For some time now the man himself, Steven Spielberg, dreamer of dreams and builder of childhoods, has been developing a virtual reality experience in conjunction with cinema chain AMC. Now, with backers such as 21st Century Fox and Warner Bros, and a further $30 million recently plowed into the project from Nickelodeon and an Abu Dhabi company known as ‘Image Nation’, these futuristic arcades are set to be rolled out very soon in Malls across the world.
Steven Spielberg has directed some of the greatest movies to come out of the eighties and nineties, films such as E.T., Jurassic Park, Jaws and Indiana Jones, and so it is incredibly exciting that the man with the brain who brought these beloved and nostalgic characters into reality is going to be behind this fantastic new arcade concept. As far back as 1996 he began dabbling in the world of video games and now that the tech required to run virtual reality headsets has finally caught up with the concept, he will have surely developed experiences which will be everything our childhood brains promised!
Steven Spielberg is responsible for so many wonderful film franchises
Spielberg trying out a VR experience back in 2015
There is nothing new about VR experiences - we even covered one such arcade in Japan. However, as pioneering as they are, they are still in their infancy. In most cases you would be seated, or have a very limited range, and standard commercially available headsets and peripherals are used. There are also effects such as large fans giving the sensation of movement, but it’s time to take it up a notch. This new company has done just that with their new ‘location-based virtual reality’ experience.
Spielberg’s latest baby, Dreamscape Immersive, is a Los Angeles based company which now has the oomph to tap into the massive entertainment industry, and as such can finally put Hollywood class production into a virtual reality experience. The experiences, running on tech designed by a Swiss motion capture company called Artanim, allow up to six people to explore a huge space, complete with actual ‘place filler’ props and set pieces which are replaced by all sorts or weird and wonderful things in virtual reality, viewed through a bespoke headset. The computer powering the experience is worn as a kind of backpack so the users are completely untethered.
The technology behind Dreamscape Immersive is so far beyond anything driving today's virtual reality experiences
AMC were invited for an early look at the experience and decided that they had to be the ones to bring this unrivalled experience to the Mall. The very first Mall to offer this ‘VR Multiplex’ will be the luxurious Westfield Century City Centre on Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles and it will open early next year. This stunning Centre, which has just finished a massive redevelopment project, is chock-full of Mall firsts. It will be then rolled out at six other Malls across America, then onto the UK and then to the rest of the world in the coming years.
Unlike the current experiences, this will differ because it is driven by the story - you and your friends will be immersed in a virtual movie. You will wander around, climb, jump, interact with objects and even each other as you move along the narrative. It is also a shared experience, unlike the current isolating sessions currently on offer. You get a headset, gloves, the backpack, and little sensors you clip onto your shoes and are watched by over a dozen cameras and sensors as you move through the story.
The current arenas which will likely be on offer upon opening will be a choice of either a packed-out baseball stadium, the bowels of an ancient temple infested by spiders or a Bladerunner-style futuristic city. Each experience will take place in their own bespoke theatre. At the moment these seem the options, but that is not to say that these are the final choices when the experience opens next year. Dreamscape Immersive are also in talks with all of the big movie houses to see if they can create VR experiences of the biggest movies franchises currently around, including the Marvel and DC universes.
Spielberg's latest movie project, Ready Player One, revolves around the VR experience
The glorious AMC at Westfield Century City Mall will be the first to offer the new location-based VR theatres early next year
It would seem that Steven Spielberg is currently on a serious virtual reality kick. His latest baby, Ready Player One, is about to hit cinemas worldwide. Published originally as a book in 2011 and authored by Ernest Cline, the film is all about a future dystopian Earth, where most of the population plug into a massive virtual reality system known as the OASIS. The film looks awesome and is stuffed so full of eighties tropes and references that you will leave the theatre a drooling mess swaddled in a miasma of nostalgia and sheer awesomeness.
Now, we have never needed an extra excuse to get to our favourite Shopping Malls. However, for those on the fence, this is surely the extra incentive required to get down to the Mall and check out what will surely be a game-changing arcade experience. We cannot wait to be in line when the first theatres open, we are certain it will be everything we imagined virtual reality could be. Spielberg has given us few reasons to doubt the magic he brings to everything he touches, and we have no doubt that the Dreamscape Immersion theatres, as well as all of the copycats which will surely follow, will become as necessary to a Shopping Centre as a food court or a cinema.
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