#1150 – Immersive Entertainment Shines in Orlando – Part 5

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

Another major trend has been “Free-roaming VR” experiences were a serious trend on the show floor, along with the Creative Works ‘LimitlessVR’ there were several other examples being presented. Springboard VR an operation of Vertigo Games, presented their library of content in support of free-roaming platforms, as well as for VR arcades. The company working in partnership with ?? the manufacturers of the enclosure, had installed on their booth a free-roam enclosure running their titles, including a first chance to try the newly launched ‘After the Fall: LB VR Edition’ – the all new full-body 4-player VR adventure, running on the HTC Focus 3, and availability exclusively rolled out across Springboard locations worldwide (as part of their free-roam library of titles). The demonstration proving the necessity for strong content and operations in a crowded VR marketplace.   

SPREE Interactive – bringing their unique brand of VR free-roaming entertainment for friendly family audience, the company had on their booth an example of their ‘SPREE Arena’ running up to six players using the PICO Neo 3 VR headset. Along with their investment into family friendly experiences, the company announced the roll out of a seasonally based VR experience, with the launch of ‘Christmas Crunch’. A team-based VR experience aimed at player-aged 6-years and older. 

SPREE doubled down on their position regarding VR for young players, rejecting the industry narrative that VR is not for kids, referring to the discomfort expressed towards considering under-13-year-old players on VR hardware. The company pointed to the facts that there has now been a number of studies published in the ‘American Journal of Ophthalmology’ which conclude that young children can tolerate fully immersive 3D virtual reality game play without noteworthy effects on visuomotor functions. Also of note is that SPREE has been successfully running VR experiences across 50 global installations, for over four-years relentlessly focused on families with kids aged 4-12 (falling into ‘Generation Alpha’). It is this experience that makes the company feel that outdated thinking about the use of VR in Out-of-Home entertainment venues means the sector is missing out. Using research from Party Center Software to illustrate the 74-percent of FEC birthday parties comprised young guests aged between 4-12. 

For many operators, they have taken the lead from consumer VR regarding the age restrictions at 13 and 14. Home VR headsets having user agreements that shy against young users. As comments previously in our Metaverse coverage, VR leader Meta stipulated an over 13-age policy. When first implemented by OculusVR (the company acquired to start their VR operation), they had stipulated under 16-years-of-age, but this was revised to 13 by the then ‘Oculus Safety Center’, in guidance from their owners Meta’s legal counsel. This associated to the social media firms own terms of usage regrading younger users, and the needs for legal guardianship. Along with the social media guidelines, the prohibition against young users included concerns regarding developing motor-skills and eyesight being impaired by continuous usage. For the LBE VR scene however usage of VR is a fraction of the duration of a consumer headset and has no reference to the consumer system stimulation.

We have recently seen Meta double down on restricting consumer VR users under the age of 13. Stating that the Quest 2 hardware is “not a toy” – blocking accounts by junior users and those under the proscribed age. At the same time the VR community has seen a spoke in complaints of the proliferation of very young users on the popular VR gaming apps, and unruly behaviour and language. The low entry price of the Quest hardware, and a lack of appropriate moderation on many platforms has allowed this abuse. SPREE‘s stance is that Meta’s restriction on age is due more to legislation surrounding the collection and use of personal data rather than any medical evidence.

Represented on the Amusement Products booth at the show, VEX Solutions had on show an example of their ‘VEX Adventure’ platform, the 6 simultaneous player enclosure having free-roaming VR action using the PICO Neo 3 and haptic vests along with their weapon, playing from a selection of their experiences. The hyper reality turnkey solution includes the registration and onboarding elements, while the arena includes special effects such as wind, smell, heat, and vibrating floor elements. 

Coming to the Orlando show, Hero Zone VR brought an example of their new ‘Hero Zone Arena’ allowing players to wear the latest HTC Focus 3 headsets and controllers and take part in a selection of VR multiplayer game experiences. The specially themed arena allowing for an eye-catching VR experience to be available to operators of all sizes, brining affordable free-roaming VR to a wider audience. The turnkey solution offers the ability for the operator to run the system simply and is supported by a strong game library. For the sake of transparency, The Stinger Report owners worked with Hero Zone.

On the booth at the show, Hero Zone was employing the CleanBox ultraviolet light disinfecting system, to clean the headsets, this was also seen across many other booths at the show. CleanBox had their own booth and were showing the continued investment into the cleaning and disinfecting process of deploying immersive entertainment systems into the commercial market. A new platform in their armoury of keeping the guest safe was a unique box called the ‘OmniClean’, for separate components such as hand controllers and individual items that could be placed in the ultraviolet cleaning compartment. A complimentary system to the dedicated headset cleaning compartment. 

Making a splash on the show floor, Phenomenon was running tournaments on their ‘VR eSports Arena’ – with groups of players enjoying the free-roaming experiences using the HTC Focus 3 headsets. Group of up to six-players in the turnkey VR arena space playing a selecting of the latest games, including the new release ‘Space Dance Harmony’. The importance of VR and eSports was continued with the news that Phenomenon will be hosting the first-ever VR eSport live-streamed tournament, which will see the crowning of a Champion player. The event will be held in the Complexe-de–la-Maison-Alcan in Montreal during December. The event sponsored by HTC, Panasonic, and the National Bank of Canada.

A new-comer to the Orlando show floor, was the exhibitor Exploring Digital, with their ‘Megaverse VR Theater’ free-roaming arena. Deploying up to six players within the space. The enclosure including haptic floor elements, wind and heat effects and used a non-backpack system based on the HTC Focus 3 headset and controllers. Representatives of the system confirmed that they had developed over 12-games for the theater and had a number in operation (including one at a Sky Zone location), having been in the VR scene since 2017 with its own dedicated content development studio based in Mobile, Alabama. The company looks to enter the LBE VR scene with plans to roll out over 40 units of their platform in the coming months, working closing in partnership with HTC who were prominently promoted on the platform at the show. The company looks to also roll out tournaments based on their platform, in eSports style competitions between connected theaters, revealing ambitious plans for their entry into the market.

The need for immersive technology to support the immersive enclosures and arenas is essential, and one of those developers of unique new interfaces was demonstrating their latest hardware at the show. StrikerVR are well known as one of the early developers of haptic force-feedback weapons used in some free-roaming experiences. The company revealed their next generation platform with the ‘Mavrik-Pro’ – what they called the most advance haptic VR peripheral. The new compact gun interface includes an increased level of haptic feedback allowing developers to it represent different weapons and different force-feedback characteristics. The system is aimed initially as a development kit to allow game developers to incorporate its elements into the immersive experience but is also aimed at consumer adoption. Hopes are that their appearance at the show will wet enough appetite to see wider adoption. 

The need for strong haptics to increase the level of immersion in the VR experience saw several exhibitors promoting new technology. Technifex presented their ‘Sensory Floor VR experience’, illustrating the impact of their modular special effects floor system that in the demonstration added to a walkthrough VR experience with haptic and motion effects built in. This is the type of technology that is driving the new free-roaming arena experiences and is proving essential in creating a compelling virtual experience for VR and MR platforms. As with other companies mentioned in this report, Technifex also supplies their technology the commercial training and simulator sector. For the sake of transparency, The Stinger Report owners worked with Technifex.

The development of haptics in the market was seen from exhibitors such as Powersoft – using IAAPA’22 as the launchpad for their ‘Mover’ – a tactile transducer unit that can be incorporated into floor elements to supply effects to the audience. A demonstration of the system showed the subtle effects that can be achieved, and how the system working with audio and digital media to create a compelling experience 

The use of haptics in VR experiences has grown – and one exhibitor at IAAPA’22 has worked with many of the leading arena and free-roaming platforms. bHaptics came to the show with a booth, promoting the work they have done with their ‘Tactsuit’ that has been incorporated with many of the platforms at the show – offering force feedback to the players simulating impacts across their upper body. The company working on their next generation of systems and vests that plan to increase the level of engagement.

Mack Rides – The veteran developer came to the Orlando show with a similar layout to their IAAPA-EMEA’22 presentation, with attendees able to try their new compact VR motion attraction, the ‘Airific VR’. Though not bringing their system to the show, the division MackNeXT together with VR Coaster have continuously evolved their free-roaming platform ‘YULLBE’, now having opened multiple permanent locations in the last two-years, initially based on their Pimax based headset platform, and now pivoting to the single platform powered by the ‘HTC Focus 3′. Most recently we saw Alton Towers theme park in the UK running a test of the ‘YULLBE GO’ platform.

Just before the doors opened at IAAPA’22, MackNeXT announced the latest content for ‘YULLBE GO’ with ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – based on the world-famous Andrew Lloyd Webber stage spectacular, licensed for an exclusive immersive experience on the platform. A maximum of 10 players at the same time can explore the phantom’s lair and discover many secrets. This is the latest of the exclusive licenses that MackNeXT signed, since ‘Valerian’ – based on the blockbuster book series that was launched last year. VR Coaster was also present on the booth, working extensively on applying their VR technology onto ride attractions (through their ‘Coastiality’ platform with a revenue sharing approach), as well as working on their own next generation of VR water attractions with their ‘SwimVR’ headsets, and their ‘Diving Theater’ underwater ride attraction.

Away from the Orlando show floor and regarding the development of VR arcade business, the latest VR multiple experience venue was revealed to be opening in December in the UK, with ‘The Park Playground’ in Leeds. The venue is the latest in a chain of some 13 location franchises, mainly in the Netherlands, but is now expanding to opening new sites internationally. With this first UK opening, the company will offer multi-player VR experiences including horror, sci-fi, escape room, and adventure narratives. The company recently announcing their move to full wireless ‘HTC Focus 3’ headsets across their operation in a partnership with HTC. The Park Playground group actively expanding the operation internationally with their unique blend of VR entertainment facility, in a crowded LBE VR landscape.

About the author

Kevin Williams

More posts

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.

Join the Podcast Crew

Are you a location-based entertainment or family entertainment center subject matter expert? 

Do you have specific knowledge, ideas, successes or failures that you want to share with the LBC Collective community?

Request to join our LBX Collective Podcast Crew


Login to enjoy full advantages

Please login or subscribe to continue.


Go Premium!

Enjoy the full advantage of the premium access.


Stop following

Unfollow Cancel

Cancel subscription

Are you sure you want to cancel your subscription? You will lose your Premium access and stored playlists.

Go back Confirm cancellation