IAAPA 2019 LBVR Part Three: Vehicle Simulations, VR Coasters & Other XR Surprises

Part 3 of 3, Read Part One, Read Part Two

There’s been a debate since the beginning of the industry about the definition of VR, and if a vehicle simulation using screens instead of headsets should be included. If players are immersed in a shared, dimensional virtual world, so the argument goes, where they have freedom of movement and interaction, are they not in virtual reality? Definitions notwithstanding, Vehicle Simulation is an important part of Location Based Entertainment and cannot be dismissed.

Bandi-Namco Mario Kart (Arcade Cabinet)

Bandi has several VR Mario Kart locations in Tokyo and the US. Last year, the company touted its partner AiSolve’s  WePlayVR. Neither attraction was in their IAAPA booth this year. Instead, the company was promoting a two and four player networked vehicle simulation, also based on the Nintendo franchise title, for the relatively low cost of  $10,500. 

A sales representative said that while Bandi is still bullish on VR, neither Mario VR nor WePlayVR was selling as strongly as the cabinets. “We’re focused on bestsellers this year.” He put the number of Mario Kart cabinets around the world in the thousands, making it far more popular than the most popular VR systems. 

Ballast Technologies

Monetize your pool with this waterproof VR system for waterparks, and other public aquatic attractions. Their tethered system makes you feel like you are swimming with dolphins or on a spacewalk. 

Their DIVR uses a combination snorkeling mask and headset to provide two underwater VR experience. There’s a free floating experience, where you snorkel through a reef or float over earth by the spade station. The company just announced DIVR+, which is a wall mounted thruster that give you the sensation you’re driving an undersea or outer space scooter.  

Brogent Systems

Tawian-based Brogent systems, known for building ride attractions aroundthe world, including for the Masters of Flight ride at Legoalnd Florida. The company plans to open another version “in the heart of Times Square” in 2020, Director of Innovation Andy Kiang reported at a news conference held during IAAPA that five additional flying rides are planning around the world in 2020, along with an indoor car race track in Times Square. 

CXC Simulations 

CXC Simulations once again brought its eight networked race car simulators on motion bases to the floor of IAAPA and drew huge crowds to its installation to watch the action. Drivers wore HMDs or used the panoramic screens in front of the cockpit.  

The company was founded in 2012 by Chris Considine, a former race car driver with a background in technology and engineering. The CXC Simulations Motion Pro II was initially designed as a simulator for personal use at home, but now has thirty commercial installations around the world.

The largest, Megapolis, in Puerto Rico, has ten networked simulators in their location

The Motion Pro II does convert very easily to a flight simulator – ten minutes with hand tools is what is required to add the flight controls. As you can see from these photos, the elaborate installation isn’t cheap. An eight cockpit system costs $726,000. With 20% utilization estimated revenue per year is 1,051,142, based on $20 for a ten minute experience. 

DOF Robotics

DOF Robotics is a motion simulator company out of Istanbul, Turkey. They specialize in large custom simulator rides but recently have been combining simulators and free roam/shooting games. Two in-development titles, Dark Matter and Light of Hope, mix motion simulation thrill rides with interactive shooting gameplay.

LA Photo Party (Mobile AR)

Catching us unaware as we walked down to the aisles of IAAPA was photo capture kiosk specialist LA Party Photo. Using technology similar to that of a Snap filter, the company has been augmenting photos at theme parks, concerts, and sporting events around the world. We were offered several choices (ours above), which were sent to me via email, ready for sharing. The system is capable of capturing and masking multiple people simultaneously. 

Paradrop

The best parachute VR we’ve ever done! The paradrop harness is attached to a lift, so you’re really several feet in the air, feet off the floor, lifted and dropped as flying. Players score by points by maneuvering through way points on the mountains. The direction of the the wind on your face will shift as you do. The company says city fly-throughs, like the one they have in Singapore, add a different dimension to the attraction, and open up a big market. 

The unit is in the $100,000 range, and it’s an eye-catcher. They have five titles including the Singapore city exploration. There’s an international leaderboard users can access from the QR Code on their receipt. 

A potential high flyer we hope to see at IAAPA next year. 

Skytech Ski Simulators

This skiing simulator can be calibrated to your skills from beginner to World Cup levels. Skytech was formed by avid pro skiers in 2010 to produce ski simulators of varying size (and price) to Olympic teams all over the world. Worldwide sales now exceed 1,000 installs. “We started getting orders from parks and family entertainment centers from around the world and recognized the entertainment value of the product,” said Alex Golunov, Head of the US Office and co-founder of Skytech.  

Simulators cost anywhere $30,000 – 130,000 depending on the size and power of the platform and complexity of the virtual reality system. Golunov admitted they’ve been experimenting with VR HMDs but because of logistical problems posed by weight, heat, sweat, and the stress of prolonged physical activity, they don’t think it would add to their best-selling system that is already thoroughly immersive and beloved by many of its users. The company says GPS-scouting drones capture new ski areas all the time

Triotech

Triotech launched the Storm™ at IAAPA. This fifty square foot coin-op combines VR, a D-box motion base, wind effects, and attractive cabinet featuring a 50-inch screen TV. The player with the most points at the end of the ride wins, which the company hope will foster repeat play of this $50,000 ride. Comes with three games. “They call us the rebels of the industry. And, quite frankly, we take it as a compliment,” said founder and CEO Ernest Yale.  

VR Coaster

This company had no demo at IAAPA because what they do is retrofit coasters and bumper cars with VR. To date they’ve converted 60 parks and 70 attractions. It takes two more employees to manage up to three hundred all-in-one Pico Goblin HMD. The way it works is that the ride has been downloaded to each headset, which transmits its position throughout the ride.

Most recently they created a Roam & Ride, which combines free-roaming virtual reality with a VR thrill ride. They are also working on a water diving attraction. 

Wave Formula 1 Driving Simulator 

Italy’s Wave places guests into the realistic fiberglass cockpit of a formula one racer. Though not an HMD VR experience, the simulation is fully immersive, with three screens that wrap around the driver. There are eight high end simulation centers in Italy. In terms of wicked coolness, these guys are probably the best. But that Italian styling don’t come cheap. Each simulator is over $50,000.

The Barfatorium

VR systems today have frame rates over 90 fps, so motion sickness should be a thing of the past. BUT the proliferation of low cost motion bases for VR simulators has brought it back. Yes, the motion base looks better on the floor, and you’re giving the customer something they’re not going to get from the best home system, including a stomach churning feeling you get when things are out of sync just the tiniest bit.  

After some misguided soul (name withheld on request) told us it was good, we set out to try the only AR HMD system at the show. It was certainly ambitious. And it was backed by the established attractions producer Sartori. It was a dark ride of sorts, a cabin in which you sit. It rolls forward. We’re wearing a custom (hacked together) HMD with a wide field of view. We flew around a projected mountain landscape while shooting. Everything was out of sync from the beginning, resulting in motion sickness 

Xtrematic’s an interesting and original take on haptics. They’re matching an HTC Vive with two machines, one a kind of rocking motorcycle seat, for racing and flying, and another for running. The standing unit is $13,500 and has ten titles. We straddled the ATV to race over the sand dunes, instantly lost the trail and had a dizzying ride over the dunes. Oops. Note to self: motion bases & VR = no fly zone.

We also tried a player vs. player Mech battle. Each player was in their own motion cabinet. The field of play was a cityscape. You could crush some but not all obstacles. You could turn at the waist, or turn your vehicle. There were heads up displays everywhere. It’s possible someone who is more of a gamer would like this, someone who could tolerate a bigger cognitive load. We tore off the HMD and crawled out of that suck panting for breath. 

Finally, there is Rabbids VR from Ubisoft and LAI Games. This is an attendantless motion base (also from D-box) with two HMDs. It’s based on Ubisoft’s pop culture characters Raving Rabbids, which are wild rabbit-like creatures who like to cause havoc and mischief, and speak gibberish, like Minions. They are the stars of the show you ride though, screaming in your ear the whole way. There are six five minute adventures to choose from. We picked Coaster Calamity and lasted about ninety seconds before tearing the headset from our eyes. Apparently few other had this experience as, according to Bob Cooney, LAI has shipped 500 units with no end in sight.

Alexis Macklin Wraps It Up 

“Virtual reality’s emerging prominence in the out of home landscape was on full display at IAAPA in 2019. We saw more vendors than ever before exhibiting solutions designed to be integrated into venues. Competition in the sector seems to be intensifying, and we expect lots of movement in 2020,” said Alexis Macklin of Greenlight Insights. “We expect to see some consolidation in the coming years, as competitive solutions drive costs down and force weak competitors out. Vendors such as Hologate, Virtuix Inc, and VRStudios are doing their part to innovate and gain a competitive edge.  

“5G is a major tailwind for the Location-Based VR market as more bandwidth and cloud computing is brought closer to the network’s edge. 5G’s effect will create the opportunity for technology vendors to cut the cord and bring new free-roam systems to the market, in most cases eliminating the need for costly PC backpacks and motion-tracking technology. By 2023, Greenlight Insights expects VR systems incorporating standalone headsets will represent a majority share of the HMD used in the out-of-home market.

“A noticeable technology missing from the IAAPA floor was augmented reality. There was only a handful of companies exhibiting AR solutions on the floor, most of which showcasing AR projected on climbing walls. Venue operators, especially at museums, tourist destinations, and other edu-tainment centers, are looking at augmented reality to better engage with their patrons and target audience. Greenlight Insights expects this trend to accelerate as Web AR deployments become more commonplace. As it was with VR, the use of AR in the out-of-home entertainment sector will be first championed by content developers and software tools rather than system vendors, so it could be an emerging trend to watch at IAAPA 2020.”

Joanna Popper, Head of Location Based VR at HP, does (almost) every VR experience at IAAPA in 2.5 Mins. 

Many thanks for the kind assiatence of my colleagues Bob Cooney, Kevin Williams, and Alexis Mackin of Greenlight Insights, in the preparation of this series. 

End of part three. End of series.

Read part One, The Best

Read part two, “VR Enclosures”

For an even more detailed look at IAAPA VR we recommend Bob Cooney’s free IAAPA 2019 guide, which is full of details and pictures. You can download it here for free. We also recommend Kevin Williams free LBVR newsletter, The Stinger Report.

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