Spaces is opening the doors to its first virtual reality entertainment center in Orange County, California today with its Terminator: Salvation-themed VR experience.
Spaces is adding more sensors to a typical VR headset, which helps players at the location-based entertainment centers feel more immersed in the experience. And it has physical features like ramps and motion platforms that shake and add to the realism.
The first attraction is dubbed Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future, and it is going into the Irvine Spectrum Center in Orange County, California, one of Southern California’s most popular entertainment destinations, with 17 million annual visitors.
Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future features up to four-player co-op play, and it was built by the Spaces team, which is based in a former DreamWorks Animation studio in Los Angeles. The team, headed by Shiraz Akmal, spun out of DreamWorks to focus on VR.
Earlier this summer, I tried out the two-player Terminator experience at Spaces’ headquarters. In the VR game, you join the resistance along with a friend. The experience starts as you register and scan your face into the system, so that when you look at other players in the animated VR game, you can see their faces. It uses Spaces Faces, a proprietary 3D scanning system that captures guest faces.
Then you suit up into your outfit, which includes a VR headset, an HP Omen X VR Backpack with a laptop in it, and sensors on your elbows and feet. And the end of the process, you get a gun to hold in your hands.
Then you don the headset and move into the animated VR world. I walked up a ramp to a metal platform with rails. Once I was on the platform with my partner, Akmal, it started rising up. Inside the VR world, I was in the ruins of an industrial building.
Then we were surrounded by mechanical Terminator robots that started shooting at us. The haptic feedback gave me a tactile feeling when I got hit by an enemy. I had to dodge fire and shoot back. I tossed grenades and had to walk around the platform, flip switches, and then survive the swarm of robots that tried to stop us.
It was pretty intense, and I left the experience sweating. It’s the way that VR should be, and it’s reminder that having a headset and hand controllers at home isn’t the same kind of experience as what you can do at a dedicated VR location.
“Our amazingly fun, social Spaces attractions are built to be shared,” said Brad Herman, Spaces chief technology officer, in a statement. “We’re kicking off our first Spaces Center with a prominent franchise that is recognized and loved around the world, we make it easy for guests to share their Spaces experience the moment they take off their headset and that social-friendly mentality is built into every one of our Spaces attractions.”
Akmal said that Spaces will open locations around the world in partnership with premier location entertainment companies. The company’s tagline is “go anywhere, do anything,” and it plans to launch other kinds of experiences in places like China.
“We designed our VR backpacks precisely to enable visionary, driven teams to create
groundbreaking social experiences,” explains Joanna Popper, head of location-based VR entertainment for HP, in a statement. “Spaces attractions are a natural fit to showcase the unique adventures you can experience when you’re not tethered to a desktop PC or a television. Spaces location-based XR attractions give people the ability to experience a game or movie from the inside. It’s not storytelling, it’s story-living.”
The Spaces team has background in film, television, video games, and theme parks. The company has raised over $10 million from Comcast Ventures; Songcheng Performance Co.; Match VC; Boost VC; Canyon Creek Capital; Colopl VR Fund; GREE Inc.; Kai Huang; Sinovation Fund; The Venture Reality Fund; and Youku Global Media Fund, and CRCM VC. It also has a $30 million partnership with Songcheng Performance Co. to build next generation attractions for parks and retail locations.