The Virtual Arena: Dynamic Virtual Entertainment by the Seaside

The commercial VR entertainment sector is charted by industry specialist Kevin Williams. In his latest Virtual Arena column, he takes a trip to the seaside and Brighton, on the south coast of the UK, to go for a spin on the latest in immersive reality entertainment attractions, looking to wow the audience.

Immersive entertainment has come in many forms over the decades, while we look at VR as the new wave of immersive, the fairground and attraction industry has been supplying exhilaration for over one hundred years to a very eager audience. And we have seen the latest instalment of VR attraction projects building on that exhilaration, with what some have coined as “Dynamic VR”.

One of those providers of fun and excitement has been the UK seaside amusement industry, personified by the iconic Brighton Palace Pier, celebrating its 122nd anniversary, the Victorian structure has been an integral part of the seaside entertainment of Brighton and Hove since it opened in 1899, the iconic Grade II listed structure – comprising concessions, fairground attractions, two arcades and soft-play.

The venue has also been a valuable proving ground for the deployment of new concepts in attractions – and along with the happy holidaymakers flooding the destination, the site over the next few months will play host to the latest in Dynamic VR entertainment. And we were one of the first to experience these new thrills.

On test at the pier and developed by newcomer Studio Go Go was their new attraction ‘Ride with VR’. The concept builds on the idea of creating a virtual experience that mirrors the motion dynamics of a conventional motion ride platform. We have seen in the past this attempted with VR roller coasters, and even VR floom rides, but this marks the first VR experience mapped to the exhilaration of a Twister attraction.

At the end of the pier stands the venues’ own Twister fairground attraction (a derivation of the original ‘Twist’ American design). This wheels within wheel ride profile attraction, offering a unique ride experience over the years since the first attractions appeared in the UK during the 1960s. Now with the mapping of the motion envelope that the guest experiences, using the simulator technology ‘Go-Go XR’ developed by Studio Go Go, a dynamic VR experience can be created.

The company has developed three different virtual adventures on the attraction – their first experience called ‘VR Twister’ operational at the venue, working in partnership with the Brighton Palace Pier operators. The attraction is £4.50 to ride conventionally, but with the hire of the VR headset is priced at £7 to enjoy the full VR experience, (there are special offers as part of the piers day-wristband deal).

Once strapped into your seat, the attraction follows the required health and safety guidelines for deployment on a ride attraction, with a special harness connecting the standalone VR headset, (in case it is dislodged during the ride). Using a Pico G2 4K headset, the experience starts as soon as the ride begins, and transports the guest through a bright and colourful landscape, with tall spires and flying objects, the movement through the virtual landscape mirroring the acceleration and surges of the ride attraction.

At the end of the experience, the headset is taken away for a wipe down and readied with the other units for the next guest. Employing antimicrobial storage for Covid-secure VR cleaning from Gratnells. The design of the experience is compelling and offers a unique additional thrill to a well-known attraction. A draw to a younger audience looking for a new level of engagement. The tracking of the ride profile by the ‘Go-Go XR’ technology can be applied to other ride attractions, and the company is looking at giving the ability of attraction operators to offer a VR experience on their rides, as well as developing new content and applications for other systems.

Along with playing its part as a test facility, the Brighton venue has a number of VR attractions in its line-up of thrills at the site. With an Immotion turnkey four-seat VR theatre (‘The Tower Coaster’), and a well-used LAI Gaming Virtual Rabbids two-seat motion experience. VR now playing a major part in entertaining the modern audience.

Dynamic VR is growing in popularity as the latest phase of immersive entertainment in the out-of-home entertainment landscape. Recently we have seen the launching of underwater VR snorkelling experiences using waterjets and special water-resistant headsets. And we will soon be reporting on the launch of the first Wingsuit VR experience (‘JUMP’) that all hope to push the excitement of VR experiences to the max. 

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