I couldn’t stop laughing every time Dave shot me.
With each proton blast to the chest, a wave of vibrations would
ripple across my torso. And because I’ve been such a sensitive
weenie my entire life, I giggled uncontrollably.
The same thing happened every time a ghost passed through me.
Slimer was the worst of them.
This is what it’s like being a Ghostbuster in a new virtual
reality experience at Madam Tussaud’s in New York. It was built
by The Void, a company working on the future of entertainment
with its “VR theme park.” (My colleague Dave Smith
visited The Void at its Utah headquarters last year and
was blown away by what he saw.)
This isn’t the same kind of VR experience you get with headsets
from Oculus or HTC. Instead of remaining tethered to a PC, you’re
free to move throughout the environment. It’s like walking onto
from “Star Trek.” You don’t just see the world around you, you’re
transported into it. The distinction between the real and virtual
worlds fade away and your brain tricks you into believing you’re
actually moving through a fantasy land.
I’ve been playing video games for over 25 years and I’ve never
seen such a massive leap forward in innovation and raw enjoyment.
But unlike simply booting up your PlayStation, the “Ghostbusters”
VR experience requires a lot of heavy lifting. Literally.
You strap on a three-pound proton pack (a customized high-end
gaming PC), a vest loaded with vibrating packs, a visor (a
modified VR headset, sort of like the Oculus Rift), and grab a
blaster. As soon as your visor goes down, a new virtual world is
painted on top of the real world. Lift your gun, and your proton
blaster moves with you in the virtual world. Look at your
friends, and their bodies have been replaced with the
avatars of Ghostbusters.
And then the door to the real experience opens, and you’re thrust
into a haunted apartment building littered with ghosts out to get
To an outsider, it looks like you’re running through a
nondescript set. Physical effects like rumbling floors mimic
going up an elevator. Fans blast gusts of air at you, so it
feels like the wind outside. There are even artificial
smells.There are sensors everywhere to track your movements and
make sure everything you do in the real world translates to VR.
And it all syncs up perfectly to what you’re experiencing in the
VR world to create a hyper-realistic game.
And it works. Days later, I still have distinct memories of
walking through a haunted apartment building, as if I were really
there. I still remember being creeped out when the ghost of a
young girl led us through winding corridors and elevators shafts.
I still remember working together with my two companions to trap
a ghost hurtling plasma blasts at us and using our proton packs
to guide her into an open ghost trap. I still remember crossing
the proton streams with my crew to take down the Stay Puft
marshmallow man. I could even smell the toasted marshmallows
after he exploded.
It may have looked goofy to a third party watching, but it was
real to me.
Dave and I went through the “Ghostbusters” experience together.
It was his second time in one of The Void’s creations, and he
noticed all the progress the company has made in the past year.
In just six months, The Void’s team was able to work with the
producers of the new “Ghostbusters” movie to create a game that
immediately feels authentic to any Ghostbusters fan. Ivan
Reitman, the legendary director behind the “Ghostbusters”
franchise, even gave The Void advice on how to bring that
authenticity to VR.
After the 10 minute demonstration, there’s no doubt that this is
what the future of entertainment will be. The Void’s platform is
so malleable that the only limitation to what it can do is the
imagination. The “Ghostbusters” experience is just the tip of the
iceberg, but you can imagine the concept being applied to other
franchises and genres. Disney must be drooling over this
The Void won’t replace traditional roller coasters and rides, but
it can offer a way for theme parks, movie studios, and the like
to transport people inside the worlds they created. We love
watching movies and playing video games. Now we can go inside
The Void calls it “hyper reality.” I think they’re right.
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