Virtual Reality (VR) in Escape Rooms

Escape rooms took off with a boom not too many years ago and are still rising in popularity, with many escape rooms continuing to pop up all around the world. They are a very in-demand entertainment option, and it is easy to see why.

People get to be active participants, experiencing an adrenaline rush from a thrilling and mentally engaging game. There is even the possibility of being the hero when escaping from these rooms, with a large variety of themes to choose from.

With such an abundance of escape rooms there comes advancement in the industry, with escape room producers constantly seeking ways to better their business. As we live in a technological world, with new tech developments continually making headlines, some daring operators have decided to venture onto the world of escape rooms by launching Virtual Reality escape rooms.

Although escape rooms are already a simulated reality, VR offers a whole new dimension, and supplies themes that would otherwise be impossible. Besides for the endless theme possibilities, the owner can simply load a new game and use the same physical space for multiple game themes.

Ali Khan, a trading technology expert, and his wife Samrien, invested their life savings into opening their “Tick-Tock Unlock” VR Escape Rooms in Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, and Leeds. The game requires the players to wear virtual reality headsets and special gear. The game rooms have interactive props such as weaponry, along with motion tracking technology and haptic feedback to create a multi-sensory environment.

With virtual reality comes 4-D holograms and simulated effects, really amping up the drama and frenzy of the experience. According to Mr. Khan, “The centers will allow players to experience a free roaming, live action challenge which has to be physically completed, but which takes place in the playground of a virtual world “

Into the VOID Another in-demand VR game room is the VOID (The Vision of Infinite Dimensions) and was co-founded by Ken Bretschneider, Curtis Hickman, and James M. Jenson. In The VOID, users wear a head mounted display, noise canceling headphones, a hand tracking sensor, and a haptic suit containing 22 vibrators and a computer to power the headset.

The system is designed in a way that players feel they are exploring an entire virtual world. In reality however, the player is confined to a room equipped with ceiling-mounted motion tracking sensors, and special effects equipment such as fans, mist machines, and heat lamps. The room is also peppered with props representing items such as guns and torches. All of these physical elements correspond with the narrative of the game, increasing the illusion.

Curtis Hickman, one of the co-founders of the VOID, spoke about its unique, space-bending experience: “If I put a hallway in front of you, it would look like a straight hallway. And if I told you to walk down that hallway and you're in full void gear-full VR- you would walk in what you believe to be a straight line. But in the real world you are actually turning by 90 degrees or more as you walk. You subconsciously don't know it because we made you believe that you're walking in a straight line. We can reuse that space. And to you, in VR, it seems like it goes on forever and ever.”

"Imagine it's like a movie theater, and instead of going to the movie you'll live in the movie,” Hickman said. The first game the VOID staged with was the Ghostbusters. The players could zap apparitions, feel as though they are zooming up a tower in an elevator, and have ghouls ghost through them in a whoosh of air, feeling vibrations from their vests.

Another important aspect is the group experience. At-home VR sets can be lonely and isolating, but in the VOID, multiple players can play at a time and see avatars of each other in the VR realm.

Escape rooms are a great way to step into a different reality, while at the same time have an active and social experience. New advances in escape rooms, such as virtual reality escape rooms, are able to reach a more diverse crowd, and transform the escape rooms from being more than just a passing fad, to an entertainment staple in our society.

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