#1147 – Immersive Entertainment Shines in Orlando – Part 2

This marks the second part of our International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA’22) convention coverage.

Moving into the increased innovation in entertainment and attractions, and the latest investment in “SimulatorsandSimRacing” was on display. The continued popularity of simulators in the amusement scene was reflected from two camps – for example, veteran manufacturer Maxflight presented their ‘VR2002’ range of systems, with their unique 360° motion envelope that still offers a compelling game experience. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the simulation and racing scene, we saw several leading SimRacing seats with motion, building on the popularity of the eSports and tournament racing scene. One of the larger attraction developers to embrace this scene was Brogent Technologies – known for their simulator attractions, the company came to IAAPA’22 with a selection of their immersive experiences. The first was their F1 simulator based on their ‘miRide’ motion base, but with a full race car monocoque. The system also used a unique mini-LED dome display, filling the racer’s full vision and offering a compelling experience. It was announced that the system, in partnership with Hockenheim-Ring GmbH, is intended to be installed in a special race center at the new Welcome Center at Hockenheimring circuit, to open in 2023.

Brogent has been involved in a number of eSports-based competitions, using their motion simulator platforms, and the company is looking to roll out an interactive racing attraction based on this technology. The other deployment of the motion ride system was with a two-seater VR jetfighter experience, with riders taking flight in a carrier-based jetfighter mission. The passive experience offers a virtual simulation of air combat using the HTC Focus 3 – which seemed very timely with the popularity of the motion picture ‘TopGun: Maverick’. Meanwhile, the company saw the first installation of its ‘m-Ride’ attraction at Legoland Florida in 2019, with the ‘Master of Flight’ flying theater installation. 

ImSim Simulation had their compact racing seat system at the show, with its 3DoF motion capability, offering a strong design with the ‘Alma’ platform. As with many other SimRacing manufacturers, the company is offering the platform in versions for both commercial and consumer sale. ImSim has also partnered with Automobili Lamborghini to create a special customised version for prosumers. 

Developing high-end race sim cockpits, as well as creating for the commercial entertainment scene, is proving a major component for many companies. Exhibitor WAVE Italy presented again at IAAPA, with two such examples, with their SimRacing ’Simulator Pro’ monocoque recreation of a F1 car, and their ‘GHEPARD Maranello’ SimRacing GT station incorporating a new motion system. The platform can represent different vehicles and offers a detailed simulation tuned to the players’ needs, while the external design of the system offers stylish lines.

Taking a booth at the show was AMEGA Entertainment – the company was presenting a pair of its SimRacing seats, employing full racing controls and a curved screen, with the units built for network competition. Part of their ‘Formula S’ range of simulators, the systems are incorporated also in the portable ‘E-Racing Container’, that offers the ability to deploy an eSports experience to any location in a modular form. 

Another SimRacing configuration was seen from Tecnoplay, with their new ‘Race Craft Evo’ platform. Previously seen at amusement trade events, the updated Evo system offers up-to-eight-player competition, and three different levels of driving skill. The system combines a cost-effective race sim setup, supporting a new tournament element, developed by Sandbox Games. The machine was represented by Incredible Creative Entertainment (ICE) at the show on their booth, who are distributing the new version in North America.  

One of the other partners on the Clubspeed venue management platform booth was SimGear – developers of a range of 2DoF motion SimRacing platforms (under the ‘GT Elite’ range). The systems incorporate a unique three screen layout, offering a selection of the latest eSports racing game competitions, ranging from Project Cars to iRacing.  

Also exhibiting was industry veteran Race Car Simulators – a well-known name in the development of entertainment racing simulators, the company showed on their booth their new platform. The motion simulator represented a NASCAR racer, with accurate force feedback steering and motion – the unique element of the system was its ability to be a turnkey solution for FECs, using smart apps for plays to jump into the game and competitions. 

Not all the SimRacing excitement was on the show floor – Base Performance Simulators (BPS) held a press event to mark the installation of their ground-breaking ‘Phoenix’ SimRacing platform as a special attraction at Andretti Motorsports, off International Drive, close to the IAAPA convention center. The system uses the D-BOX ‘G5’ haptic technology to create the needed seat motion and haptic feedback. 

Speaking of D-BOX, the company announced a partnership with Trak Racer to bring D-BOX’s haptic feedback to Trak Racer’s chassis. The value of the haptic components to be sold by D-BOX via this agreement is estimated at approximately $1 million. This was followed by the announcement of a partnership with RSeat, to develop the first high-fidelity, multipurpose haptic platform. This innovative plug and play, low-profile platform will be compatible with all RSeat sim racing rigs, and almost all chassis from other sim racing equipment manufacturers. When connected to a PC and retrofitted under static seats such as sofas and recliners, it will be compatible with the D-BOX ecosystem, allowing users to benefit from a haptic experience for the more than 2,500 films and television series, available through the ‘DBOX PLUS’ catalogue.

The importance of SimRacing in the entertainment scene is not only regarding racing attractions or eSports – the same month as IAAPA’22 London saw the opening of the ‘F1 Arcade’ competitive socializing venue, comprising 60-simulators, using the Vesaro platform supported by D-BOX’s latest ‘G5’ haptic technology. The ‘F1 Arcade’ operation went on to announce that London would soon be joined by a 11,000-sq.ft. venue at Paradise Birmingham (a full report from the opening of the venue in The Stinger Report soon).

The race sim scene for location-based entertainment center operators was rocked in the build-up to IAAPA’22, with the news that one of the popular racing games for the scene was to be ended. ‘Project CARS Pro’, developed by Slightly Mad Studios, was the business-to-business version of the popular consumer racer series for location-based entertainment deployment. The game was developed to support LBE arena business, and could support RaceRigs, VR and commercial operation, launched in 2019.  This was the same year that Codemasters acquired the studio, and from that mega publisher EA acquired them for $1.2b, completed in 2021. And with that completion, EA announced they would be stopping further investment in the ‘Project Cars’ series, including the Pro platform, with the team moved to other projects where possible. This move has already seen operators of the game in LBE seeing the content fail to launch or connect online – and starting a scramble to find an alternative game solution.

Regarding real racing and karting, the continued inclusion of “Gamification” to the racing experience continued, with exhibitor Sodikart presenting their new platform – ‘Game of Karts’. The company, a leading manufacturer and developer in the karting industry, has turned its expertise to adding an interactive element, releasing what is called “the ultimate karting experience”! The system incorporates, along with projected icons along the course, a steering wheel touchscreen, used to inform the player of their score, and to see if they have collected items such as bombs, missiles, boosts and shields which they can use against fellow racers. The experience was developed in partnership with Polymorh and the attraction is seeing its first venue rollouts.

The creation of immersive interactive karting was also represented by exhibitor RiMO Germany GmbH – the company, known for their karting developments, represented on their booth the Battle Karts platform. The projection-based AR experience sees the players’ vehicles tracked, with the use of special projected courses and game experiences. The concept has already been installed in several European venues and is looking to expand its reach.

The new trends shaping the attractions and amusement scene were seen with MR Attractions, which presented Augmented Reality (AR), Projection Mapping (PM), Immersive Screens (IS) as technologies that we have categorized under the “Mixed Reality” banner for the last few years – and all under the umbrella term of Cross Reality or XR. The opportunity of these immersive technologies, against their more ubiquitous Virtual Reality (VR), are mainly their ability to interact with the “Real World™” – and in some cases the un-encumbrance of worn technology. IAAPA’22 had a growing selection of MR platforms on display. Regarding the changing AR landscape, it was revealed after IAAPA’22 that well-known developer Live Current Media had acquired AR developer Guru Experience Co, in an all-stock transaction, marking yet more landgrabs in this emerging sector.

Alterface Projects – Presenting to the attendees at the show their ‘Wander’ platform, the company promoted their new software-based platform, offering the ability to create ‘immersive experiences’. This is an AR development environment that allows the physical boundaries of the venue to be transformed into interactive elements that the guests can enjoy. Developed to work with special physical interfaces, or through special apps, the guests can activate puzzles and game elements which are all personalized for them. Physical interactions activate digital and show-set elements in unique areas of the venue. 

Enklu – Exhibiting at IAAPA for the first time, the company is a developer of what they call a “turnkey metaverse platform”. Called ‘Verse Immersive’, the platform offers the ability to create bespoke AR experiences. Demonstrated on their booth, the company ran several Microsoft HoloLens 2 headsets offering an AR seasonal Christmas experience, creating a digital experience seen only through the headset. Users were able to decorate a virtual Christmas tree, throw virtual snowballs, and interact with other elements.

Much of the deployment of the commercial Microsoft ‘HoloLens’ AR headset has been in experiences which are specially created, mixing physical spaces and props with synthetic digital elements. The company is involved most notably with their ‘The Unreal Garden’ opened in San Francisco in 2019, developed and operated by Enklu and deployed as a popup attraction. Coming to IAAPA’22, the operation is looking to create attractions for other operators based on this platform, creating bespoke AR experiences. It was interesting that this was one of the only AR headset products at this year’s trade event – especially considering that Microsoft has now discontinued the HoloLens product, now reverting to a partnership with Meta to use their Meta Quest Pro platform. 

Although not exhibiting at IAAPA’22, one of the leading developers of AR-based entertainment systems is meleap – the company behind the ‘HADO’ AR sports game, that has championed AR eSports. The platform is operational in some 39-countries, at some 109 permanent locations, with players competing in team-based player-vs-player competitions. The company announced the raising of some ¥510m ($3.48m) towards accelerating their international rollout of locations and expand the marketing and recruitment of player leagues. The company opened its flagship store with ‘HADO ARENA Odaiba’ in 2022. It was revealed that the round of funding was raised from Chinese firm QC Investment, as well as Incubate Fund, HoriPro Group Holdings, CiP Fund, Kiraboshi Capital, and Waki ​​Planning.

One surprising aspect of the explosion in projection-based entertainment is in “AR Axe-Throwing”. The IAAPA’22 show floor was overflowing with AR-based axe-throwing enclosures, with at least six examples seen. Companies such as iCompetex Experiences had their ‘iCX AXE’ – described as “the World’s first Auto-Scoring axe-throwing platform”. The company has been working in the social entertainment scene with its ‘iCX’ range of motion tracked golf and baseball systems. The new AR axe-throwing enclosure is offered as a standalone installation for venues.

Another AR-based system was revealed from OnPoint, with their ‘OnPoint Digital Target’ platform. The company presented an enclosure, using AR projected targets on the target board – with a selection of mini games, which the company felt reimaged the axe-throwing experience. The system was configured to allow the experiences to be customized, including with advertising placed onto the screen to generate marketing revenue. 

Lasertron came to IAAPA’22 with their own AR axe-throwing platform. The enclosure system, along with the hospitality seating, is sold as a complete platform supported by EPOS, and an extensive selection of over 20 different game mode for the players to select from – all part of a projection AR element of the throwing experience. The highly configurable system has been developed to accommodate different sizes of venues.

On the Clubspeed booth was Axcitement – a strategic partner of the venue management platform developer. The ‘Axcitement Lane’ platform is another AR axe-throwing system with a self-scoring module and a selection of game experiences, using the projection system and tracking. The platform is supported by its own touchscreen interface for players to select their game and use as an EPOS platform. The system was also promoting its “no axe bounce-back” design.  

One of the other examples of an AR axe-throwing platform was from Champ Throw Interactive Targets – with the ‘Champ Throw’ enclosure. The system uses a projected target board, from which players can select several mini games, with their scores automatically collected. The turnkey interactive system can be installed in multiple lanes, according to the venue footprint. 

Regarding the other examples of Projection Mapping (PM) and Immersive Screens (IS) being displayed, exhibitor Breeze Creative presented their suite of interactive experiences for young minds, with examples of their ‘Draw Alive’ interactive digital wall and drawing game, the projection floor system ‘Dynamic Floor’, and the ever popular ‘Animated Sandbox’ – a sandbox that is projected on as the sand is moved, creating islands, mountains and oceans, in an incredibly tactile experience, while promoting the educational and museum applications, along with entertainment venues for this technology.

Interactive floors were seen on several booths, offering a great interactive entertainment element to available space. The marriage of an interactive game and fast-paced action was seen with ‘Flash Pad’ on the Battle Company booth – the system uses special illuminated pads on a giant floor, offering games such as “Maze Escape” and “Boogie Lights”, fast-paced quick reaction games for up-to-four players at a time. The company is also known for their ‘Battle Cage’ arena system, using soft play swords with contacts automatically scored. 

Along with the education and museum market, there is the “Fitness Gaming” scene that also sees the latest of the MR platforms being deployed. Exhibitor CSE Entertainment is well known for the exercise-based entertainment platforms that employ the latest technology. Marking their 10th anniversary of what the company calls “Making Fitness Fun”, the company presented at IAAPA’22 their ‘iWall’, with two players’ movements tracked on a screen used to control their avatars through sports game experiences. The company also had their ‘runBeat’ treadmill exergaming system, with players competing in virtual running races. This was also supported by the ‘cycloBeat’, with riders on special exercise cycles, playing against competitors in the human-powered competition. These systems are able to offer networked exergaming competition.

About the author

Kevin Williams

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The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

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