Could VR Theme Parks Be A Reality by 2018?

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Monday, July 20th, 2015

Landmark's L.I.V.E. Centre

The intersection of theme parks and technology has long been a major topic of discussion and recent innovations have captivated both media and consumer attention: Disney’s MyMagic + Bands, theme park branded apps, and even themed Oculus Rift experiences. Now, a recent announcement from the Landmark Entertainment Group suggests that a virtual reality experience could be coming to the theme park world much sooner than most observers expected. Landmark is the themed design company behind Universal Studios attractions like Terminator 2 3D and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 5D. Their latest innovation is the L.I.V.E (Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience) Centre.

L.I.V.E. is a mixed reality entertainment venue that’s expected to open in China by 2018. The facilities will use a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality, along with traditional theming elements to transport guests to a wide range of different experiences. VR features will be used along with more traditional elements such as projection technology, sound effects, and special effects. L.I.V.E. builds on some of Landmark’s pioneering work in bringing 3D and 4D to the theme park context.

L.I.V.E. Design

Each complex will be physically visited by guests who don VR goggles. Once they’re wearing the goggles, guests will be able to visit virtual zoos, virtual aquariums, digital art galleries, interactive museums, immersive movies and live entertainment experiences, and themed retail. But the potential isn’t limited there. While the experience will launch first in China, the goal is to eventually have as many as 30 centers worldwide.

In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Tony Christopher, CEO and founder of Landmark Entertainment Group said: “With virtual reality we can put you in the African savannah or fly you into outer space. This completely changes the idea of an old-fashioned museum by allowing kids to experience prehistoric dinosaurs or legendary creatures as we develop new experiences that keep them coming back for more. We’ll combine education and entertainment into one destination that’s always evolving.”

Virtual Reality Zoo

L.I.V.E. will change and evolve over time. If successful, the technology could be applied to different contexts from museums to standalone entertainment venues. The whole experience could change easily, as Landmark would control all the content development. Unlike other entertainment experiences which require years of construction, the changes would be limited only by programming capabilities. Once the physical facilities are constructed, offering something new is as simple as designing new content.

“The majority of what exists in the virtual reality market today is short-form content, whereas our goal is to work with brands to create long-form virtual reality entertainment destinations. What we’re creating is the equivalent of taking your family to a theme park for a day, and enjoying that experience so much, that you want to repeat it over and over again – the only difference is that the experience will happen in the virtual world,” said Christopher.

The timing is right for a bigger scale VR effort. Oculus Rift is set to begin shipping to the public next year. And while it may be some time before prices come down and the technology is adopted at scale, the mainstream availability of virtual reality technology will help make the public more interested in these experiences. Brand interest and investment is likely to follow.

The long-term plans for L.I.V.E are still in development. In addition to the entertainment centers, there are definite applications for theme parks and other venues. Landmark is also exploring the potential for a virtual theme park that individuals could visit from any location with VR goggles. Time will tell how virtual and augmented realities will directly impact entertainment design. How will virtual experiences compete with real ones? But one thing is for sure: the technology’s time may have arrived and with so many talented designers pushing the boundaries, it’s likely to take the entertainment potential of this technology to a whole new level.

Images sourced courtesy of Landmark Entertainment Group, The Road to VR

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