The Virtual Arena: Free-Roaming VR Czech’s all the Boxes

Reporting on the attraction and amusement landscape, industry specialist Kevin Williams’ latest Virtual Arena column sees him venture to Prague. There to experience the latest European development of free-roaming VR technology and how it aims to launch onto the wider market.

Innovation and diversity in the VR development community have proven a major driving force in the growth of the market. No more has this been seen than in the Czech Republic. The country has thrown up much innovation and business success, from the sophistication of VRgineers’ ‘XTAL’ commercial VR headset to the Beat Games studio, recently acquired by Meta (formally Facebook), the Prague based VR team have arguably created one of the most successful and definitive VR videogames with Beat Saber.

Another company in the Czech capital that is driving innovation in VR is DIVR Labs. The operation is famous for its work in the Out-of-Home entertainment deployment of VR and has started a drive towards wider European penetration. Regular readers of this column will remember our coverage from 2018 of the free-roaming game experience Golem. Based on the famous Jewish legend; the compelling LBE attraction is housed in the city’s Hamleys Prague toy store. Where it still draws strong attendance from groups of players eager to experience VR.

DIVR has gathered a team of developers that have built on their formative experience in creating compelling free-roaming content. Recently the company launched another experience for their VR special-effects arena called Arachnoid VR – marrying the element of group-based play and puzzle-solving, with a sci-fi horror element. The company opened another LBE VR venue in Dubai last year, based on their exclusive platform.

Building on this proven track record, the company was commissioned to install one of its most far-reaching projects at the new Dinosauria Museum Prague as a part of the Premium Outlet Prague (POP) Airport venue. An ambitious shopping mall by the international terminal. The venue includes an amazing private collection of dinosaur fossils and ancient minerals, all presented in a new style of museum setting employing projection mapping and an open exhibition layout. The venue decided that to support this, they would incorporate the latest VR experience from DIVR Labs – Meet the Dinosaurs.

The 25-minute experience employs all the knowledge that DIVR Labs have amassed in developing and operating Free-Roam, Arena Scale VR experiences. The system employs the HP Reverb G1 Headsets, equipped with UltraLeap hand tracking. At the same time, the systems are connected to high-end HP PC backpacks. The whole operation of Onboarding is supported by Cleanbox equipment sanitization as standard, and a professional loading and unloading process.

Without giving away too many of the secrets, the actual experience proves a masterclass on how to navigate an audience for up to four players through a virtual experience, incorporating impressive visual vista’s and subtle effects (both physical and visual). While also including a new level of engagement through interactivity – the UltraLeap hand-tracking allows guests to pick up objects, and interact with actual creatures within the environment, which hold strong immersive and game narrative elements.

One of the most impressive elements of the Meet the Dinosaurs experience is the way that the groups of players are managed through the space, and how the operation has been compartmentalized to accommodate the needs of the facility as well as the needs of the game experience. The use of flying vehicles at the end of the adventure, a nice addition to the walking and hiding elements. Building on what has been achieved with other VR experiences.

The continued success of the DIVR Lab developments in free-roaming experiences has spurred on investment in growing their standalone entertainment offering. The company has plans to start the process of opening their first flagship European venue, which will incorporate a selection of VR experiences based on their foundation work. Interpreting the best elements of how to achieve the best LBE VR experience and generate recurring revenues. We look forward to reporting further developments in the New Year.

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