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Venture into the void

The dream may have started back in 1939 when the View-Master was first introduced. Some of you might remember that plastic, binocular-like toy where you insert a special reel containing stills from fan-favorite movies and TV-shows (among others). A switch would have to be nudged on the side of the lens to cycle between picture-slides, leaving the rest to imagination. It would then take another 76 years for technology to allow us that Virtual Reality experience we all hoped for, that seamless immersion into another world.

This year marks the release of three promising products that are set to lead the VR revolution, namely Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Valve’s HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR headsets. While they are powerful pieces of hardware, the amount a middle class gamer would need to spend in order to play will leave him or her eating peanuts for a while. The Oculus Rift for example is already available for pre-order at a painful $599 USD (roughly P28,600), not including the high-end PC specs needed for it to run. Take for example these recommended hardware for Intel units; an Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card (P16,500), Intel i5-4590 processor (P9,600), 8GB RAM memory cards (P1,900), and other computer peripherals that are compatible—you could also order the Alienware P51 P3, Oculus ready desktop starting at $999 USD (roughly P47,760 PHP). Add to that the forthcoming Oculus Touch, a pair of wireless controllers that can interact with virtual objects as seen in the headset. In short, owning the whole experience at home isn’t exactly feasible at the moment without loads of extra cash. Here is where The VOID (Vision of Infinite Dimensions) comes in—the initiative for 4D, Virtual Reality theme parks unlike anything ever seen before, with affordable rates!

Photos from www.facebook.com/thevoidvr

Photos from www.facebook.com/thevoidvr

As described by the team in thevoid.com—”Our technology allows us to create the illusion that the player is exploring miles of terrain or incredibly tall structures without ever leaving our game pod. The end result is a physical connection to the virtual world and a sense of exploration never before possible.” They currently have a beta VR Entertainment Center in Salt Lake City, Utah; and according to virtualrealityreporter.com, are projected to have seven 60 x 60 foot spaces for 10 players, with each room having a unique layout. Plans to expand to 230 different locations in the United States and internationally within the next 5 years are being pursued according to company CTO, James Jensen, in an episode of Gunters Universe (a show recorded live in VR using VRCHAT).

Unsatisfied with what was available in the market, The VOID started to develop their own wearable VR equipment to suit their lofty goals. First we have the Rapture HMD or Head Mount Device. It features a curvy screen that is aimed to allow 160-180 degrees field of view, displaying at 1080p per eye beginning resolution. It also features Quantum Dots (said to double the perceived resolution and color range), Custom Optics (a proprietary lens-in-lens design), high-quality THX headphones (with binaural in-game sound design, meaning sound is split to both ears), Super-gain inline microphones (for in-game communications), and Global Head Tracking Sensors (a proprietary design running at 120Hz, providing sub-millimeter accuracy). Other components include the Rapture Gloves (provides users with a virtual view of their hands as they interact with the environment), the Rapture Vest (capable of responding in different ways when the user is hit or attacked), a physical gun controller, a box-like device that Is shown to be a VR candle lantern, and maybe more in the works.

But it does not end there; according to their site, The VOID will also feature cutting edge Motion Simulators that would be fully interactive while maneuvering 360 degree motions of roll, pitch and yaw as well as lift. This, combined with the Rapture wearables, will allow adjustable and swappable control devices providing a variety of simulation experiences like aircraft dogfights, ground transport, mech battles and spaceship or submersible exploration to name a few.

The physical environment itself is also something special as it is enhanced with special effects. Such sensations include elevation changes, touching structures & objects, feeling vibrations, air pressure, cold & heat, moisture, simulated liquids and smell. It is that essential next step from simply seeing to actually living the world. This could potentially take the world by storm if all lives up to the hype and promise.

CEO and co-founder, Ken Bretschneider (who is also spearheading a couple of other ventures), is the man behind the vision and funding of this very exciting project. He began as a video game artist before creating DigiCert, a digital security company which he sold at the end of 2012 to return to a more artistic career. “My hero was Disney,” Bretschneider goes on to say in an interview by lazysundaymag.com, “and I’ve always been fascinated by the immersive aspect of Disneyland, I thought there’s something that can be done in a different way, where you can make this completely immersive concept of a park, that’s very theatrical, and instead of just walking through, you’re really participating in this thing. That’s where it all started.” This prompted him to cook-up Evermore, a Victorian-style theme park that would boast intricately designed villages, rides, and creatures that would rival Disneyland. It had to be put on-hold unfortunately, due to the lack of financial backing and sufficient physical space for the plan’s full potential. Focus has then shifted to developing The VOID instead where Bretschneider claimed “Our goal is to never stop the research and development and improvement of our experience, equipment and content.”

As the great Arthur C. Clark put it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So we might as well have been wizards to those early users of the View-Master. But at this rate, imagine where Virtual Reality would be a mere century from now—