique 3-DoF motion-seat concept for dome screen participation.
Not all venues can accommodate a vast dome display, with the new generation of “Immersive Ride Enclosure” attractions blending VR with the latest ride motion systems in a turnkey platform.
Chinese manufacturer Movie Power have developed their ‘VR Space Ride Mini Simulator’ – comprising their unique motion seats inspired by those seen on the new flying theater attractions, with 4K VR headsets. Packaging a small attraction but offering a big experience – configurable for various venues.
The reality of the immersive motion systems transporting the VR user have continued to grow in innovation. Established developer Roto VR have recently revealed their new ‘Roto VR Chair’.
Comprising an advance tracking system linking the movement of the chair to the user’s virtual progress, the system is looking not just at consumer, but also enterprise deployment – especially in LBE VR installation. A simple and easily configurable motion experience capable of being applied to numerous experiences.
As the immersive experiences for commercial entertainment grow in sophistication, to match the advancements in the display and dome attraction scene, we can look forward to more and more compelling applications of motion technology. As previously covered in our Virtual Arena piece on full body systems – these individual units bring an interesting approach to immersion, but it is these motion platforms – able to accommodate simple attraction operation and high throughput, that are driving this new revolution.
This concludes the snapshot of the motion simulation scene. And marks the last MIXED special report for this year. We look forward to jumping into 2024 with news of brand-new developments in the ‘Virtual Arena’, and would like to wish our readers and supporters well for the coming New Year.