The Void is to be created from the dreams of Ken Bretschneider- he wants to see everyone running after villains in a less than usual way. This autumn, he’ll begin work on The Void, a centre for virtual reality gaming that will have 60x60ft pod-like rooms where groups of up to 10 people can play immersive games in a virtual world. The rooms will have foam covered walls and be painted a dark colour, which will make them look boring and nondescript to the everyday viewer. But VR headsets will be able to transform each room into another world, with scenery such as mountains or a spaceship. Each game will last for around 30 minutes and the idea has been described by The Washington Post as being like ‘laser tag on steroids, or a video game you get to dive into’.
Bretschneider has said that his team of 30 people are developing virtual reality technology for The Void as the headsets that are currently available aren’t good enough for his vision. The headsets they create will have curved screens with views of 160 to 180 degrees to expand the players field of view. There will also be a body tracking system and gloves that players can wear to track their movements within the game and create a fully immersive experience. Bretschneider says that the body equipment has posed the biggest challenge as the computers must be able to instantly track the players movements in order for the virtual games to be realistic. If the movements aren’t tracked quickly enough then it will not only make the game feel less realistic but could also trigger motion sickness and nausea.
The Void’s systems will rely on sensors with microprocessors inside that will speed up data transfer. The gloves will contain sensors that allow the game to know the location of each hand as It moves and then transmit a physical action such as opening a door or shooting a gun into the virtual world.
The inspiration for The Void comes from Bretschneider’s unhappiness with the current VR technology and experience, in which people are mainly confined to a chair or room in their house. He says during other experiences he wanted to go and run around instead of sitting in a chair, but felt he was separated from that world- just sitting down instead of being able to stand up and move. Bretschneider began in virtual reality by pouring millions of his own dollars into a project called Evermore, a location-based entertainment experience like a technological theme park. However, he realised that one aspect of the project was what he should focus on- people should be able to come to him for VR experiences instead of having to set up their own kit and then have a limited area to explore.
The Void will open in Salt Lake City and it could be finished as early as summer 2016 if there are no long delays or problems. Bretschneider is hoping that The Void will offer new games and experiences every three months, as well as being part of a chain of VR gaming suites in the US, Asia and Europe. He is already in the process of creating partnerships with developers and game studios in order to make his dream a reality. He also plans on profit sharing and has visions of large studios creating VR versions of their computer games which can be played on The Void’s equipment.
The walls inside each of the seven 60x60ft spaces of The Void will be re-arrangeable and the team is working on adding texture into the space to make it seem more realistic- metal and organic surfaces will feel real to the player through their gloves. No price has yet been set for each 30 minute experience, but Bretschneider says they will be affordable.
The YouTube video for The Void has gained almost two million views and 19,000 thumbs up since it was uploaded on 4th May. This shows the already growing anticipation for the gaming centres which will have 4D environmental effects and draw on people’s dreams of entering a fantasy world rather than just playing a game on a screen. If the excitement of the video’s commenters are anything to go by, then Bretschneider could well be onto a winner.