A really cool experience opened in Disney Springs on December 16th, 2017. The Void is a high-tech virtual reality experience using Oculus gear to simulate a journey through the world of Star Wars.
The attraction is called Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, and it lasts between 20 and 30 minutes. While the technology itself uses off-the-shelf parts, the software was built in-house at The Void making it more advanced and more complex than other similar businesses. Technically speaking, it’s takes modern virtual reality (VR), which started in early 2016, to it’s highest level of sophistication without going as far as creating new technology hardware.
Guests wear a backpack stuffed with a gaming computer and a helmet with an Oculus Rift VR display and travel through rooms and hallways in total immersion to complete a mission. While you do feel the weight of the backpack and helmet, the technology disappears and the virtual becomes your reality. This also means that those who are typically bothered by 3D experiences probably won’t be bothered with motion sickness or nausea at The Void.
You might be thinking that this sounds awfully expensive and the average theme park goer could barely afford it. In fact, the whole experience costs just $35 at the time of this writing, which many people who took the journey say is quite a bargain.
The Void and Disney
The Void actually started as an experiment. The Void licensed the Star Wars story from Disney to see just how far they could go with their technology. In the last six months, the technology has proven capable of making a successful, cutting-edge attraction that guests have really enjoyed!
The Void is still an independent company, though, and can work with any content they want allowing for massive creative freedom.
The Future of VR at Disney
Some people say that, as a company, The Void would lose it’s luster if they gave up their independence. That said, there is a very real chance that Disney could purchase The Void.
Orlando is one of only nine locations by The Void currently in the entire world. They have another in Anaheim, California – home to Disneyland. Star Wars is one of only three currently available experiences with Ghostbusters and Nicodemus being the other options. What’s more, plenty of industry leaders say that virtual reality is the future of not only location-based entertainment but also the future of theme parks in general.
The Void can currently handle four players in eight to ten rooms for less than half an hour because of battery life of the computers. However, current technology is capable of expanding up to three acres and dozens of players. Keep in mind that this technology has only been around for a little over a year. When improved, it could increase in size to an entire theme park with competitive and cooperative play options and provide every guest a unique experience. Improvements would have to mean reducing weight by removing the backpacks and replacing them with computers located through the parks, which would also cut costs by eliminating the need for every guest to have a computer.
All of this is possible, but is it probable?
Bob Iger recently said that virtual reality has no place in his parks noting that Disney is about making magic with what is actually there and that he doesn’t want guests walking around with headsets on. If The Void could create an experience with augmented reality instead of virtual reality, Iger might be on board.
In addition, Bob Iger won’t be the president of the Disney company forever (although it may feel like it right now).
Regardless, whoever is the first to jump on board will definitely have an edge up in several years as guests continue to desire more unique experiences.
Virtual reality in Disney parks: yes or no?