Tech Transformers

Welcome to ‘The Matrix’? Theme park with virtual reality twist

Put your headsets on and get ready! A startup called The Void plans on taking video-gaming junkies to a whole new dimension by opening a set of immersive virtual reality theme parks.

This month, The Void announced plans to open the first of what it hopes will be many "virtual entertainment centers," in Pleasant Grove, Utah by June 2016.

The Void
Credit: The Void

The center will combine the physical environment with virtual reality technology to create what could be the ultimate gaming experience. The Void CEO Ken Bretschneider, who has invested $13 million of his own money in the project, hopes it will "fulfill a promise of what a virtual reality (VR) experience can and should be."

Gamers will be able to choose an individual "game pod" in the center, enabling them to take part in a variety of adventures, from dinosaur safaris to fighting aliens in futuristic battlefields.

"At The Void, you will walk into new dimensions and experience worlds without limits. From fighting intergalactic wars on alien planets, to casting spells in the darkest of dungeons, The Void presents the Future of Entertainment," the company's website says.

The Void aims for the theme park to be affordable and accessible to a wide range of people, with each experience lasting for 30 minutes and tickets seen costing between $29 and $39.

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Rival to VR headsets

Tech giants like Samsung, Sony and Google have been battling for years to bring VR into consumers' homes and the much-hyped Oculus Rift headset is set to hit shop shelves at the start of 2016.

However, James Jensen, chief technology officer and co-founder of The Void, told CNBC that the company's theme parks would utilize the full potential of VR, with a level of detail that consumer VR products could not match for years.

"Consumer VR products will only ever be able to bring people to a different reality visually. At The Void we bring the complete sense of reality, 4-D effects, amazing sound, smells, ability to move around naturally and cinematic visuals tap into all the senses of the human body," said Jensen.

The Void
Credit: The Void

To create the full experience, gamers will be equipped with specialized hardware and software, including a head-mounted display that will provide visuals and sound for the virtual world, along with tracking sensors and microphones for in-game communication and accuracy.

Gloves and a motion-tracking vest will be worn to enhance senses and environmental effects and each pod will be kitted out with physical elements such as elevation changes, touching structures and temperature adjustments.

Each theme park will contain between eight and 10 pods, with up to 10 individuals in each pod for a "family friendly" experience.

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The Void
Credit: The Void

Money in the virtual world

Jensen said The Void would offer visitors free-to-play games for mobiles and desktops, enabling them to earn credits for upgrades to their characters and experiences and hopefully incentivizing them to return to the theme park.

Currently, the Void is taking potential sponsors, partners and investors around its first center and is refining its technology in preparation for next summer's open.

"We are all excited to bring this next evolution of entertainment to the world," Jensen said.

The Void hopes to locate future centers in major cities across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

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