Virtual theme parks: the future of VR?

While virtual reality isn’t a new concept, it’s still early days for the fledging technology. The arrival of VR headsets made quite a splash a couple of years ago, and we’ve seen countless uses and references of VR in the media since then.

Despite this, VR has struggled to convert media buzz into consumer adoption. Accessibility remains a huge concern for hardware manufacturers and content creators alike, who are all banking on VR living up to its hype to convert column inches into cash.

The elephant in the room is accessibility, and 2018 may be the year the industry finds a way to shoo it away: tusks and all.

There’s no getting around the fact that full-fat VR headsets like the Oculus Rift (£598) are financially out of reach for most consumers. Even the cut-down mobile versions are expensive by the standards of smartphone accessories (£80 for the latest Samsung Gear VR).

The answer to the problem may lie in the concept of VR arcades, which are springing up across Asia and North America. Similar to when video arcades became popular in the 1980s, VR arcades offer consumers the opportunity to rent VR experiences rather than purchase a headset. It also allows groups of people to enjoy the technology together, making it a more enjoyable experience.

Landmark Entertainment, an American entertainment and experience company, has announced plans to release VR theme parks called ‘LIVE Centers.’ These virtual parks, which will combine VR and AR into a new type of mixed reality, are set to open in shopping malls across China in 2018. Using VR technology, the ‘LIVE Centers’ will offer an entire interior theme park in virtual space, including a zoo, an aquarium, a digital art gallery and more. VR arcades have also arrived in the UK, with the launch of DNA VR in London. USA’s The Void has also established a temporary “hyper-reality” Star Wars VR experience at Westfield Shopping Centre in London, which is pushing the boundaries of how immersive and engrossing VR content can be.

We predict 2018 will be the year VR arcades become mainstream, opening up the technology to the masses. With the industry set to be worth $80 billion 2025, it’s an exciting time for start-ups and brands to experiment with largescale VR experiences.