If you’ve looked into modern entertainment technologies, then chances are you have heard about “VR” systems, or perhaps “AR” and/or “MXR.” What are these technologies all about and are they the right fit for your FEC or amusement business? Let’s get into it!
At PrimeTime Amusements, we have a category specially set aside for “Augmented/Virtual Reality” systems, which you can visit by clicking here.
Abbreviated as “AR,” this technology allows the user to see the real world while inserting or overlaying digital objects or characters into the scene using a camera or overlay display. Early examples of the idea date back to games like Atari’s Asteroids Deluxe, Sega’s Laser Ghost or Bally Williams’ Revenge From Mars pinball. The most famous and modern example of this technology is with the popular smartphone game Pokémon Go. As such, AR technology is very prevalent as everyone who owns a smartphone has an AR-capable device in their pocket.
For current amusement applications of this technology, see HADO AR.
Often abbreviated as “MXR,” this technology blends the digital and the physical together to create unique entertainment experiences. This tends to use “projection mapping” to apply dynamic digital imagery to a real surface. The Holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation is a good fictional example of true MXR technology. At present, museums are an easy place to find such technology; in the amusement space, such technology has been used in air hockey and pool tables before, with a lot of potential for future applications.
Here is a recent example of MXR technology being used with a pool table, via our friends at Arcade Heroes. Titles like the upcoming Mystery Island put this type of technology to good use; Bandai Namco’s Star Wars Battle Pod could also be seen as a recent example of mixing the digital & the physical in a unique way.
A better term for this one would be the simple “simulator.” Arcade machines have served as simulators ever since Atari released Gran Trak 10 in 1974, where the machine used a realistic steering wheel, clutch, foot pedals and even odometers to recreate the feel of driving a vehicle. Many arcade machines still employ the ideas of a simulator, while professional simulator units tend to be more detailed, feature-rich and costly. When units employ additional features such as stereoscopic 3D, wind, water mist, unique lighting and so on, you may read terms such as “4D” or “5D” units. But that can also be applied to other “reality” technologies as well.
For our arrangement of products classified under Simulators, click here.
The technology grabbing most of the headlines over the past five years, VR has been used in arcades & amusement attractions since the 1990s. The technology stumbled at the end of the decade, with very few VR applications found on the market until the 2010’s. VR promises a more immersive digital entertainment experience for the user, as they are required to wear the display on their face. This Head Mounted Display (HMD), features gyroscopic technology that allows the in-game camera to be attached to the user’s face (as opposed to controlling the position of the game camera with a mouse or joystick).
To further enhance the capabilities, other controls need to be offered to allow the user to further interact with the software. This can cover a huge variety of possibilities, although most consumer-grade systems come with a pair of hand-held controllers. Amusement VR has the ability to offer any number of props/controllers that can be specially tailored to the needed experience; when combined with a simulator like an arcade racing base, this helps further increase the feeling of immersion. A large number of companies have developed VR attractions for commercial-use, with many new companies joining the fray with a unique take on entertaining with the technology. This means that there is no lack of possible systems that can be added to your FEC!
In all, VR setups should be considered attractions, on par with items like bowling, go-karts, rope courses, laser tag and so on. It is not a “replacement” for the arcade in the same way that those other listed attractions can boost the appeal of a location, but do not replace one of the aspects.
What Are The Pros & The Cons?
Each of these applications have their advantages and disadvantages. The primary advantage they have is the ability to provide for unique entertainment that you simply cannot get at home. They also can have appeal for their “cutting edge” or “sci-fi tech” nature. Such an allure holds the potential for big profits to locations that install such attractions.
There can be numerous disadvantages that must be considered, however. One major issue that they all share in common is a much higher price than what you get with your typical arcade machine. If interested in an AR/MXR or VR attraction, be ready to have a large budget ready to spend on the equipment, shipping and installation of said product. Some units may come with turn-key installation, while others will not. Ask your PrimeTime Amusements representative about whether or not such a service is offered with the product in question.
Space can also be an issue, although it varies from product to product. Generally speaking, arcade machines only need a few to a dozen square ft., some AR & VR systems can take up hundreds, even thousands of square feet.
Many AR & VR applications require the constant presence of an attendant. This is needed to assist customers in the operation of the game; but in instances of VR attractions, customers need help in putting the headsets on, supervision to ensure that the equipment isn’t damaged and that the headsets are cleaned between uses. Some VR systems do not come with headphones for an audio experience and must be provided separately, which the attendant also had to handle.
With any wearable technology being used by the general public, hygiene is a major concern. All VR tech is wearable and has this challenge; AR may use HMD’s on occasion, but that is not always the case. Some products do come with disposable face masks, but it is important for the operator to understand that the presence of face masks does not remove the need for cleaning HMDs between uses. Certain diseases like pink eye can still be transmitted between users using face masks if the HMDs have not been properly sanitized after use. This also solidifes the importance of having an attendant supervise the operation of the attraction.
I’m Ready To Buy – What Do I Do Now?
At PrimeTime Amusements, we have many years of experience in the amusement business and are ready to serve you. While such technologically advanced attractions are relatively new, we strive to stay ahead of the curve to be able to answer your questions – or to find those answers if we don’t know – so that you can feature a profitable and unique attraction at your facility.