Location-based virtual reality is increasing its footprint in the U.S.
By Jonathan Shieber
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…the ability to access cinematic quality production values, a physical space purpose-built for immersive game play, and the intellectual property of some of Hollywood’s most enduring brands…can make for a compelling pitch to consumers.
That’s the hope of people like Nancy Bennett, an entertainment industry veteran who was brought on as the Chief Creative Officer at Two Bit Circus.
“What’s cool about VR and a differentiator of the medium is that it gives you embodiment,” Bennett says. “There’s no other medium that does that.”
Bennett knows a thing or two about entertainment. A producer with MTV Networks, the founder of the collaborative game development platform Squarepushers Inc. and a celebrated creator of virtual reality projects for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Bennett won the Lumiere award for best music VR experience for her work on the “One At a Time” video for Alex Aiono.
From haptic platforms and motion floors that simulate the ability to walk around a space, the location based experience will offer a more fully immersive platform that can lend itself to more interesting narratives, says Bennett.
For Bennett, the vision of a place like Two Bit Circus, or the experiences on offer from other location based platforms are about the combination of narrative and technology in a way that can provide verisimilitude to someone strapped into a headset.
She, and others in the location-based community, look to immersive theater like Sleep No More as a model for how to proceed. “Immersive theater is absolutely the platform that will help drag us along,” Bennett says.
At Two Bit Circus, which raised $15 million from investors last January, virtual reality will be about 20% of the experiences on offer. The company’s inaugural space in Los Angeles will also avail itself of projection mapping, augmented reality and other ways to immerse and entertain, Bennett promises.
But immersion will be at the heart of it all, she said. “Those kinds of mixed immersive experiences are going to be de rigueur,” according to Bennett. “And locations are going to be the only places where you can pull that off.”
Bennett sees the industry offering different tiers of immersive entertainment. With virtual reality arcades like Survios’ in Torrance operating on one level and more highly immersive experiences like The Void and Baobab Studios operating on another.
…“Really it’s about what serves the creative goal,” says Bennett. “What I think is really cool is the opportunity to mash up the fast prototyping of the community into one space to get people to play. It isn’t just VR. There’s also new forms of play and arcades that are possible and interactive audience participation for content creation.”
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